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Modern Philippine mission movement

MANILA (Agencies) : The missionary scene in The Philippines is vastly different from the 1960s and 1970s. During those post-war decades missionaries were mostly thought of as foreign priests from Europe, the United States of America, Australia or New Zealand labouring in The Philippines.

However, since the 1980s the scene has changed radically and the Philippine Church has become one that not only sends out its own missionaries to foreign places, but has also become a hub for priests, religious and laypeople from other lands, particularly Asian countries, to receive education and formation.

As with mission out of Europe, Philippine missionary movement out of the country began with priests and religious following the nation’s outward flow of their own people, where they ministered among the ever-increasing numbers of migrant workers around the globe.

However, today the movement has reached a new stage, with Filipinos also going to work among foreign peoples, in both Christian and non-Christian milieu.

Priests from the Society of the Divine Word were recently appointed to Timor Leste, while sisters from the Religious of the Virgin Mary were posted to Kupang in the Indonesian province of Papua.

Redemptorist priests have been in Thailand for some 30 years and others have worked among local people in Latin America, including a number of diocesan priests who have since returned home.

CBCP News quoted Sister Joy Carmel Jumawan, the secretary of the bishops’ Commission on Mutual Relations, as saying that from August last year up to the present, 343 religious men and 651 religious women arrived from China, Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia to study in The Philippines.

She said that they represent a total of 193 congregations.

However, it is not just the movement of priests and religious that has been important. A growing number of laypeople have left the shores of the Pearl of the Orient Seas to work in mission situations in a great variety of places.

There are those who have gone under the auspices of the Philippine Catholic Lay Mission Society and worked in specific apostolates on an organised basis and a full time commitment.

The society describes its mission as “called to preach the good news, especially to the poor, help build the Church and serve the kingdom by permeating the world with gospel values.”

It believes that lay people have a special charism to offer to the mission of God in the world by preaching the good news.

“It is our task to assist in building basic ecclesial communities and in forming and training local leaders who can help these communities become self-supporting, self-nourishing and self-sustaining,” it says on its website.

From fledgling origins in 1977, the society began under the inspiration of the Maryknoll Society. 

Today, it has reached maturity as an independent, self-supporting organisation and has sent almost 200 people to placements around the world.

In addition, many religious communities also incorporate a lay mission programme as part of their work, sending lay people on mission on every continent.

But also there is the missionary presence that is made up of working people who migrate to seek better jobs than they can find at home.

In Hong Kong, they are one of the most important missionary presences, as they live with local families, look after their children and witness to their faith from a position of weakness not power, as priests and religious often do.


The scene has changed radically in the past 40 years.