SAIPAN – On March 21, 2019, the Prior General of the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR), Fr. Miguel M. Miró, together with Fr. Raul M. Buhay, OAR, General Councilor, came to the island of Saipan for the first time. Fr. Miguel, who is based in Rome, is the head of the whole Recollect communities all over the world, and is currently conducting a “Visita de Renovación” to OAR communities under the Province of Saint Ezekiel Moreno which includes one community in Saipan. This marks his first official visit to the Recollect community in this island since the “return” of the Recoletos here in 2016 to collaborate in the pastoral ministry.
Travelling from Manila aboard the United Airlines Flight UA 184 with a short layover in Guam, Father General and Fr. Raul, who also served as his interpreter, were welcomed by Most Reverend Ryan P. Jimenez, Bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, and the OAR Fathers, Fr. Allan Rubett Cabatian, OAR (Local Prior of the Community) and Fr. Leo Neil Bullos, OAR (Local Procurator) right on the tarmac, as soon as they disembarked from the plane – much to their surprise! The surprise did not stop there, though, because when they emerged from the arrival area, they were eagerly offered with leis and were warmly greeted with “Hafa Adai” and “Bienvenido” by several volunteers and active church group members from the parishes of San Roque, Santa Remedios, Kristo Rai and San Antonio. After some group photos, the OAR Fathers took a quick breakfast before going to the rectory of San Roque Parish to get some rest. By noon, the OAR friars had lunch together and did a short island tour.
At 6:00 PM, the Eucharistic celebration in San Roque Parish was presided by Fr. Miguel Miró, with Fr. Raul, Fr. Allan and Fr. Neil as concelebrants. The OAR General shared that for the past weeks, he has been concelebrating the mass in Cebuano, Filipino (Tagalog), and English. And he was not expecting to say it in Spanish, his native tongue. While many Chamorro (and Filipino) words were loaned from the Spanish language, it was a huge help that the order of the mass was flashed in the monitors for the people to respond – also in Spanish.
The official opening of the visit was incorporated in the Liturgy as the General Instructions were read and the purpose of the visit was explained, as stated in the OAR Constitutions No. 464: “To know the state of the community, to reaffirm religious life more fully and the charity and unity among the brothers, as well as to correct any abuses.”
After the final blessing, the devotion to Saint Ezekiel Moreno was recited, followed by the kissing of his relic brought by Fr. Miguel and Fr. Raul as a gift for the community and for the people they serve. A simple dinner fellowship courtesy of the parishioners followed at the Social Hall, then, the individual dialogue with the friars ensued.
March 22 began with the praying of the Office of Readings and Lauds, and meditation. After breakfast, the individual dialogue and the checking of the Life and Mission Project (LAMP) of the community continued. Father General, together with the other OAR Fathers, then headed south for a courtesy call with Bishop Ryan. They had lunch with him, the clergy and staff of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa at the Rectory of Mount Carmel Cathedral.
In the afternoon, a Conference with the Recoletos de Saipan community was conducted during which Fr. Miguel emphasized the following: the joy of living the Gospel and evangelizing communities, the Life and Mission Project of the Province and of the Order, the Augustinian Recollect charism in the specific apostolate of each community, social apostolate, ARCORES, protection of minors, and communication and communion. The checking and signing of the 7 official books of the community were also completed. The community prayer held at the convent chapel concluded the official visit at 5:00 pm.
Afterwards, the OAR Fathers proceeded to Nuestra Senora Birhen Delos Remedios Parish in Tanapag for the Eucharistic celebration at 6:00 PM, also in Spanish. The visiting friars were again treated to a warm reception by the parish community with a fellowship dinner after the mass. Shortly after, they went back to the rectory in San Roque to prepare for their travel that same evening via Aseana Airlines heading to Manila via Incheon (South Korea). During his short two-day stay, Fr. Miguel expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome that they received at the airport, which is “fit for a Pope” as he said. He admired not only the beauty of the island but also the memory of the happy, smiling faces of the people he met. He thanked the people for accompanying Fr. Allan and Fr. Neil in their ministry and asked pardon for all those times when they were unable to respond well to the tasks that have been given to them. He also asked the people to include them in their prayers that the Lord may always guide them. Thanking the parishioners, choir members, and volunteers for serving in the church, he urged them to be united in the presence of Christ, work together for the common good, listen to God’s word and open their hearts to the needs of others because as he said, “El unico poder que hay en la Iglesia es el servicio.” (“The only power there is in the church is service.”)