On the feast day of St. Dominic de Guzman, the Master of the Order of Preachers and UST Chancellor Very Rev. Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, III, O.P., was featured in the first episode of “In Depth,” a webinar series by Dominus Est (It is the Lord). He discussed the first Missions in the Philippines in the episode that was streamed on the Dominus Est Facebook page on August 8, 2020.
Dominus Est, an online evangelization ministry launched by His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle when he was still the Archbishop of Manila, is headed by its Founding Director Fr. Jason H. Laguerta, who served as reactor for this particular episode. Dominus Est Editor-in-Chief Ms. Margaux Salcedo was the moderator.
Within the 90-minute session, Fr. Timoner spoke on the life of St. Dominic, the mission of the Order of Preachers, and the arrival of the Dominicans in the Philippines. He mentioned that the first community of the Dominican faithful arrived on July 22, 1587, coinciding with the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the matrons of the Dominican Order.
“It’s very interesting that the historian who chronicled this wrote that ‘this is the arrival of the first barkada’, because the missionaries were on a barka (boat). That word, barkada, came to our language to mean ‘a group of close friends.’ That’s very interesting to me because it tells us something: that these brothers who came were really friends, and people associated that word [referring to a group of missionaries who came by barka] with a group of friends because the community is an evangelizer. So it is not just one person who evangelizes, but rather it is the community, and the credibility of that community will determine the effectiveness of preaching the Gospel.”
Such an arrival was in line with “what St. Dominic asked the first brothers to do, which is to study, to preach, and to build community.”
Salcedo noted during the interaction the Dominicans’ impact on education in the Philippines, pointing out that the Order is known for being educators and establishing schools, such as the University of Santo Tomas, known as the oldest university in Asia, and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, known as the oldest high school for boys in the country.
Fr. Laguerta also commented that “The Dominicans have contributed to the growth of the faith and the Church in our country, and we can only be grateful for them, including the universities, the beautiful churches, the Doctrina, and of course the Dominicans who continue to preach the Word.”
Touching on the topic of the future of the Church after the celebration of the 500th year since the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines in 2021, “I may not know what the Church would look like 50 years from now, but this I know: The future Archbishop of Manila, the future priests of the Philippine Church, are already learning their Catechism now. The future lay leaders of the Philippine Church are already attending Mass in our parishes. The way people are brought up in the faith is important now, because the way they know, live, and assimilate that faith in their life will determine the kind of Church, the kind of nation, we will have 20 or 50 years from now.”
In his closing message, the Very Rev. Fr. Timoner encouraged the Dominican Family to read his Letter to the Order on the occasion of St. Dominic’s Feast Day, which tackles the responsory hymn “O Spem Miram” (O Wonderful Hope).
“It may be paradoxical that we sing this song of hope as we commemorate the departure of Dominic from this life. But it is ‘wonderful’ because Dominic promised that he would be more useful to us when he is already with the Father in heaven. Dominic passed from this life surrounded by his brothers, and that is what hope is: Walang iwanan (No one is left behind), because God abides in the joyful even sorrowful, and glorious mysteries of our lives. God remains with us as our hope: O Spem Miram,” shared the Master of the Order.