The Oblates of the Virgin Mary began giving the Spiritual Exercises in the Philippines in 1994. At first, an Oblate priest stationed in Italy made trips to the Philippines for several months at a time to carry out this ministry. Due to the great demand for retreats coming from the Filipino people, the Oblates soon began to consider starting a permanent mission here. After meeting with bishops in several dioceses, the first Oblate priests were stationed in Cebu in 1997, and our foundation in the Philippines officially began.
A Great Demand
At that time, we had no idea of the great demand for our mission that we would find in the Philippines. Due to the large size of many of the parishes, the diocesan clergy are often consumed with meeting the basic demands of their parishioners. Thus, more and more people began to approach us with requests for retreats, days of recollection, spiritual direction, and extended times in the confessional.
It soon became obvious that many more Oblate priests would be needed to meet the spiritual hunger of Filipinos. Near the end of 1999, we began work on a retreat center in Cebu (now completed), which would also serve as a center for training future Filipino priests to meet the demand for this ministry.
Through these retreats and recollections, the Oblates help students, lay adults, religious, seminarians, and priests to come to a deeper and more serious relationship with God in Christ. Since the year 2000 we have given the Spiritual Exercises in nearly every major island of the Philippines, as well as South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, India, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor. We have given recollections in schools, churches, retreat houses, nursing homes, and businesses. In each place, we are humbled by the privilege of being God’s instruments to bring the people of Asia to deeper communion with God.
When the Oblates first received papal approval in 1826, they also engaged in other works that were tightly focused around the Spiritual Exercises. When they traveled to give the Exercises in other places, they used the opportunity to promote good literature in those venues. Upon returning to their own community, they would pray, rest from the weariness of their travels, and prepare for future retreats and missions. They would also welcome retreatants who wished to make the Exercises privately. At the same time, they welcomed priests who needed further formation, especially in the area of moral theology. And with a keen awareness of the signs of the times, they combated the errors of the day through all of the above means.
Oblates in the Philippines continue these works in a manner appropriate to the times. For example, during recollections to teachers, we have distributed countless copies of “Let’s Crack the DaVinci Code,” a DVD made by Oblate priests to counteract the effects of Dan Brown’s fanciful novel. We also promote the “Know the Truth” and “Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth” pamphlets to instruct students who are confused about their Catholic faith.
The Oblates in Cebu provide monthly spiritual formation sessions to lay teachers in the spirit of the Amicizie Cristiana, we instruct diocesan seminarians in bioethics (moral theology as it pertains to life issues), and teach members of numerous religious orders about the history and authentic meaning of religious life. In addition, the retreat wing of our Cebu formation center is occupied almost constantly by those making the Spiritual Exercises under the individual direction of our priests.