The Scalabrinians of Cebu, Philippines


Scalabrinians of Cebu, Philippines

In this space we offer you the travel notes of a Tarantiana abroad, Anna Raisa Favale.

Last October an Italian priest was canonized: his name is Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and he is the founder of the "Scalabrinianos" order, whose charism is to help and share the difficulties of migrants. In fact, he is known as "The Father of Migrants." Particularly close to the Italians who immigrated to the United States, at the end of the 19th century - when communities were beginning to be numerous, especially in New York - he officially gave birth to his apostolate, and he and another holy nun, Mother Francesca Cabrini, it represented a salvation for the millions of Italians who moved to the Big Apple who at that time lived in extremely harsh conditions: poverty, marginalization, social stigma, loneliness. For them he built schools, hospitals, churches, and was truly a brother and a father to all Italians who, away from home, sought not only material help, but also emotional, psychological and spiritual support. My story is linked to that of the Scalabrinians because years ago I was called by a small Catholic television station to work with them, born right inside the Scalabrinian Church of Pompeii in NY, and it was then that I met John the Baptist and his work.

Today, the Scalabrinians are a great order in the world, and right here, in Cebu, Philippines, I providentially found one of their largest seminaries, just a stone's throw from where I was. The Director of the Seminar, a Brazilian of Italian origin, even knows some of the people I worked with in New York. It's amazing for me to travel the world and find pieces of home and family, somehow, wherever I am. He is the strength of the Catholic Church. I found myself here, in October, for the canonization event, completely by chance - they cleverly called me "the Italian delegation" - and I attended the ceremony from a live Scalabrinian church with Rome. John the Baptist said: "Basically we are all migrants, on this earth, waiting to go to heaven." Surely this is true for a believer, but I don't think one necessarily has to be a believer to appreciate his work, along with what the Church in general has done over the years and continues to do for the many outcasts in society. If we think of the word "Filipino", in Italy, for example, many will think of the housewives of our houses, whose thought, if it is completely honest, is often accompanied by a value judgment hopelessly inferior to ours.

And not only because of the work they do, but also because of a certain western mentality whereby in our part of the world things work better in our opinion, or we are somehow "better than others". But it is enough to spend a season in the Philippines -at least in the religious environment- to understand that they are the ones who are supporting us at this moment. I have met several priests in the last few months. Two of them, from the Augustinian order in this case, were "on mission in Palermo." It sounds weird to hear that. Usually, it is said "on a mission in Africa", or in India. Instead, they told me about Palermo. "What kind of mission?" I asked. "With the poorest communities, in the suburbs," was the response. They send Filipino priests because we don't have enough Italians. And priests from other places come to help, places that we easily degrade in our heads. Migrants helping Italians, in this case. Or maybe immigrants helping other immigrants, who probably also have North Africans or Romanians living in the poor neighborhoods of Palermo.

Isn't it strange to think so? Nevertheless. The Church is a migrant in its DNA. Born in Palestine, she has traveled the world for centuries, continually adapting, learning other languages, changing nationalities, cultures, ways of feeling and communicating; There are thousands of missionaries in the world - men and women who bravely left their homes and loved ones forever out of love for others - and perhaps for this reason he is also close to migrants, whom he understands in his heart. In a different century than the one in which Juan Bautista lived, where immigration is partly similar and partly very different, I will never stop thinking about how important it is to be close to those who leave. Life is about a journey, but sometimes for some it is more dangerous, more difficult and more adventurous. And the difficulties of the journey are innumerable. The Filipinos, perhaps they too are migrants in some way deep down, moving for generations, they know this very well, and there are hundreds of vocations here, much larger than in Italy, where never as in this historical moment, the word " migrant" is a word that divides and creates conflict. I can say one thing: that here I felt less a migrant, or foreigner, than in other places.

Sometimes for those who travel, being greeted with a smile in the morning when you leave home on an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar country changes the whole day. Sometimes it doesn't take much, just to be looked at with the same dignity and from the same height, neither higher nor lower. And immediately we felt a bit like home. I spent another period of my life in South Africa, where racism, in the same land and between brothers, had been very violent. And there the words of another great man, Nelson Mandela, resounded with great force and stayed with me: “People must learn about hate and, if they can learn about hate, they can be taught to love, also because love reaches the human heart." more readily than his opposite of him." Surely, this John the Baptist knew very well.

(Tanslated from the original article in Italian)


by Anna Raisa Favale.

scalabrinian spirituality 2023


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