August 21 to 23, 2009, came the most awaited time. Abra, the cradle of the Society of the Divine Word or SVD was all set to mark the 100th year of SVD missionary presence in the Philippines. On the evening of August 21, a “Pangili” (Tinggian welcome ceremony) was generously hosted by St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish to welcome guests, delegates, representatives and missionaries from within and outside the country. After the sumptuous dinner, everybody enjoyed the program showcasing the stages of missionary activities in Abra.
On August 22, the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Joseph Adams presided over the Eucharistic celebration at the Cathedral of St. James the Elder together with not less than 20 Bishops and more than 200 priests. The Mass attendance in thousand in and outside the wall of the Cathedral includes SVD Brothers, members of other religious congregations, national (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) and local government officials and delegates. In the evening, a cultural production was staged at the Divine Word College of Bangued Gym participated in sequence by our talented SVD school faculty members and students.
On August 23 morning, all roads led to San Isidro, the very place where our first two SVD missionaries Fr. Luis Beckert, SVD and Fr. Juan Scheiermann, SVD were received by the people on August 23, 1909 and right there and then established the first SVD mission station ever. The motorcade was interrupted by a stop over at the
cemetery where Fr. Juan Scheiermann was entombed after he succumbed to a deadly malaria infection barely five months since his arrival. Fr. Jerome Adriatico, SVD, the Provincial Superior of PHN led the service.
A procession down to the church followed against the scorching sun.
Today in my wild imagination, from the abode of our ancestors, St.Arnold Janssen our founder together with our Abra departed missionaries are rejoicing as they fixed their gazes downward and behold our present Superior General Very Rev. Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD leading the celebration of the Centennial Mass right at the place where our first two missionaries said their first Mass hundred of years ago. The Founder must have noted that today 100 years ago, a bishop arrived with two missionaries with few people to meet them, this time at this celebration, there is one SVD bishop and two hundred priests with thousands of people to be with them. Meanwhile, Saints and Angels in heaven paused …. and together with St. Arnold and other departed SVD missionaries watched and listened to to the singing and dancing during the Centennial Mass. Many of them who were at this area before could not believe their eyes, development has taken a stride, no more horses on the road but cars, the rough road now smooth and paved, the wooden bridges are now made of steel and concrete and the cogon church has been transformed into multicolored place of worship. What remained unchanged is the missionary fervor of the people as shown by the collaborative partnership between the local government and the church, between the priest and his parishioners. And of course, I am very sure he is very much thankful and appreciative of the varied supports afforded to by SVD friends, Associates, Relatives, and benefactors eversince… ( for more pictures please visit SVD Centennial pages)
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