Atty. Tyrone Cimafranca, Delegate from ASPAC
         17th SVD General Chapter in Rome July 2012

Father General Tony Pernia,
Incoming Father General Heinz Kuluke,
Distinguished Members of the General Council,
Esteemed Fathers and Brothers of the Society of the Divine Word,
My Fellow Delegates:

      I am Tyrone Revil Cimafranca, married with two (2) kids, a boy and a girl.
My chief claim to fame is that I come from the Province of Bohol, the same
province where Fr. General Tony Pernia comes from. My province belongs to the
Southern Province of the Philippine SVD whose provincial superiors had mostly
been Boholanos since the time it was established. That is the reason why I have a
reasonable ground to believe that Fr. Heinz Kuluke must have some Boholano
blood in him.

       In my home country, there is a joke that among the professionals the
lawyers have the lowest probability to enter heaven. I understand that this joke is
not only true for the Philippines but also in other countries. Lawyers are known to
twist the truth and to make lies appear to be the real thing.

        Yours truly, incidentally, is a lawyer. I know that there is some truth in what
the joke wants to convey. However, I am not at all disturbed because I am an SVD
at heart. Many times, I have encountered clients saying “You know attorney, you
act like a priest”. Although I feel good about it I pretend not to hear it . . . because
it is a prelude to asking for a lower fee.

      Seriously, I am an SVD at heart because all my life, St. Arnold Janssen has
been there to guide me. My childhood was spent with the Holy Spirit Sisters while
undergoing my formative years in kindergarten and in grade school; then I spent
my high school years with the SVD at the Divine Word College in Tagbilaran,
Bohol. Thereafter, I joined the SVD in 1980 and finished a course in philosophy at
the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay and was able to finish up to 2nd year
theology before I left in 1988. Had the SVD established a Law School in Metro
Manila I would have gladly enrolled in that school.

       As I told you nights ago, had I become a full-fledged SVD, chances are I
would not have been a part of this 17th General Chapter Meeting representing any
of the SVD provinces. Indeed, God’s ways are mysterious. Here I am, representing
not only the lay partners of the SVD in the Philippines but in the entire Asia
Pacific Zone.

      But as I share with you my experiences of collaboration and partnership with
the SVD I do not claim to represent the thoughts and feelings of my counterparts in
the ASPAC. In fact, I have not met any of them. I do hope, however, that this
representation will be a step forward towards learning from each other and
strengthening our collaborative efforts with the SVD in particular and the
Universal Church in general.

      Specifically, I belong to a peculiar group of lay people who one way or the
other have had previous formal engagements with the SVD. It means that once
upon a time this group of lay aspired to become an SVD or became one but
eventually left.

       Statistically, only around 10%, or even a lesser percentage, of each batch
that entered the seminary persevered up to the end. Around 90%, more or less,
left and led a different lifestyle. I wish to speak now on behalf of this group of
former seminarians and former SVDs who were not able to reach the finish line, or
if they did, they already left for one reason or the other, yet are very mindful no
less of the call they have received from the Lord.

       This was, in fact, the compelling reminder our dear Father Tony gave us
during his homily at Mass on the occasion of our celebration of the SVD
Centennial in the Philippines. He said, “Remember, although you may not be
among the Chosen Few to join the SVD priests and brothers, you have,
nevertheless, been called.” To this, one of our esteemed spiritual directors and an
inspirational writer, Fr. Jerry Orbos, added, “Once called, always called. God does
not revoke the Call once He has issued it. It is up to the one who has been called to
answer it either as a priest, or as a layman. And so, one’s vocation is never lost or
revoked. It is only transformed”.

      These words from Fr. Tony and Fr. Jerry truly inspire us and fuel our
energies because we find them directly addressed to us, more than the citations on
every layman’s role made by Vatican II and other encyclicals.

       At this juncture, let me introduce you to the various organizations that we
have formed in the course of our engagements with the SVD. This is not a
complete report of what they are doing. Nonetheless, it is comprehensive enough
to inform you about who they are and what they are doing.

