Groans & Growths of AMRSP

Images of martial law come to my mind as we celebrate today the 25th anniversary of AMRSP: torture and detention of farmers, workers, urban poor and church people, brutal demolition of slum communities, hamletting, padlocked door of the office of AMRSP, close down of radio station in Mindanao, the dialogue with the Nuncio, interrogation of military and the judge advocates, stations of the cross in the streets, marches and demonstrations We experienced the sufferings of the poor due to repression, the massacre of the pastoral leaders, the height of the arrogance of the military, the flexibility of the institutional church and the daring spirit of the pastoral leaders and religious. There was tension, frustration, anger, pain, joy and hope rolled in one.

The worst of the situation for the Filipino people drew forth the best of unity among the different religious congregations and churches. For the first time in many years we were one and together, not competing.

We learned to live in tension and insecurity and trust in Divine Providence. The AMRSP was seen by Rome as being too political and so the eventual tedious series of dialogue with the Nuncio. On the other hand, the Task Forces and the organized sectors of the population thought the Joint Board to be too slow and indecisive about its stance of critical acceptance. While some congregations were affirmed in their option for the poor, majority of the constituents of the Joint Board were afraid and hid behind the veil of prudence and cautiousness. The Marcos regime saw the different churches as opponents of the so called “new society” based on authoritarianism.

The ability to live in tension for one’s own stance for the poor was a real glance for it brought about generosity and creativity. The sharing of resources of the different congregations was unparalleled.

We learned to link theory/principle with praxis as the Joint Board took on a critical stance. It meant in practice engaging in socio-political action and directly criticizing the Martial Law Decrees and Human Right violations.

We developed a critical sense and a spirit of protest which brought creativity and new vision. We got a new understanding and praxis for our life of consecration and mission, for evangelization and pastoral care. Grace and sin, Christian love and holiness were seen on a new liberative way.  Religious life became closer to the spirit of Jesus.

“By their fruits you shall know them”…

  • We became close to the reality of the life and struggle of the people and thus can be truly in solidarity with them.
  • we went beyond the confines of our well-served institution and sisters were sent to live among the poor.
  • we learned to work together in common projects with the Task Forces and in short-terms activities and with other groups, NGO and PO.
  • we learned to share even more and to put at the disposal of the poor of our facilities and other resources.
  • there were radical changes in the formation-from the greenhouse type to what we call now the contextualized formation.
  • we learned a new way of being religious-being partners with the lay, of being evangelized while evangelizing.
  • we developed new methods of reflecting and theologizing leading to a new way of the Spirit.
  • most of all we overcame our fear by acting inspite of the fear. The work of justice and liberation was a dangerous act because of the control of the powerful over the powerless. And the best control was to sow fear. This was an ever-present dilemma of the Joint Board. But the grace of God and by the support of the masses of suffering people, the Joint Board was able to overcome fear falteringly but never giving up.

I believe that the Joint Board sow a new kind of seed of Christian love which made it possible for religious and church people in general to contribute to what I consider as the two great events in the life of the Filipino for the last 25 years, namely –the people power of EDSA and the PCP II.

Here we can not help but mention the major superiors who pioneered and witnessed in their life and action the prophecy of the gospel –Sr. Christian Tan, RGS, Fr. Benigno Mayo, SJ, Irene Dabalos, OSB, together with the support of the religious and the Task Forces.

At this point, let us offer a minute of silent prayer for all those who suffered and died for the cause of justice and love. May we inherit the land where their sweat and blood flowed.

And to the present Joint Board and to all major superiors, remember, you are standing on holy ground. You are descendants of religious men and women who dared to open new paths to the future of religious life and mission.