Newsletter of the District of Asia

 July - December 2005

Letter from the Brothers’ Noviciate
September - October 2005

St Bernard Noviciate
Barangay Daga, Iloilo

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

St. Bernard Novitiate has witnessed a series of important events over the past tow months. The most noteworthy are the recent transfers, which took place in the Society on August 15.

Fr. Loren Gerspacher, who faithfully manned the Brothers’ Novitiate and served a parish priest in Jaro for three years, has been reassigned to Canada – his native country. We would all like to extend our gratitude to Fr. Gerspacher for his hard work and dedication during his time in the Philippines. It should be remembered that one of Father’s outstanding accomplishments during his tenure in Iloilo was the construction of Jaro’s beautiful church, Our Lady of Consolation and St. Joseph, not to mention the impressive construction of the spacious priory next door. These two attractive buildings can adequately meet the needs of the apostolate in Iloilo. As part of Father’s going-away festivities, the children of the parish presented a delightful series of songs. The little ones were not the only performers to show off their vocal talents! The men and women of the parish set the example for the young, singing a variety of songs in English, Latin, and Ilonggo – the local dialect.

Fr. Joseph Lester, after one year in the Philippines, has been transferred to Singapore to fill the challenging position of District Bursar for Asia. With this new assignment, Fr. Lester will be traveling throughout the whole district, assessing the local finances and fixing any account problems. Many will miss Father’s good cheer and energetic zeal at the Novitiate and in the missions. His little flock in Butuan, Mindinao will particularly miss him. A new priest will have difficulty filling his shoes!

Both priests will be missed. Those they leave behind send them off with their deepest affection and prayers.

The Novitiate welcomes two new priests, Fr. Adam Purdy, an American, and Fr. Sayed Elias, an Australian. They arrived in Iloilo near the end of August, ready to begin their missionary work in the Philippines, which involves the formation of religious vocations. Fr. Purdy will be assuming Fr. Gerspacher’s role as the superior of St. Bernard Novitiate, and Fr. Elias will be assisting on the busy circuit while also helping instruct the brothers. Both priests are grateful for the warm welcomes they received from the parishioners at each mission stop. They look forward to serving the needs of the faithful in the coming months.

One of the Novitiate’s veteran priests, Fr. Suelo, was hospitalized for an angina attack. The brothers took turns at Fathers bedside, watching him, serving his Mass, and providing for his needs. Fortunately, this sudden attack did not have any long-term consequences and Father was able to rejoin the community at the Novitiate after a few weeks.

Fr. Saa has returned from his trip to Europe, after attending the Society’s Pilgrimage in Fatima. There Father was able to pray to the Mother of God for the Novitiate and the missions within the Philippines. Let us add our own prayers to Fr. Saa’s, beseeching blessings from heaven upon our work here in the missions.

At the beginning of September, Fr. Couture visited the novitiate, and offered Solemn High Mass in Our Lady of Consolation and St. Joseph Church. It was the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Consolation. Near 200 faithful attended the Mass and procession. The procession after the Mass wound through some of the side streets and alleyways around the church in Jaro. It is our sincere hope that many graces were gained from the Mother of God.

During the first week of September, the priests of the Philippines, along with Fr. Couture and Fr. Lester from Singapore, attended their annual retreat in Batangas, located a few hours drive from Manila on the coast of Luzon. This five-day retreat, preached by Fr. Adrian Wee, equipped the priests with the necessary helps to persevere in the violent spiritual battle for souls. The ascetic beauty and serenity of the Batangas coast could not have provided a better atmosphere for the spirit of recollection which is so essential for disposing oneself for union with God. The splendor of God’s awe-inspiring creation was always before our eyes and ears. Each morning we would rise to pray the Divine Office with the breeze and sounds of the sea.

The following week, Fr. Adrian visited the St. Bernard Novitiate to preach a retreat for the brothers. Also in attendance was Sister Philomena, an oblate who assists the priests in the apostolate in Manila. During this retreat, Sister renewed her oblation in the Society of St. Pius X.

