EDMUND RICE BROTHERS BEGINNINGS IN THE PHILIPPINES
A community of Edmund Rice Brothers was first established in Kabankalan, Negros Occ. in 2006. A year later, a community began in Hilongos in Leyte; and in 2010 the Hilongos community was moved to Maasin City in So. Leyte. In 2017, a brothers’ community was established in Cebu City
The Philippines mission was an initiative of Br. Philip Pinto, 15th Successor of Blessed Edmund Rice as Congregation Leader.Brothers Neil Langan, John Moodie, Peter Hardiman and Rod Ellyard arrived in Kabankalan from Australia on March 14, 2006. They were warmly welcomed by Bishop Pat Buzon SDB.
A feature of this Diocese was the work of the Columban Missionaries since 1950. Mainly Irish in origin these men had a first-hand knowledge of the Christian Brothers and expressed delight on our presence with them. They had established Junior High Schools in virtually every parish of the Diocese. When the Brothers arrived these schools were coordinated by an elderly priest Fr. Patrick Hurley, then in his 80s. It became clear that Bishop Buson wished the Brothers to become involved at this level. A Catholic Education Commission was established headed by Rod Ellyard who became Superintendent of Schools for the next six years.
Neil and Peter returned to Australia for health reasons after three years. Other Brothers who have worked in Kabankalan are Lawrie Collins (2009), Jim Quinn (2011-2016), and Luke Quinn (2014-2017). A number of lay missionaries attracted by the educational involvement worked with the Brothers for varying lengths of time, principally Joe and Anne Steyns who worked for the whole year 2009.
From the beginning, John Moodie explored ways to make a direct impact with the very poor. Based on research documents into the reasons for the high rate of drop-out from school (DepEd, Division of Kabankalan, 2005) and the areas of highest incidence of poverty (Diocese of Kabankalan, 2005) he developed three aspects of ministry – assisting children to stay in school; starting classes of Alternative Learning System (ALS) for youth who had dropped out of formal education; and supporting youth to attend vocational programs. The current Education programs have grown from this beginning. Mrs. Angie Gayares was his first helper and deserves special mention.
It was Jim Quinn who suggested the building of Edmund Rice Center within the grounds of the Cathedral Compound, readily agreed by the Diocese, and was the driving force in having the building erected. The project was supported financially by Edmund Rice Foundation, Australia. ERFA’s annual financial support has enabled most of our current ministry activities.
Following a visit by Congregation Leader Br. Philip Pinto and Br. Peter Dowling to The Philippines in November 2012 explaining a document ‘A Way Into The Future’, advocating Community Engagement as a mode of operation in Third World Countries, exploration of possible ways to engage more closely with communities was led by Ms. Venetia Anne ‘Gigi’ Tropa through 2013, with the first four communities begun by September that year. With the arrival in 2014 of Br. Luke Quinn a partnership with Gigi led to growth in Community Development.
In August 2007 the second community of Brothers, consisting of Carl Sherrin, and Peter Thrupp from Australia and Frank Perkins from New Zealand, arrived. They worked for two years 2008/9 and 2009/10 at St. Teresa’s School in Hilongos. In 2010, the community was closed in Hilongos Leyte with a view to a re-opening of a community at Maria Clara in Maasin City, So. Leyte.
The new community of Brothers came together in late June 2010 with Br. Francis Perkins (formerly in Hilongos) providing transitional leadership, with Brothers Theodore Alvares and RoshanD’Cunha from India and Graeme Leach from Papua New Guinea. The new community was given a mandate by the Brothers’ Oceania Leadership Team to conduct a survey to identify needs of the poor and the young and to undertake ministries to address these needs in a way to have an impact across the diocese.
Interviews were held with up to 56 representative groups on Leyte Island including Government Departments, province and local level government, civil society, Catholic diocesan commissions, other Christian churches and the Muslim community. The main problems areas identified were the break-down of relationships between high school youth and their parents; lack of livelihood/poverty resulting in children dropping out of schooling through hunger; and lack of primary ear health care, disability prevention awareness and early intervention services.
The finding of this survey resulted in the strategic plan of forming as well as a Finance, Admin and Support Team, three Edmund Rice field services which eventually came to be known by mid-2013 as: 1) Child Assistance & Livelihood Promotion (CALP) 2) Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and 3) Youth Development Animation (YDA). Initially, the three field teams were coordinated by Brothers RoshanD’Cunha for CALP; Theo Alvares for YDA, and Graeme Leach for CBR. Bro. Paul Coster who had replaced Br. Frank Perkins headed the Finance, Admin and Support Unit as Project Manager.
On 1 Feb. 2012, 9 Filipino professional staff signed one-year contracts with ERS: Jennifer Maraon, Christine Ozon, Lester Montederamos, Israel Mayorca, Reyvonessa Dagahoy, Rosavilla Oclarit, Ana Creencia, Liza B. Sacro and Jason S. Laure. Four additional staff followed after 3 months probation, Joyce L. Billones, Blezie T. Escabal, Gevic, Epiz, and Eva Doron.
Grants from Edmund Rice Foundation Australia and the Province of Oceania of the Christian Brothers enabled renovation of the Diocesan Social Action Building in Bishop’s Residence Compound, Brgy. Asuncion. Contributions including those of the Diocese and of the architect Mr. Julius Cabachete, were publicly acknowledged at the Blessing and Opening by Most Rev. Precioso Cantillas SDB on March 9th, 2012. Thus with a full staff of 17 including the Brothers and a fit-for-purpose, well equipped work base, ERS was already fully operational.
Great help was given the YDA staff by the Sister responsible for the Maasin Diocesan Campus Ministry programs and staff of the Cataract Foundation Center of Bacolod shared specialist knowledge and skills with the CBR team helping to develop the program of Primary Ear and Eye Health Care.
TYPHOON HAIYAN/YOLANDA on Nov. 8, 2013 with its terrible storm-surge caused huge damage with 4,500 deaths across the City of Tacloban and the adjoining Municipalities of Palo and Tanuaun. Edmund Rice Services in Maasin responded by establishing in Tacloban, a mobile field team of two locally recruited nurses supported by two nurses from ERM Maasin, conducting Ear and Eye Screening of children in typhoon-affected schools with Critical Intervention responses as required. Edmund Rice Development Dublin funded this initial emergency outreach.
A community of Edmund Rice Brothers was appointed to Cebu City in 2017. Members of this community were: Brothers Theodore Alvares (India), Dennis Fernandez (Philippines), and Ian Robertson (Australia). With the approval of Most Rev. Jose Palma (Archbishop of Cebu) and on the direction of the Oceania Leadership Team, they engaged in a listening survey conducted in six of the most disadvantaged barangays of Cebu City. The survey was conducted professionally by licensed Social Workers with permission of the Barangay Councils.
By this exercise, the Brothers became engaged with the deepest concerns of people living in poorest of conditions and with the assistance of a wider Listening or Reference group of experienced professionals from the Archdiocese and Religious Congregations were able to reflect on the core concerns of the communities in regard to Livelihood, Education and Health. This experience not only assisted the Brothers in discerning implications of realities for those living in the poorest conditions and for any journeying with such communities, but resulted in the blessing for the Brothers community of having the support of ongoing friendship with a number of dedicated people in various ministries across the City.
With two communities in Brgys. Carreta and Tinago having been identified with which to take engagement further, with agreement of the Brothers Community in Cebu, the Oceania Leadership requested the ERM Foundation Board of Trustees to take up the ministries in Cebu under its auspices as from February, 2019. The Foundation Board of Trustees agreed unanimously to do this.