By Sr. Josefa S. Aldana, SFIC
Good morning. I am very happy to introduce our speaker today, on the last day of Religious Life Week (RLW) 2015 for 3 reasons: 1) He is my brother Franciscan; 2) because of the privilege of having worked with him during the early eyars of ICLA, especially on the yearly celebrations of RLW like this time; and 3) he is my guru. I learned from him an Asian form of prayer called "Anapanasati" - Ana (inhale breath), pana (exhale breath) sati (mindfulness). I was first introduced to Anapanasati at an inter-congregational Buddhist retreat which he conducted together with a North American Buddhist monk, Santikaro.
Dear friends, Fr. Bienvenido Baisas, OFM was the Provincial Superior of the Order of Friars Minor in the Philippines for ten years (1979-1989). He obtained his Licentiate in Theology from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines and his Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Italy. He also had some Jewish and Biblical Studies at the University of Mûnster, Germany and at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem, Israel.
Fr. Benny is a guest editor of ICLA's journal, Religious Life Asia. He edited the September 2000 and the December 2001 issues on Ecology and Consecrated Life and Interreligious Dialogue respectively. One can read his articles published in several issues of Religious Life Asia. Some of these are: "The Spirituality of Consecrated Life" published in the book, From Seduction to Mission, An Asian Commentary, 1997; "The Experience of God in Francis of Assisi" (April 1999); "Witness, Our Service and Mission, Asian Perspectives (January-March 2004); and "The Eucharist and Mary: A Bond of Faith and Love" (April-June 2005).
Fr. Benny has lived and worked for some years in a quasi-hermitage in the hills of the Sierra Madre mountains in General Nakar, Quezon, where he gives meditation retreats to individuals and small groups, while giving limited assistance to the indigenous Agta in the area.
He also served as Delegate Provincial "Pro Monialibus" and Religious Assistant to the Federation of Monasteries of the Order of the Poor Sisters of St. Clare in the Philippines. For 10 years and for more than 7 years, he was assigned to overseas mission in the Franciscan Foundation of Blessed Joseph Vaz in Sri Lanka, serving in the ministry of initial formation in Amptiya, Kandy. We all know that last January 14, 2015, Pope Francis declared Blessed Joseph Vaz a Saint in a Eucharistic celebration held at Galle Face Green Park in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Fr. Benny came back from Sri Lanka last year and was assigned to help out in some parishes in Basilan and Kidapawan in the Southern part of the Philippines. According to him, if he gets his visa, he will move on to his next mission in Israel, where he hopes to work with migrants and engage in JPIC work.
I would like to add that for us Franciscans, Fr. Benny is a model of simplicity, humility and service. Personally, he reminds me of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and of Pope Francis.
Today, he will lead us in the third movement of our journey by sharing with us "Projecting Paths, Priorities of Religious Life and Mission in Asia." Please welcome Fr. Benny Baisas, OFM