SCALABRINIANS IN THE PHILIPPINES
In 1980, the General Superior, in his report to the General Chapter of that year, stressed, among other points, the necessity of a wider vocational promotion in all the provinces. For the Province of St. Frances Cabrini (then only in Australia), its Provincial Superior, Fr. Dominic Ceresoli, CS in his report to the same General Chapter 1980, wrote that, “while a vocation promotion effort is being carried on in Australia, the question is raised whether this effort should be made in the countries from which the migrants come; in particular, in the countries of Asia.” He went on to state: “In Australia itself the need is felt to have missionaries of different nationalities, since migrants into Australia are no longer Italian, but of other nationalities.”
On a circular letter to the members of the Australia Province in 1981, the same Provincial Superior Ceresoli wrote: “We are becoming increasingly aware of the need of new workers in the vineyard of the Lord, workers who are attracted by the ideal of Bishop Scalabrini... The future of our Province depends also from our capacity to raise from these lands “young people” who, inspired by the Scalabrinian ideal, commit themselves to share with us the service to those who happen to take their turn in the migration flux.”
The Assembly of Scalabrinian Major Superiors of 1981, issued a more precise invitation, “In view of the vastness of the new migratory movements and of the need to respond to the most urgent needs, (this Assembly) “invites the Province of Australia to study in close cooperation with the General Administration the possibility to establish a base of vocational promotion in the Philippines.”
In February 1982, during the Provincial Assembly of Australia Province, Fr. Silvano Tomasi, CS, Vicar General of the Scalabrinian Congregation, and Fr. Dominic Ceresoli, CS, Provincial Superior, presented a detailed proposal for the establishment of a vocational promotion base in the Philippines.
Several Fathers responded favourably by saying that “such a proposal was bringing new life into our Province which was otherwise at risk of becoming stagnant. It was truly a journey wanted by Providence.” When after some discussion the Provincial Superior asked for a vote of confidence, “the assembly responded with a clamorous applause."
From the 1st to the 7th of March 1982, Fr. Silvano Tomasi, CS and Fr. Dominic Ceresoli, CS encouraged also by a warm invitation extended to our Congregation by Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, visited several Religious Congregations in Manila and on the 2nd of March they met with Cardinal Sin, who gave his approval to the opening of a base of vocational promotion in his Archdiocese. These two Fathers concluded their report of this visit to Manila by stating that “the realisation of this project in the Philippines not only responds to the request of our Rules of Life, given the present Filipino migration, but is realistically based on the vocational potential that is offered by the Filipino families that are religious and numerous (with many children), a factor which is missing in many industrialised nations.”
The first Scalabrinian missionaries, Frs. Anthony Paganoni, CS, John Iacono, CS and Luigi Sabbadin, CS, arrived in Manila during the months of September-November 1982. They spent the first two years in initial contacts and gathering of information. In May 1984, the first group of Scalabrinian candidates began their formation in what today is called “The Mission House”, 39, 7th Street, New Manila. In 1985, the seminarians transferred to the nearby newly built Scalabrini Formation Center, n. 41, also 7th Street, New Manila. In 1986, the first group of candidates were sent to do their novitiate in Italy, for two years. After their first vows in 1988, some were assigned to have their Theology in Italy and most of them, having returned to the Philippines, began their Theology in the Scalabrini Formation Center together with the pre-novitiate candidates. In 1989 these Theology students moved to a newly acquired property in n 4, 13th Street, always New Manila. After staying for 3 years in the existing wooden building, in 1992 they took up permanent residence in the Scalabrini Theological House of Studies, newly built in the same compound. The 1st and 2nd of June 1992, 4 Scalabrinians were ordained priests and two professed missionary brothers began their mission in the Province.
In his report to the General Chapter of 1992, the Provincial Superior observed that “our Province, from being a Province without direct commitment in seminary formation, became a Province in which seminary formation demands and will demand the commitment of a good portion of its personnel and financial resources."
Other developments followed: the beginning of Novitiate in the Philippines in 1993: first, housed at
no. 39, 7th Street, then in n. 41, 7th Street, in 2001 it moved to an annex in the theology compound, 4A 13th Street, and finally in 2004 to the house in Cebu. The Cebu newly built seminary had been first used for our philosophy students, beginning from 1997; then it remained empty for 2 years (2002-2004), until it became finally the permanent seat of the Novitiate. As of August 2010, in the same location, a newly built house for our Postulants was opened.
For more information on the history and presence of the Scalabrinians in the Philippines see our pages on Migration Services in the 'What We Do' section.