In 2007, a momentous decision was unanimously approved at the joint meeting of the Philippines-Taiwan-Vietnam Group. Joining the group were the Superior of Australia and a representative of the General Council. After much prayer, discussion, and reflection, it was decided we would become the Union of Circumscriptions of East Asia Spiritans (UCEAS), and open a theology house in Manila for the union, as well as any other interested Spiritan. The Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology (LST) on the Ateneo de Manila University campus as well as Maryhill School of Theology, run by the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, are ideal for our needs.
In 2009, the two first Filipino Spiritans moved to Quezon City in Metro Manila, accompanied by Fr. Daniel as their formator. The first big task was the purchase of the house that would become the UCEAS’ Formation Community House, situated on over 980 square meters of green land.
Over the following years it’s been home to various Spiritans who came to Manila for “short courses” in English and “formation for formators”.
In 2013 we began serious fundraising for the construction of a proper house of formation, knowing how quickly we were outgrowing our tiny house. Later that same year Fr. Duc arrived for courses in formation, and shortly thereafter we welcomed the first class of professed Spiritans from Vietnam, six of them!! Our house is woefully overcrowded now and we have continued in our fundraising in order to build the two-story structure we so desperately need.
Faithful to the Spiritan charism, we reach out to all God’s people. In addition to teaching theology at both the undergraduate and graduate level at the Ateneo de Manila University, Fr. Dan continues his apostolate to the Chinese-Filipino and Chinese, as well as being confessor and spiritual director of some of the local students and religious. Fr. Duc continues an outreach to the Vietnamese religious nearby and at Radio Veritas. The young Spiritans in theology have ministered at the Servants of Charity’s Home for Special Children, helping people with both physical and mental disabilities, as well as being chaplains at Manila Doctors Hospital, and various other outreach programs. They also are involved in the gathering of all young religious here in Manila; the JSF (Junior Seminarians Forum), and since our arrival here in Manila, a Spiritan has always been on the organizing committee. It is a wonderful experience to see a variety of some 177 religious congregations gathered together to share, support and challenge each other in their growth as religious; to enjoy, pray and bond together.
The Christmas break brings a time of exposure in different local parishes, a time of grace and learning
Our house starts to come to life early, before dawn. 5:15 a.m. finds us all in chapel to begin our day with Morning Praise and Eucharist, followed by breakfast. We have no house help, so before we can go off to school, we always make sure that our backyard, garden, and house are clean. Although everybody is busy at school with requirements, papers and exams, we take turns weekly cooking and shopping. Dinner is at 6:00 p.m., followed by dishes, Evening Prayer and rosary. Every Thursday is our Community Night and we usually play cards or ping pong, watch a movie, or go to McDonald’s for their famous 25 peso ice cream. Aside from our community nights, breakfast and dinner are our special bonding time. We share and discuss a lot during meals, especially about our classes, work, things in the news, our own thoughts and feelings. We can spend over an hour after the meal just sitting talking about so much. And then we head back to the chapel to praise God. The first Saturday of every month we have a recollection, a time to quiet down in the midst of such a busy schedule. That time of quiet prayer and reflection is something we treasure, as we do our individual spiritual directors and our evaluations, feed-back, and retreats.
The Spiritan House in Manila, like all Spiritan Houses, is famous for its welcome. It’s not surprising to find classmates of our men here studying with them or brushing up on their ping pong. We look forward to the visits of our dear friends. Our neighbors have adopted us, sending over snacks, treats from their farms in the provinces, not to mention practical items for the house, too. Many of our neighbors are religious. There are 26 houses of priests, Sisters, Brothers, and seminarians in our subdivision!
The Spiritan Rule of Life reminds us that “Formation is the continual deepening of our apostolic life under the influence of the Holy Spirit and in keeping with the spirit of our founders, our living tradition, and the present needs of the world. It is both a personal task and a shared responsibility.” (SRL 100)
And so we have the Holy Spirit Formation Community in Manila. We hope in our simple yet rich lives here, we ourselves are an echo of what St. Luke wrote in the Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common… Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
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