SARF-Sierra Leone is Province’s 17th Chapter, joins virtual fiesta celebrations
QUEZON CITY – Aside from the online celebrations of the solemn feast of St. Magdalene of Nagasaki, patroness of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity (SARF) on October 20, the presence and presentation of “SARF de Sierra Leone” as the fraternity’s 17th chapter in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno turned this year’s assembly on an unprecedented scale.
The current Covid-19 pandemic constrained the organizers to adapt to the new normal by taking the celebrations to the cyberspace so that, while remaining in their respective geographical unit, the SARF members can still actively participate.
Bro. Edwin Ruiz, national president, said that all the chapters were represented both during the Holy Mass which was streamed live from the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish church in Quezon City and during the post-missam program that lasted up to 9:30 p.m. Fray Dionisio Selma OAR, prior provincial, presided the Eucharistic celebration with the Provincialate friars as concelebrants.
In the Philippines, there are 16 chapters: 10 in Luzon and six in the Visayas. With the presence of the newly-established chapter in Recoletos de Kamalo in Sierra Leone, West Africa, the total is now 17.
This year’s gathering was further marked with “international” atmosphere not only because of the African delegates but also of the participation of the Prior General, Fray Miguel Miró, who virtually delivered his message live from the General Curia in Rome. Fray Raul Buhay, also in Rome stood as his interpreter.
Fray Jose Prudencio “Dennis” Castillo, prior of Recoletos de Kamalo community and spiritual director of the newly born SARF chapter, narrated how the plan to establish a group of secular Recollects in Kamabai and Kamalo had started in 2018. “This was not realized because the missioners did not see yet the ‘it’ factor in them, and Kamabai still lacked a good number of married couples.”
On February 21, 2020, Fray Castillo sought permission from Father Provincial to found a chapter in Kamalo in accordance with the OAR Constitutions 114: “Secular fraternities may be erected … by the local priors with permission of the Prior Provincial.” The major superior gave his approval.
Six days later, on February 27, Bishop Natale Paganelli SX of the Diocese of Makeni where the Recollect mission stations belong, also gave his approval and blessing. The group’s first meeting on March 14 oriented the 12 candidates – all sacramentally married couples – to the observance of the SARF Statutes and their “Life and Mission Project” (LAMP).
“Every Saturday I give them input as part of their formation program, thanks to the guidance of Bro. Edwin Ruiz,” Fray Castillo reported, acknowledging his being a neophyte in this kind of ministry. He also said that he follows the lecture-type, and not just gives them hand-outs, as most of them cannot read nor write which, in turn, becomes a herculean challenge in terms of the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours. “But we are still trying to solve this,” he said with optimism.
Although the birth of this new SARF chapter in Kamalo where the Recollects have been working since 2007 has added a feather in the cap of the Recollect mission in Sierra Leone, Fray Castillo’s ardent prayer is: “Sana mag-persevere po sila.” (“I hope they will persevere.”)