Thanks be to God for one wonderful Sunday morning at Calauan, Laguna, Philippines. It's probably one of the most meaningful new Salesian missionary presences in East Asia in past few years, full of potential. About 15 months ago 3 Salesians ‘landed’ in this lonely place between the mountains and field some 70km from Manila.
Three Salesians living in very simple NGO Habitat build houses, no electricity, no water guarantee. Sharing their life whole day with
thousand of poor people in their midsts, becoming a living image of Don Bosco.
Some 50.000 people, relocated by the Metro Manila government to this place. Laguna is next to Manila, San Pablo has a (first Filipino) Salesian bishop Mons. Leo Drona.
Three (3) SDB, two priests and one brother, two of them ex missionaries from PNG, one already sent his missionary request to the Rector Major few months ago.
Every Sunday coming to help four SDB theology students from Paranaque, one Indonesian missionary in Mongolia, one Jakarta born IT wizard, one Ethiopian missionary in PNG and one Bohol island born Filipino.
Living joyfully in poverty as the others, house door open whole day, enjoying simple life.
Without structures (still waiting for the land title of the 17 ha plot), but building the community of poor people. Community chapel is bamboo open structure, Eucharist was celebrated for the first 8 months in the streets as it was possible, now a ‘luxury’ tent and two light metal roofs can accommodate some 300+ people.
After the second morning Sunday mass in Tagalog, lively participated by the children, young families and youth, the small PVC swimming pool is opening! Some 50 children fill up a round shape pool (ladies first, then boys), more thousands of kids are waiting to dip in, and after few hours the crystal clear water changes into grey and black.. How few liters of water can bring deep joy!
A lot of 'Don Bosco'enterprises around to alleviate their poverty, all of them named by the Salesian Saints: Orione bakery, Ceferino shoes, Cagliero farm with pigs and sheeps, Savio's clinic etc. Also the streets in this settlement are to be named after Salesian Saints.
The creativity of three Salesians is without boarders. They are well accepted by the people and especially by the youth. They try to find many ways how to empower the youth in the life struggle, and survival.
Another Congregation of three (Franciscan)Sisters is here to help with the small clinic, there 'convent'
Sunday catechism on the street under the tree – small groups of seven children with teenager catechists teaching. Sunday school in charge is a 14 years old catechist, student of a national high school nearby!
After the class Salesian brothers take charge of catechist and leaders formation.
On other street the basket and football games are going on. Official football and basketball fields will come in the future, but Don Bosco's playground where you can meet as friends, is already here.
September 24, there will be a Philippines North Provincial community day in Calauan, to give chance for those confrers did not yet visited this place in past one year and half. And the community rector has the check list, he knows who visited or not.
But what is most impressive, all around are still (8 months after!) the posters and other decoration of the pilgrimage of Don Bosco Casket. Yes, last January Don Bosco visited also this youngest Salesian presence in the Philippines. People are very grateful that three Salesians share their misery and daily struggle together. Sure, Don Bosco was very happy to come also to Calauan.
There is a clear plan on the wall, 17 ha plot given to us, will host a Shrine of Don Bosco, vocational training center, some sport fields, clinic, small farm and some other community building activities.
It will take still few years, like in Manila- Tondo, starting from 1970.
But already now, Calauan residents relocated from Manila by the government, they know very well, who is Don Bosco, how does he love the youth and their families.
I pray, that many more Calauan like Valdocco missionary presences
will make the love of God visible and credible to many youth around
Saint John Bosco, pray for us!