Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate - Ways To Give

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The Missionary Oblates came to the Philippines in 1939.  In the early years water buffalo were sometimes their most reliable means of transportation.  Then conditions got even worse.

Philippine _4Over the past 75 years the Oblates in the Philippines have had to endure disease, torture, jail and even martyrdom in order to share the Word of God in that troubled and complex nation.  Yet despite these many obstacles their mission is thriving. 

The Oblates in the Philippines celebrated their diamond jubilee in September to commemorate the past and look boldly to the future.

“I was privileged to be able to participate in the celebration,” said Fr. Bill Antone, OM.I. Provincial of the United States Province.  “It was wonderful to see the Oblates recognized for their Christian witness among the Muslims, presence among the indigenous people, leadership in education, promotion of inter-religious dialogue, and work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.”

Philippine _1In 1939 seven Oblates from the United States were assigned to live and work in Mindanao and on the Sulu Archipelago, located in the southern portion of the country.  Prior to their arrival only two priests worked in that vast area.  The Oblates would sometimes travel for days to reach remote villages on the islands and in the mountains.

Many of the Oblates were taken as prisoners during the Japanese occupation in World War II.  Three were killed.  After World War II they returned to their missionary labors with great zeal.

Although most people welcomed the Oblates, some were violently opposed to their presence.  Many Oblates had to travel with armed guards to reach their churches after being threatened with kidnapping and murder.

Philippine _2Four Oblates have been murdered in the Philippines since 1971.  The most recent victim was Fr. Rey Roda, O.M.I. who was gunned down in 2008 by bandits in a bungled attempt to kidnap him while he was working at a high school.

“We do things for the greater good of humanity,” said Fr. Bert Layson, O.M.I.  “Our belief in faith rather than in fear gives us strength in tough times.”

A priority of the Oblates has been to open schools where Muslim and Christian students can study together.  The Oblates today oversee more than 60 secondary schools.

Philippine _3The Oblates also became experts in using the media to spread the Catholic faith.  For more than 60 years they have published The Mindanao Cross, a weekly community newspaper.  The Mindanao Cross promotes peaceful solutions between different ethnic groups and the importance of preserving the ethnic identities of indigenous tribes.

In 2006 the Oblates founded i-Watch Media, a video production company with a team of journalists who document injustices and the plight of the poor.

“We aim to motivate people to act together on urgent issues like poverty, environment, culture and faith,” said Fr. Eduardo Vasquez, O.M.I. founder of i-Watch.  “We also aim to help people in their struggle for equality, peace and justice.”

Today there are more than 100 Oblates serving in the Philippines and in the delegation’s missions in Laos and Thailand.  Only four of these Oblate are Americans.  Nearly all of the rest are Filipinos.  Ministries that promote justice and peace are a priority of the delegation.

QuevedoAs part of the anniversary celebration, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, O.M.I. presided at a Mass of Thanksgiving on September 25 in the city of Midsayap.  In his homily he reflected on his Oblate journey – which started as a boy selling The Mindanao Cross on a street corner to his elevation to the College of Cardinals last year.

“There is closeness with people in areas where we serve.  Our ministry is known for bringing Muslims and Christians close to each other,” said Cardinal Quevedo.  “I feel so proud being an Oblate.”