        First, the XVD Association, Inc. To the credit of the SVD’s in the
Philippines, no one of them has ever complained about our seeming vandalism of
their name when we chose to call ourselves THE XVD ASSOCIATION, which is
the mother group. This kind of consideration, or you may call it “tolerance”, was
initially shown by a cute, warm, and friendly priest by the name of Fr. Mike Padua.
He had been a prefect of the minor seminary for some time before becoming a
rector of Christ the King Mission Seminary. The situation then was that the ex-
seminarians were feared to be “bad influence” to those who were still inside.
Thus, they were banned from entering the seminary premises. But Fr. Mike
thought otherwise. He allowed us to come in, at least to the place that we missed
most - the basketball court. We initially came to play basketball only. But
eventually our craving for physical fitness led to a felt need for spiritual fitness.
And so as Fr. Mike continued to watch us play basketball, he also started
conducting recollections and retreats for us. Soon the desire to formally organize
gave birth to the creation of the XVD Association in 1973. And since then
subsequent rectors of Christ the King Mission Seminary, including the incumbent
Rector who is with us today, Fr. Pabs Tagura, makes the basketball court available
to us not only for playing but for holding most of our crowd-getting events, like
our yearly grand alumni homecoming which is attended by SVD’s as well.

       The annual reunion is generally a social event and aims at getting together
former seminarians from all batches, including their spouses whom we have
officially welcomed and now refer to as XVDA’s and their children as XVDITO’s
and XVDITA’s.

       Some of the activities we do in this group includes meeting every First
Friday at the Christ the King Mission Seminary for a mass and a fellowship, we
assist in the Walk With God procession of Fr. Jerry Orbos twice a year, we are at
times invited to appear in the radio programs of Fr. Jerry Orbos, Frs. Bel San Luis
and Fr. Jerome Marquez to discuss on certain selected topics with them, we have
quarterly recollection, text brigade, visit and gift/giving to the retired SVD priests
and brothers at the Villa Cristo Rey Retirement Home, sports, emergency relief
assistance, we lend our professional expertise to initiatives made by some SVDs
towards total human development, fund raising activities to fund some SVD
projects, etc.

      The second group is called the MANUS DEI. The members of this group
belong to batches 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1970. They first met and bonded sometime
in 1989, many years after they left the seminary. Initially, they liked just to bond
and to talk about seminary life in the past and what they have become since then,
sharing both their fortunes and misfortunes. Soon, they longed for a deeper
bonding that went beyond “socials”. Since they initially met on Thursdays, they
became known first as the “Thursday Club”.

       Most of the members of this group were and are still working in Makati
City, the business capital of the Philippines. Most, if not all, are “hands-on”
managers in private corporations and government agencies. When it came to a
point that they desired to formalize their group, they adopted the name MANUS
DEI, or the hands of God. They were, as they are still now, determined to
function as the creative hands of the Divine Word. Their socio-apostolic initiatives
include financial and professional assistance to the SVD and other religious

       The third group is actually a movement. It came about after two spiritual
retreats that focused on the role of the Blessed Mother in our lives. The inspiration
led us to form what has come to be known as the THE PERPETUAL ROSARY
MOVEMENT OR PRM for short.

       Attuned to modern technology, the movers of PRM used cyberspace to
create a virtual community of Marian devotees praying the rosary 24/7 in different
places and in different time zones. The PRM, launched on the feast of the
Annunciation in 2010 with a mass attended by Fr. Provincial Nielo Cantilado, has
already gained quite a following, including a significant number among the
inmates of a huge prison facility within Metro Manila. Aside from enlisting their
membership into the PRM, we conducted a religious activity for them similar to
the famous LSS or Life in the Spirit Seminar.

      The fourth group was formed by former SVD seminarians of the Visayas
and Mindanao areas. They also bonded together to help each other spiritually and
to lend themselves in the service of the SVD. They call themselves THE

      Through their staunch support and the charismatic leadership of Fr.
Provincial but now Fr. General-elect Heinz Kuluke, the SVD Philippines South
was able to convert a mountain of trash in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, into habitable
homes of the poorest of the poor in that city who used to live on garbage
scavenging. The courage of the crusaders was instrumental in effectively resisting
the pressures of a local politician who wanted to steal the show and control the
project for his own political agenda.

