Word Conference, a project of the Prefecture of Biblical Animation and Communications of the Claretian Missionaries, Fr. Rhoel Gallardo Province and Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc. (CCFI) in collaboration with Claret School of Quezon City (CSQC) was held on November 30, 2022, at the CSQC Auditorium, Quezon City, Philippines.
Now on its fifth year, WordCon has evolved from the initial two years of face-to-face events followed by two years of online conferences due to the pandemic. This year’s WordCon was a hybrid event attended by 251 participants: 118 onsite and another 133 joining online via Zoom. This hybrid setup was a request from those unable to participate onsite. Online participants came from as far away as Rome, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Iloilo City, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte, Davao City, Baguio City, and course, Metro Manila. Just like the onsite participants, they were able to interact with the Speakers during the Sala (Open Forum).
The conference started with a Bible Enthronement led by the KABATAANG CLARET of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Quezon City, followed by the warm welcome of Fr. Elias L. Ayuban, Jr., CMF, Provincial Superior of the Fr. Rhoel Gallardo Province.
Also joining the conference online from Kenya, Fr. Henry Omonisaye, CMF, General Consultor and Prefect of Biblical Ministry and Communications of the Claretian Missionaries, gave a very inspiring message to the Claretian Family and participants of the Word Conference.
This year’s theme, Touch the Word: “If I just touch his clothing…” from Mark 5:28, is based on the image of the hemorrhagic woman’s faith, as shared by Bishop Renato P. Mayugba, DD, during his talk last Word Conference 2021. The theme focused on the women in the bible. In Mark 5: 24-34, the woman prays in her heart that she will get well if she touches His cloak. For the woman, the seam of Jesus’ clothing, the Word living among us, is enough to change her life.
The first talk, “Women in the Genealogy of Jesus as Agents of Salvation,” was presented by Sr. Miriam Alejandrino, OSB, professor and academic dean of St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute, both in Davao City.
The presentation aimed to answer the following questions: What was the Sitz-im-Leben, the situation in the life of these women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah? Why did Matthew include these women in the genealogy of Jesus? In what way were they agents of salvation?
Sr. Miriam applied the historical-critical method and literary analysis in the study of Matthew 1:1-17. Although the women mentioned above were not prominent in the Israelite society then, their role in the history of salvation was significant. They can rightly be called agents of salvation.
She concluded her presentation with some insights and posed some challenges to the participants. Fr. Jose “Randy” Randolf Flores, SVD, Parish Priest and Rector of the Sacred Heart Parish Shrine in Quezon City, Philippines and the Director of the Biblical Apostolate of the Diocese of Cubao and the coordinator for the Biblical Apostolate of the SVD Philippine Central Province, shared his reactions to the presentation.
The second speaker, Sr. M. Victoria Victorino, PDDM, who has a licentiate in Biblical Theology from the Gregorian University and presently works as a Pastoral Assistant at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, focused her presentation on “Widows in some New Testament Texts – Generating Faith in Communities.”
Her presentation spotlighted the life of some widows in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. Mark 12:41-44 presents the action of the generous widow who gave “all she had, her whole livelihood.” Luke, who seems to have a particular preference for widows, offers several personages for consideration, namely, the prophetess Anna in Lk 2:36-40 and the persistent widow in Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Lk 18:1-8. In Acts 12:12, Luke also speaks of Mary, the mother of John Mark. Some studies point to a strong probability that she was a wealthy widow who generously supported and protected the emergent Christian community.
Finally, she reflected on the most important widow of the New Testament, Mary, the mother of Jesus. The text is in Jn 19:25-27, where, at the death of her beloved Son, Mary received the disciple whom Jesus loved, a personification of all those who will later believe and follow Jesus. At the foot of the cross, Mary ‘assisted in the birth pangs’ of the new family of Jesus.
Toward the end of the presentation, Sr. Victoria showed how in our present times, many draw inspiration from these widows’ courage, faith, and generosity, especially among Filipino women overseas workers.
Fr. Cristino Pine, OFM, a Biblical Exegete, writer, frequent and in-demand lecturer and speaker on scriptures, and an award-winning author, shared his reflection on the presentation
Sr. Jolanta Kafka, RMI, the Superior General of the Religious of Mary Immaculate, Claretian Missionary Sisters, presented her talk on “Jesus and His Women Friends in the Gospels.” She deepened some aspects of friendship in the Christian Life. She reflected on discipleship as the expression of a relationship with Jesus in the New Testament and the friendship of some women as the culmination of her presentation. It focuses on Mary and Martha from Bethany and Mary Magdalene on their experiences of this friendship with Jesus.
In light of the passages, she made an approximation to the actualization of this paradigm: Hospitality of the Church – ministry of radical welcoming; Following the Master from Galilee to Jerusalem; Discipleship of women: “I am not calling you servants yet friends”; Apostolic service, friendship, and complicity; Walking together; and Conclusions in our faith journey.
Fr. Alejandro O Gobrin, CMF, Prefect of Biblical Animation and Communications of the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines and Executive Director of the Claretian Communications Foundation Inc. or Claretian Publications Philippines, shared his reflections and reactions about the presentation.
The last speaker, Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio S. David, DD, Bishop of Kalookan and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, presented his talk on “Mary, the Mother of Jesus: As for Mary, she treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Lk 2:19.
To reflect on this topic, Bishop Pablo used a method he proposed in his book YESHUA, which he calls “Reading Between the Lines of the Scripture,” using imagination and doing it preferably while at prayer, following the Ignatian method of contemplation. However, there are some rules to follow. Before reading between the lines, readers must first take the lines seriously. Then, it will allow the imagination to be guided by the lines to restrain readers from engaging in fantastical reading or a purely fictionalized retelling of the story.
Using imagination, Bishop Pablo helped participants enter Mary’s heart and see things as she did, following the mind and objective of Luke, the evangelist. There were two parts to his presentation: Part 1 – In the “Nativity in a Stable” Scene, after the visit of the shepherds, Luke says in Lk 2:19, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Here we ask ourselves what it was that Mary pondered in her heart at the “Nativity in a Stable” scene, as narrated in Lk 2,15-20.
In Part 2 – At the Finding in the Temple Scene, at the very end of the infancy narrative, Luke again says in Lk 2:51, “…and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” Here, he invited the participants to ask themselves what it was that Mary pondered in her heart at the “Finding in the Temple” scene, as narrated in Lk 2,41-52.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, a noted theologian and author who served as president of St. Scholastica’s College for six years and dean for 18 years, as prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in the Manila Priory, and as national chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines offered a meditation-reflection as a conclusion to all the presentations.
Mr. Alvin Macaranas, Corporate Secretary of the Kapatirang Claretiano, Inc., and Miss Ma. Rosario Garcia, FEC, delegate coordinator of Fraternidade Ecclesial Claretiana, moderated the Q & A during the Sala. Fr. Julius Jose A. Coching, CMF, Parish Priest of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, hosted the event.