ICLA Graduates’ Reunion in China: A Time of Thanksgiving in a Season of Grace
The Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Founded by a dynamic visionary, Fr. Domingo Moraleda, CMF in 1997, ICLA has been continually reaching out to the emergent churches in the region by offering higher education to the clergy, religious and laity in fields of Consecrated Life, Spirituality, Missiology and Biblical Ministry.
To mark this important milestone in ICLA’s history, the current Director, Fr. Sammy Canilang, CMF, thought of a different approach to the celebration. Instead of the traditional “homecoming” here on campus, he opted for an out-bound event – “the ICLA that goes forth.” The place of his choice was China since it has one of the biggest number of MA graduates throughout these 20 years, 215 all in all. Through the effective leadership of the ICLA alumni in China headed by Fr. Joseph Zhang Yulin of the Anyang Diocese and the CARES staff of ICLA, Fr. Sammy was able to fulfill this seemingly “impossible dream.”
The five-day gathering took place in the grounds of the Retreat and Formation Center of Anyang Diocese (Jingyang Zhongxin) on September 18-22, 2017. Attending the event were 26 ICLA graduates, 4 members of the CARES team, the representative of a partner agency and the ICLA director himself. It was a privilege for the group to have the Bishop of Anyang Diocese, Most Rev. Zhang Yinlin to preside the opening Eucharistic Celebration on September 18th evening to commence the gathering of ICLA alumni in China. The Bishop inspired the attendees in his homily and welcome address to put their faith and hope in God and learn to be inclusive in their ministry. He also gave each one a meaningful souvenir- gift – his episcopal coat of arms “Duc in Altum” (Launch into the deep), which spoke to their hearts on different levels.
The daily schedule consisted in the activities reflecting the theme for each day. Day 1 New Wine in New Wineskins (Consecrated Life Today) and Prayer; Day 2 Growing in Shepherding Attitudes and Skills (Pastoral Leadership); and Day 3 Management: A Pastoral Approach. There were several opportunities for the participants to share personal and ministry updates and experiences together in small groups, dialogue with ICLA Director and the CARES team, and consult with a Spiritual Companion. Each day was punctuated with a silent community adoration followed by the Eucharistic celebration. As they enjoyed the well-prepared sumptuous meals, the attendees shared their fond memories of ICLA --- food in Manila, fun times with professors and classmates etc. etc.
In the last evening of the gathering, we altogether enjoyed a homegrown entertainment program participated by all. We were treated with many songs, dances, and a unique story telling Chinese style entitled “3 and a half.” The night ended with a meaningful Pilgrim-Dance Prayer participated by all, including the center staff and some elderly residents of the center.
The following day, the center arranged an educational tour to the National Museum of Chinese Writing – which amazed all of us of how the Chinese people have preserved and developed their script throughout the centuries. From the tour, the group proceeded to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the scenic, Red Flag Canal (or Hongqi Qu), which is a great water project in China, being built in Taihang Mountain, where visitors can have a view of the common border of the three surrounding provinces (Henan, Hebei, and Shanxi provinces).
The whole trip to China was ICLA’s first attempt ever to gather the alumni in a country outside the Philippines to celebrate the founding anniversary of the institute. Clearly, the Lord blessed it with divine Protection, Provision, and most of all Presence of the Spirit from beginning to end. Thanks be to the One who made all these possible! Heartfelt thanks to the ICLA graduates who worked the hardest to let this happen!