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Encounter Program update

October 2016

Fr Graeme with Fr Moses
Fr Graeme with Fr Moses. Used with permission, 2016.

On the 28th July 2016, Fr Graeme Weaver departed Western Australia for the Philippines. He was beginning a self-funded ABM Encounter visit, spending four weeks in the Diocese of the Northern Philippines. This diocese is under the leadership and direction of Bishop Brent Alawas, and Fr Graeme had been invited by the Bishop and the diocese for this special journey.

This visit to the Philippines had been a long-term dream, birthed through prayer and reflection. It began with Fr Graeme’s ministry as chaplain for Bunbury Mission to Seafarers, and the contact he made with many Filipino seafarers as a result. Over time and through much prayer, the dream to visit with a diocese in the Philippines crystallised, and the opportunity to further explore the possibilities came through contact with ABM and the Encounter Program coordinator, Wilnor Flores.

Fr Graeme says he was delighted when ABM’s partner, The Episcopal Church of the Philippines, allocated him to the Northern Diocese of the Philippines.

“Wonderful scenery, fantastic and interesting people. Plus many experiences of the spiritual and of the interaction of faith in the many varying contexts of the Diocese and parishes.”

Bishop Brent attached Fr Graeme to the parish of St Catherine's (Cervantes), a mission-based parish. Here he was able to work with the parish priest, Father Jerry. Fr Graeme was introduced to the working council and the broader congregation, and was given an historical overview of the early development of the church in the northern Philippines.

Father Jerry also invited Fr Graeme to deliver a homily during Mass, which was counted as a privilege, and over the following weeks was given the opportunity to become involved in the parish and ministry to the local community. He says;

“The caring, social side of the parish was reflected in the leadership style of the parish priest. It was a wonderful learning experience.”

While based in Cervantes, Fr Graeme was able to travel to all over the diocese and visit many churches, including St Michael and All Angels churches in Tadian, St Gabriel's in Lubon, the Cathedral of All Saints in Bontoc, and St Marys in Sagada. He met many inspirational people who were faithfully servicing their local parishes and communities, and was often given the opportunity to become involved and learn from their ministries.

Village of Categan in Sagada
Village of Categan in Sagada. Used with permission.

Here is an excerpt from Fr Graeme’s report to ABM;

“From Bontoc we travelled to Sagada in preparation to travel to the village of Catengan for the ordination. I have never seen a congregation of that size before, very moving to be part of the Service of Ordination, and to stand with Bishop during the celebration of the Mass. Then back to Sagada for a days' rest, and to visit the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, and to read the evening office during the last light of the day, and to enjoy the hospitality of St Joseph`s Guesthouse. From Sagada, we returned to Cervantes in preparation to travel to San Jose, to spend time with seafarers’ families, and follow up pastoral work with my seafarers in that location, from San Jose back to Manila to visit shipping companies and to assist crew in returning to sea.

It was a privilege to be in the Northern Diocese of the Philippines, to be with Bishop Brent and in community with his priests. All my expectations were met, even playing tennis on a very humid day, at St Luke`s Seminary, with the permission of the Prime Bishop, who warned us not to play tennis with Bishop Brent, due to tennis skills being well known.

I was able to visit the Manila Mission to Seafarers within the Cathedral of the Holy Child, in Manila, and to do some follow networking and to link our two centres together, Bunbury and Manila.

Mission to Seafarers Philippines
Fr Graeme with the Mission to Seafarers, Philippines. Used with permission

I am looking forward to returning to the Diocese of the Northern Philippines in 2017, and being with Father Mozes and Father Jerry for the 100th year birthday of St Gabriel's Lubon, since the first missionaries arrived in the north, and once again being part of that great Diocese.”

Fr Graeme Weaver

Port Chaplain Bunbury Port/ Bunbury MTS Centre Bunbury

 

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