March-April 2001

Requiem For A Rainforest

A word from the Editor Fr. Niall O’ Brien mssc

Recently I read a very beautiful book called Vanishing Treasures of the Philippines. In 1907 we had a rainforest cover of 70%.  By 1992 it was down to 8%. And the sound of chainsaws still goes on. There are also maps of the island of Negros, equally depressing, showing a few tiny green spots in the north and in the far nothing else. Sad, sad. And still they chop with government approval. A future generation will surely weep over this and wonder what was wrong with us.

Cross That Line...And You’re Dead!

By Gee-Gee O. Torres

When we sent our assistant editor to Korea to meet the 40 or so Pinoy missionaries there we never realized that she would be arriving at a very historic moment in that divided land – divided since the terrible Korean War of the 1950’s. At last the first light of reconciliation seems to be dawning. Gee-Gee Torres shares with us her firsthand account of this momentous event.

Goodbye Angola

By Fr. Efren de Guzman svd

After 20 years of serving in Angola, working with the lepers, some encounter with the danger of death, plus the occasional bouts with loneliness in that far, isolated land, I am now moving on to a new assignment; I will be working with the Jesuits and members of other congregations and lay people in East Timor. Similarly, the main thrust of my life will be on community development. As much as I wouldn’t want to leave Angola and the life will be on community development. As much as I wouldn’t want to leave Angola and the life with the people there I have loved through the years, I have to answer God’s call for me to go to another land. And in my heart I believe God will take care of the people I am leaving behind.

What is the situation in East Timor today? After 24 years of Indonesian oppression and violence in East Timor, a referendum was held on August 1999. it was preceded by terrorization and killing of East Timorese people by Indonesian militia groups to persuade them to vote for integration into Indonesia. The militias destroyed 70% of the buildings, fields and livestock and at the same time forcefully evacuated into West Timor (part of Indonesia) between 250, 000 and 300, 000 East Timorese – some 40% of the population of whom hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.

The Book Of Slave Marks

By Fr. Cyril Lovett mssc

From time to time we come across a book or document, from another age, which moves us. One such Brazilian document that moves me profoundly is known as the Book of Slave Marks. It is a register of more that fifteen hundred slaves, their baptismal names, nation of Origin, sex and approximate age, as well as the marks with which they were branded and the part of the body on which these marks were inflicted.


This is an extremely rare document. When, in 1888, Brazil finally abolished slavery, it had dubious destruction of being the last country in the world to do so. One of the official actions that followed almost immediately was the burning of all the documents to do with slavery – a kind of national effort to wipe out the memory of one of the most shameful episodes of Brazil’s history. This Book of Slave Marks is one of the very few documents that survived.

All the names in the book are written in the same hand. We do not know why this list was composed from the original documents. It may have been merely a bureaucratic task or it may have been some impulse of pity or shame at so much pain inflicted on human beings. In support of this latter interpretation is the fact that the scribble highlighted in inverted comas the suffix “dor” meaning “pain” in the little of the ships – the “Especulador”.

Their New Home

By Fr. Gilbert Sales cicm

Father Gilbert Sales, cicm is the District Superior of CICM in Mongolia and also the Director of the Verbist Caring Center. The center is a Catholic home for street children in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. Father Sales is pictured here with the youngest resident of the center and two other children, who like the 70-plus other residents, benefit from this ministry which is partly funded by donations from benefactors of Missionhurst.

Story Of A Boat Person

Q. To begin, could you tell us a little about your personal background?

A. I was born in a little town called Binh Tuy, South Vietnam, in 1958. I have five brothers and two sisters. My parents, natives of a very strong Catholic village, fled from North Vietnam, in 1954.

Q. How did things work out for them?

A. Those who came from the same village in the North had a Catholic priest as leader who established a new settlement for the refugees. They turned this very poor, dry area of Binh Tuy into fertile farmland.

Q. What kind of memories have you from your war-time childhood?

Second Thoughts?

By Sr. Eden Peñanueva op

In 1987, my Dominican Superior invited five sisters to apply for the missions so I immediately applied but I did not get a positive response, instead I was assigned to help in the novitiate for almost three years. I resigned myself to the Will of God, but I made a secret promise to him: “Yes, I will forget this desire. However if there will be an opportunity to work in the mission one day, I will never say no.”

A God of Surprises

During the general Chapter in July 1990, Sr. Anne Marie Salomia, op who was assigned in Peru for almost one year was elected as one of the General Councilors in Canada and they needed one to replace her in Peru. So my Regional Superior, Sr. Bonifacia Tecson, called me up from Canada to ask if I was still willing to go to the missions. In was tongue-tied to hear such a question by phone. The saving factor was my secret promised to God. After a minute I said to Sr. Tecson, “Yes, I am willing.” That’s how it began...a yes to Him, the God of Surprises.

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Women: I’ll never get it right

Sr. Sheela, SSpS from India was visiting the SSpS Sisters in Sunyani. They brought her to Wenchi. Entering the house she came so beautifully dressed in Indian style, she looked like Indira Gandhi, so elegant. Without waiting, I greeted her saying, “Today you so are well-dressed.” "So, yesterday I was not well-dressed?” she countered, not looking very pleased. Maybe I should start taking lessons on 'the art of giving compliments’. Women: I’ll get it right.

To Search is to find

We do not have the answers to every question –but the very asking of the question is the beginning of the answer. So why don’t you send us your questions and let us together find the answers to our question.

No Christianity Without Community

I have been told that I must go to Mass only in my parish church. Why is this?

Answer: it is preferable that you go to Mass in your local parish church precisely because in that way you will take part in the community. Mass in your local parish church precisely because in that way you will take part in the community.  Mass is community worship and it implies also the involvement in the building of a local community. However, one fulfills one’s obligation by going Mass anywhere. Now that people in the cities us cars they have a habit of choosing a parish which suits them and enrolling in that parish. What is important is that you should not be just Sunday Mass Catholic but that you should be involved in the community. No Christianity without community.