On the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel (September 29th), the brothers anxiously prepared to make their religious professions. Having finished the required year of novitiate, Br. Theophane Mary made his first profession as a brother in the Society of St. Pius X. Br. Isidore Mary knelt alongside him to renew his profession and vows. The evening before, two new postulants were received into the Novitiate to commence their first year of training. These courageous young men approached the high altar and knelt before the tabernacle, white cassocks draped over their left arm. Fr. Purdy explained to them the seriousness of the religious calling. The two men processed out of the church in shirt and tie, returning moments later garbed in their new white habit. Kneeling before the priest, they received their religious names: Br. Andre Joseph and Br. Bartholomew.

On the feast of St. Michael, Fr. Purdy also had the privilege of being with Br. Thomas at the hospital where he renewed his vows for three years. Br. Thomas had been recuperating from a much-needed spinal surgery. Father received his vows before the Blessed Sacrament while bringing Holy Communion. Brother bravely signed the renewal of his vows from his hospital bed. Despite the pains he still suffered from his surgery, Brother’s joviality was no worse for the wear. His smile can be clearly seen in the picture as he signs his name. What a beautiful circumstance to offer one’s life and sufferings to Our Lord. Dear friends, pray that all five of these young men gain the graces they need to persevere in their religious calling.

The Novitiate would also like to welcome fourth-year seminarian, Michael Sestak, to our humble abode in Iloilo. Mr. Sestak is from St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. He is taking a year away from his studies to experience the foreign missions firsthand, and to catch an inside glimpse of the priestly apostolate. Because of his experience in writing for the Verbum, he has been assigned to tutor English grammar and phonetics to some of the brothers. Aside from the tutoring, he follows the daily schedule of the brothers, which includes manual labor. Here he is seen, sickle in hand, harvesting rice in the fields.

All of the brothers, at present, are occupied with the rice harvest. It looks to be a good year for the harvest due to the bountiful rainfall we received. Alas, the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. When they have the opportunity, the priests also help with the harvest. Here is Fr. Saa, grinning widely, as he prepares to vent his frustrations on the cockle!

The brothers are adjusting to a change in their schedule, modified to allow them greater time to study and learn the timeless teachings of Holy Mother Church. The goal of these classes is to improve the brothers’ understanding of the Faith, for it is clear that one cannot love what one does not know. The professed brothers are taking Scripture, Catechism, and Acts of the Magisterium, which teaches the encyclicals of the popes over the past 200 years. The novices and pre-seminarians have classes of Catechism, Spirituality and, for the moment, double English periods. Starting in November, the novices will continue their classes on the religious vows.

Slowly but surely, improvements are underway. There is a tremendous amount of work to do, but with patience, (and a little bit of money), we can accomplish much. At present, the kitchen is getting a facelift. From top to bottom, the interior is being completely renovated. To begin with, two concrete walls were built to isolate the laundry room from the kitchen. Next, nearly 1,400 tiles have been laid to cover much of the concrete floors and walls. Stainless steel sinks and counter tops are being installed, and finally a ceiling will be added to keep the spiders, flies and lizards out of the food. The intricate plumbing of our water purification system is getting a needed overhaul and more electrical outlets and light fixtures are being added.

Attorney and Mrs Teodoro Dominguez,
to whom the SSPX owes so much
in the Philippines.

Some of you have already donated to this massive project, and we thank you for your generosity. Nevertheless, there are still many costs accruing. Unfortunately, it seems the more scratching we do, the more we discover additional need for repair. The rerouting of the plumbing was certainly an unexpected expense. The complexity of the system, which resembled a plate of spaghetti, made the new tile-work impossible. The pipes had to be reworked and simplified in order to prevent future problems. We also discovered, much to our dismay, that the kitchen was built crooked, the right-side being lower on one end. In order to make the floor level, much concrete was needed. This also meant greater labor costs.

Dear friends, please continue to support St. Bernard Novitiate. We completely depend upon your generosity in order to accomplish our renovation projects. As far as contributions go, very little can come from within the Philippines since the value of the peso is extremely small (1USD = 56P). We must rely heavily on outside benefactors. Remember that outside currency goes a long way here. Even small contributions can accomplish a great deal in the Philippines. We entrust ourselves to St. Joseph and your generosity!

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Rev. Fr. Adam Purdy
Novice Master


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