       The fifth group is the latest to be formed. Rampant corruption and
deterioration of values in Philippine society today, because of a disconnect
between one’s faith and life practice, is the specific concern of this latest offshoot
of the XVD Association. In February 2010 the group selected THE LAY
SOCIETY OF ST. ARNOLD JANSSEN, or LSSAJ, as its official name to
signify its desire to be identified as the layman’s army that Fr. Arnold Janssen
envisioned to collaborate with the three religious congregations of priests, brothers,
and sisters that he had earlier founded. LaySAJ (that’s how we pronounce the
acronym of our society) is actually a response to the challenge posed by Fr. Tony
Pernia in his talk to us during our centennial celebration in 2009.

JANSSEN’S SPIRITUALITY. Derived from this vision is our philosophy
statement, FAITH TRANSFORMS LIFE, which is the theme of all programs and
activities we undertake. We know that achieving our grandiose vision would take
some time and consistent efforts because it involves people transformation.

      Mindful of the maxim, nobody can give what he does not have, we ourselves
went through a value formation process. This is in line with LSSAJ's first mission
statement - to attain a deeper and more meaningful spirituality in ourselves,
our communities and society at large. We are also committed to promote the
contemporary expression of St. Arnold’s charism in mission animation,
biblical apostolate, social communication, and justice, peace and integrity of
creation, but focused on the secular life; and, further, we are committed to

pursue initiatives and advocacies that promote good governance, eradicate
poverty, and protect the environment.

       LSSAJ opens its membership to all lay people – the youth and the adults, the
schooled and the unschooled - anyone who would generously share time, talent,
and treasure to help attain our vision and mission, anyone who would espouse and
practice our core values which include respect for human dignity, service driven
by moral incentives, honesty and integrity, professionalism, partnership, and
being results oriented.

       Essentially, to increase our membership and to promote our mission and
vision LSSAJ engages in the so-called Faith Transforming Life program or
activity, or FTL for short . FTL has FAITH for a theme and may take different
formats depending on duration and size of audience, like an FTL Chat for a one-
on-one or small group session lasting thirty minutes to one and a half hours; and an
FTL seminar-workshop, symposium, forum, recollection, or retreat for half
day or longer. Audience people of all walks of life whose faith needs to be

       As members of these five (5) groups, our underlying motivation is
spiritual growth and the development of an active faith. In this regard, we are
very grateful to the SVD for allowing some of its members to act as chaplains and
spiritual directors and to make themselves available for confessions and eucharistic
celebrations for ourselves and those we organize. Except for LSSAJ, these priests
have not been officially designated to act as such.

       Just recently, when our first president of LSSAJ, Eli Segundo, passed away,
no less than Fr. Provincial Nielo Cantilado led our chaplains and other SVD priests
in taking turns at con-celebrating a Mass every day during the three-day wake.
This gesture was very edifying to the family and friends of the deceased.

       But what is generally considered most effective in terms of bonding is the
text brigade of prayer petitions which affords the experience of loving concern
for one another and the experience of renewing faith in a God who knows what is
best for every one of us. Almost two or three times every day, each of us, including
some SVDs, would receive a text message requesting prayer for a sick member or
one in his family, or inviting to join in a prayer of thanks for a son or daughter
who has passed a national board or bar exam, or for success in any undertaking.
(sample of text messages)

       You may have noted that most of our initiatives at collaboration with the
SVD happen in Metro Manila. The obvious reason is that majority of our members
meet regularly every First Friday for mass and fellowship at the premises of Christ
the King Mission Seminary in Quezon City. But the reality is that ex-SVD
seminarians are all over the country. We even have members abroad particularly in
the United States and Canada. We plan to come up with a national directory to help
track individuals and tap their assistance wherever they are.

        You must have observed by now that the collaboration between our groups
and the SVD has taken various forms. We, however, acknowledge that there is still
so much room for improvement and these collaborations could still be further
developed. In this connection, we propose the appointment of an SVD priest or
brother to assume the role of a liaison officer between the SVD and the XVD or
lay group in each Province. Aside from providing spiritual assistance, his active
presence among us would ensure a regular exchange of information that
facilitates the identification of areas for collaboration.

