On the second day of his Philippine Province visit, Fr. General Sosa went to Kalookan City’s San Roque Cathedral to meet Bishop Pablo Virgilio David DD. He was accompanied by Philippine Provincial Superior Fr Primitivo Viray, JCAP President Fr Antonio Moreno, Regional Assistants Fr Daniel Huang (Asia Pacific), Fr Victor Assouad (Western Europe), and Fr Jose Quilong-quilong from the Philippine Province and point person for the visit. Fr Eric Escandor and several scholastics from the Philippine Province were in attendance to provide support. Vicar General of San Roque Msgr. Jerome Cruz was also present. Durign the meeting, Bishop David briefed Fr. General on the Diocese of Kalookan and the issues surrounding the community. Fr. General brought for Bishop David the Jesuit Yearbook 2019 and an icon of Madonna della Strada, Our Lady of the Way. Bishop David gave Fr. General a tiny statue of the Santo Niño and a copy of his book The Gospel of Mercy.
Bishop Ambo, as he fondly known in the community, is one of the most outspoken critics of the current administration. Kalookan, called by the Philippine media “a hotbed of notorious contract killers”, is particularly contentious. Along with Malabon and Navotas, these neighborhoods are considered the killing fields for the war on drugs.
The Philippine Jesuits have established a mission in Kalookan upon the invitation of Bishop David. The urban mission to serve the poorest of the poor, Sacred Heart Mission Station in Kaularan Village, Dagat-Dagatan is one of thirteen in the area. Despite the reputation of Kalookan, the mood was festive when Father General arrived at Sacred Heart, met by children waving flags. Fr. General also met families, the sick and elderly along the way to the chapel. Fr Willy Samson, resident Jesuit priest at Sacred Heart, and the community turned out in full force to welcome Father General Sosa. Everyone also warmly welcomed Bishop David, who introduced members of the community to Father General, among a psychiatrist who is working with the community-based drug rehabilitation program spearheaded by the Bishop.
Fr. General charmed the crowd with his Filipino/Spanish vocabulary: silya, plato, tinidor, and arroz caldo. He also spoke about the Second Sunday of Advent. “In the gospel today, John the Baptist is the man who Christ [asked] to say: The Lord is with us, he’s coming. He’s here, pushing our hope. I hope this mission station is a source of hope for you.” Fr. General then blessed the Sacred Heart Chapel belfry, the icon of the Jesuits presence in Kalookan. As he rang the bell, everyone cheered and was blessed by Fr. General with holy water. Afterwards, a simple lunch prepared by the community was served in the small chapel for Fr. General and company.
In the afternoon, Fr. General celebrated mass with the Jesuit collaborators and benefactors at the Loyola House of Studies Oratory. The mass was followed by a dinner at the Richie Fernando Covered Courts. The short program, which began with opening remarks from Philippine Provincial Superior Fr. Primitivo Viray, featured speeches from lay collaborators Debbie Tan and Michael Liberatore. The Ateneo Chamber Singers beautifully performed three pieces, while the candidates from Arvisu House sang the Spanish language classic “Eres Tu” for Fr. General.
Fr. General’s message to the collaborators began simply: “The only words I really want to say is thank you. Thank you for your generosity, for being here, for being part of this body.” He spoke of the apostolic body–lay people and other religious who are part of the body–and how in many parts of the world non-Catholics are involved in the Jesuit mission. “We are all collaborators in a mission that is not the mission of the Society of Jesus–it’s the mission of Jesus. It’s the mission that Jesus gave to the Church, and we are part of the Church and in the mission,” said Fr. Sosa. “I think we have a nice challenge–not an easy challenge–but a nice challenge that is possible if we really share the response to a call, because Jesus is calling all of us to be part of the big challenge. And He will give us his grace, we know that we cannot do it by ourselves. We are so few, so small. We don’t have any power. The only real power is the grace of Christ.”