QUEZON CITY – Pursuant to its Life and Mission Project (LAMP) on mission apostolate, the St. Ezekiel Moreno Province recently sent three young priests to two foreign mission stations of the Order: Brazil and Sierra Leone.
Fray Roderick Deguit, the former parish priest of the Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Valencia, Negros Oriental, accepted the challenge to live and work abroad for the first time. On February 8, he took three flights that brought him to Manaus, the capital of the Amazon State, in Brazil. He would be staying at the Recollect community of Paróquia Sta. Rita de Cássia (in the district of Cachoeirinha) to learn Portuguese for three months (until April), afterwards take a two-month exposure in Tapauá (around five days away by boat from the capital), before proceeding to Brasilia for a four-month mission course at Centro de Formação Intercultural (CENFI).
Two days after his departure, on February 10, two newly-ordained priests, Fray Andrie Pugate and Fray Tomokatsu Yamaguchi, also left but, this time, they were bound to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Classmates since their philosophy years, the pair were actually “returnees” to Sierra Leone as they had been there last year on an eight-month diaconal practice.
True to its commitment to “promote collaboration … in the mission apostolate of the other Provinces of the Order” (LAMP 28), the St. Ezekiel Province agreed to work with the St. Nicholas Province by acceding to the latter’s request for a volunteer. As Fray Sergio Sánchez, Prior Provincial of San Nicholas Province, wrote in response to the good news: “It’s a sign of communion, of brotherhood and interprovincial collaboration. The peripheries have always been the point of encounter and opportunity for mutual assistance.”
Meanwhile, the reinforcement to the Recollect presence in Africa formed part of the entire program to “strengthen the Sierra Leone Mission” (LAMP 30). Fray Pugate is assigned at the Recollect community of Our Lady of Sierra Leone Parish in Kamabai while Fray Yamaguchi, at the Recollect community of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Kamalo. Both communities are within the Diocese of Makeni.
Just as Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle who, upon his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, considered himself an OFW (an Overseas Filipino Worker), likewise these three Recollect missionaries are also OFWs in the service of a bigger family of God’s people. The 43-year old Fray Deguit, the tenth Filipino Recollect to work in Brazil, is owning the words of Pope Francis from his latest apostolic exhortation: “I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and their dignity advanced. I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty of our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.” (Querida Amazonia, 7).
In their case, Frays Pugate and Yamaguchi who were ordained priests last December 7, 2019, promised to do their best, together with their brothers in their respective community, to take to heart the words of Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa: “Christ challenges his disciples in Africa and gives them the mandate which he gave to the Apostles on the day of his Ascension: ‘You shall be my witnesses’ (Acts 1:8) in Africa” (EA 86).