       My colleagues and I express our profound gratitude to the Society of the
Divine Word for having planted good seeds in us during our years of formation.
Many of us have made significant contributions to society and our respective
communities as teachers, human resource development practitioners, management
training consultants, government employees and community organizers. In our
ranks there are successful businessmen and some who excel in banking and
finance, economics, architecture, law, medicine, accounting, engineering, military,
name them and we probably have a professional in that field. Some of our
prominent lawyers have become judges and justices; a few have occupied top
ranks in the military and the police; and, of course, we have also doctors of

      As a matter of fact, the incumbent president of the XVD Association is Dr.
Alex Torio whose wife Emma is also a doctor; PRM’s president, Dr. Roby
Montellano, is a prominent dentist of a leading hospital in the Philippines, the St.
Luke's Hospital; while Mr. Daniel “Danny” Mallari, the president of Manus Dei, is
a businessman and partly owns a travel agency business.

       Some of us have been in top management of educational institutions as well
as in multinational companies. The late Eli Segundo, the first president of LSSAJ,
used to be an executive in Shakey’s International and Johnson and Johnson, and
president of Magnolia, a subsidiary of the famous San Miguel Corporation of the
Philippines. The current presidents of Security Bank and East West Bank are
XVDs. The former president of Philippine Business Bank, a classmate of Fr. Tony,
is an XVD. Yours truly has been acting as Corporate Secretary and Legal Counsel
to several corporations and legal entities and also serve as legal counsel for Christ
the King Mission Seminary. The first Chairman of the Board of LSSAJ, Mr.
Joseph Pernia, Fr. Tony’s older brother, used to be a finance executive in
Worldbank, and his other brother, Mr. Ernie Pernia, another founding member of
LSSAJ, a former executive of the Economic Department of the Asian
Development Bank.

      From the roster of professional trainings and expertise that each one of us
had acquired in the course of the years, we want to offer them to the service of the
SVD. This is a precious resource whose time has come. Some SVDs are presently
doing this with some of us. But this is being done ad hoc and not as a matter of
policy or officially. Perhaps this is an area of partnership that we really need to
develop and where we could draw up the terms of our engagement.

      In this day and age when the number of priests and religious are rapidly
declining and the reality of the increasing involvement of the laity in the church, it
is about time that the SVD find new ways of collaborating with the laity in the
tremendous task of evangelization.

      Concretely, we suggest that the SVD make a world-wide effort to enlist and
enable former SVD seminarians, who outnumber the SVDs at least ten to one, to
be their lay co-missionaries and partners in the task of evangelizing the secular
world. As our Retreat Master yesterday told us, make them co-responsible in this
apostolic task.

       Furthermore, we also suggest that the SVD do the same to their personnel,
those working in the different SVD institutions particularly in the schools – the
teachers, admin staff, workers, make them likewise co-responsible in this apostolic
task of evangelization. In doing so, the effectiveness of the SVD's apostolic efforts
will multiply a hundred fold.

       Vatican II urges every member of the Church to collaborate in the work
of the Gospel, each according to his opportunities, ability, charism and
ministry (LG No. 12; AG No. 23). You are making it possible for us to engage in
this shared mission. We want to provide a lay perspective on church matters
and other areas of concern, to serve as a sounding board to church leadership,
and to act as constructive critics of clergy’s statements and actuations that
may not be edifying to the laity.

       Finally, you may very well remember the gospel passage on the sending by
Jesus of the disciples two by two. In the context of our partnership, it may not
really be a bad idea to see that one of the two is an SVD and the other a lay partner
like us. We ask your prayer and blessing as we strive to be your worthy partner in
the work of evangelization.

      Actually I have also prepared a very short video presentation showing just a
few of our initiatives. If you can bear with me for another five minutes, I’d be glad
to show this to you.

      I have anticipated our time constraint; that’s why, I have prepared ahead a
set of handouts for each Province, consisting of a SUMMARY REPORT ON
SOME OF OUR INITIATIVES, copies of the first three issues of the
NEWSLETTER and a FLYER of the Lay Society of St. Arnold Janssen. I have
requested the Secretariat to take care of distributing them to you

      Thank you very much.


To top