From the left: Fr. Jeremiah Sheehy, Fr. Henricus Sondermeijer, Fr. Yohanes Sono Pribadi, Fr. Stephen Schmitz, Fr. Adrian Borst – General Councilor, Pope John Paul II, Fr. Francis Pupkowski, Fr. Eduardo Aguero, Fr. Juan Domingo Griffone and Fr. Rino Venturin.
May 17, 1989, is the official date of arrival of first SCJ missionaries in the Philippines. The original group was composed of eight (8) priests representing seven (7) nationalities and five (5) different entities: 3 from Argentina, 2 from Indonesia, 1 from Germany, 1 from Poland and 1 from British-Irish Province.
Prior to that, from October 1988 to March 1989, the group met in the United States, in Hales Corners (WI) to study English, the common language of the group and one of the official languages in the Philippines.
From April 20 – May 3, 1989, the whole group met again in Rome. During series of meetings with the members of the General Administration, different people from the Philippines, the group could learn more about the needs and challenges lying ahead of them. On April 25, 1989, the group of first missionaries came up with the following guiding principles for their new mission:
- As a SCJ group of missionaries we give the highest priority to Community life. We reaffirm that “Community life is mission itself”.
- We go to the Philippines to serve the local Church, as communities, according to the missionary spirit of our own Rule of life.
- We will try to stay together and to live together avoiding situations where a member has to live permanently alone.
- We intent normally to form communities of at least three members.
- We are going to share life, responsibilities, pastoral work, projects and money.
- We are going to meet once a month with the whole group for at least one day.
- We are going to meet, once a year, for an Assembly and also in a different date for a Retreat.
- Once a week those who live nearby are invited to come together.
- While we are a small group, we will share all responsibilities and decisions.
- There will be a single common money box; there will be neither funds nor private projects. All decisions, on projects, will be taken together by the missionary group.
The group also chose a coordinator, two councilors and a treasurer.
On April 26, 1989, the group was received by Pope St. John Paul II, who gave his apostolic blessing to the new missionaries, after the mass celebrated in his private chapel at the Vatican City, before their departure for Asia.
As usual, at the end of the Mass celebration, the group was guided from the Pope’s Chapel to the library nearby, where the Holy Father greeted his guests.
“When the Secretary of the Pope told him about us, the Holy Father smiling said to us ‘Dehonians, Dehonians, courage in the Philippines’ (Fr. Juan Domingo Griffone).