PASTORAL VISIT. Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ, the first Latin-American to lead the largest religious order in the world, arrives at Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan on Wednesday, December 12, for his pastoral visit in Mindanao.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — With great jubilation, bright smiles, and a marching band, Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, a Jesuit educational institution, welcomed the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ, the first Latin-American to lead the largest religious order in the world.

Sosa arrived in the afternoon of December 12 at the Laguindingan Airport and proceeded to the Loyola House Jesuit Community. Members from various Xavier Ateneo units made up the welcoming party along the university’s main lane.

“Let us welcome Fr General and his party to Cagayan de Oro and Xavier Ateneo,” university president Fr Roberto C Yap SJ said. “Let us also extend our hospitality to the Jesuits and lay partners from other parts of Mindanao who will attend the various events.”

Xavier Ateneo considers this visit of Father General “a moment of grace for all those who participate in the Jesuit mission.”

WARM WELCOME. Members from various Xavier Ateneo units welcome Sosa's party along the university’s main lane.

On top of the list of activities for the second day of Sosa in CDO was to travel to Barangay Lumbia, a 30-minute ride from Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, to get to Xavier Ecoville, a resettlement site for people who were displaced by typhoon Sendong that struck in December 2011.

Xavier Ateneo donated the lot and managed the development of the community there. Present to meet the Jesuit General yesterday morning were not only the residents of Xavier Ecoville but also the other beneficiaries and partners of the university’s social development programs, which included survivors of Marawi siege last year between the government and a terrorist group.

In a short program, they were able to share with Sosa their plights as well as their gratitude for the assistance given to them. In his response, Father General commiserated with them and talked about the need to uphold human dignity in a world growing darker and to continue the project of building human solidarity.

XAVIER ECOVILLE. Father General talks with the cooperative manager of Xavier Ecoville during his visit to the resettlement area on December 13. For him, it's striking to note that Xavier Ecoville is a testament to this: "We are not just building houses, we are building a community."

Next, just before noon, Sosa went to St John Vianney Theological Seminary, which, for the last 33 years, was being run by the Jesuits in Mindanao. In those years, it has produced hundreds of secular priests for Mindanao including four bishops.

Currently, however, there are only 46 seminarians under the tutelage of three Jesuit priests, six diocesan priests, and a lay formator. Father General was welcomed by Rector Fr Norlan Julia SJ in their chapel, with a simple rite that led to the prayer of the noon Angelus.

During lunch, the seminarians serenaded Sosa with Christmas carols.

In his message, Sosa gave them the advice of Pope Francis to fellow priests or pastors: first, be close to the people, “smelling like your sheep”; second, listen to the people because “the presbyterium is not an exclusive group of experts”; and third, commit to proclaiming the Gospel, which is the primary ministry of the priest.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FATHER GENERAL. The dignitaries with the presenters on the Jesuit Apostotalates in Mindanao: (from left to right) Xavier Ateneo president Fr Roberto C Yap SJ, Datu Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan (executive director of Ateneo de Davao's Al Qalam Institute) on Muslim-Christian Dialogue,Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ, Dr Dulce Dawang (XU VP for basic education) on Education Apostolate in Mindanao, Fr Ambrosio Flores SJ (president of Pangantucan Community High School in Bukidnon), and Philippine Provincial Fr Primitivo Viray SJ. 

Late in the afternoon, the General was back at Xavier Ateneo for an intimate meeting dubbed “Conversations with the Father General: Jesuit Apostolate in Mindanao.” Present in the said meeting were Jesuits from the three Ateneo universities in Mindanao and the Bukidnon mission district, including some XU leaders.

XU president Fr Roberto Yap SJ welcomed everyone by providing the context of Mindanao and presenting the Province Roadmap to Mindanao. Three short presentations followed: the educational apostolate in Mindanao, the state of Jesuit initiatives for inter-religious dialogues especially with Muslim communities, and the initiatives and challenges of the newly formed Jesuit ministry on indigenous peoples.

BIRHEN SA KOTA. Sosa receives a gift, a statue of the Birhen sa Kota (Virgin of the Fort), from the Xavier Ateneo community. 

For his part, Father General shared with the group updates on the “Universal Apostolic Preferences” of the Society of Jesus, as well as some urgent concerns, such as the challenge of Jesuits living the vow of poverty, the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and the need to stop the culture of clericalism.

In the open forum that followed, striking was the plea of some lay partners for hope and inspiration as the work or struggle for social development and justice was becoming wearisome for many of them.

It was this theme of hope that would be the focus of the homily of Father General in the Eucharistic celebration that followed the conversations.

Aside from Jesuit and some diocesan priests, two prelates concelebrated with Father General: Archbishop Antonio Ledesma SJ DD of Cagayan de Oro and Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay.

MESSAGE OF HOPE. Sosa delivers a moving holy on finding hope and "spending time with the future" during the Holy Eucharist with Mindanao Jesuits and collaborators on the 13th day of December 2018 at the University Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In his homily, Sosa talked about hope. He began by quoting Pope Francis who said that “our main task is to frequent or visit the future.”

"I believe the Word of God is reminding us of our call to be people and messengers of hope in our world, at a time when fear and anger seem to be the strongest emotions of many people," he said. "Here in Mindanao then, we need to become schools and universities of hope, parishes of hope, seminaries of hope. This afternoon, I listened to so many things being done by you to help build up hope in this island. Let me now just share three points that might help you persevere and deepen this mission of hope."

FELLOWSHIP DINNER. Mindanao Jesuits dedicate a song number to Father General for "his generosity of time and presence" in the country. Sosa, in turn, blesses the people in attendance at the fellowship dinner. 

Father General’s pastoral visit to Mindanao ended on an inspiring note: "What is important for us is to learn how to bear the crosses that will come, with the Lord, without giving up, trusting that the resurrection of our Lord means that, as Pope Francis says beautifully, 'no evil is infinite, no night is without end.' (General Audience, 4 Oct 2017)."

He also encouraged everyone to spread the message of hope: "Brothers and sisters, during this beautiful season of Advent, let us ask the Lord for the grace of being men and women who, like Isaiah and John the Baptist, 'frequentare il futuro,' who live and share the great gift of hope, especially for Mindanao."∎

JESUIT LEADERS. Archbishop Antonio Ledesma SJ DD of Cagayan de Oro shares a laugh with Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal SJ at the fellowship dinner.

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