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27 years of Calabrian Presence in the Philippines

Today, March 26th, we are celebrating 27 years of the arrival of the first Poor Servants Religious in the Philippines. Let us remember the testimonies of our first brothers:

“The first approach of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Divine Providence in the Philippines took place in 1988 with the visit of Fr. Peter Cunegatti, General Superior, to the Diocese of Antipolo. The following year he came for the second time, along with Fr. Giusto Squizzato and then came the decision to send the first religious on March 26, 1990.

Left to right: Bro. Olinto Jose Bet (from Brazil), Fr. Miguel Pacheco (from Argentina) and  Fr. Giusto Squizzato (from Italy)

On the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, during the Eucharistic celebration, the General Superior sent forth the first three religious to the mission, completing their luggage with a Chalice, an English Bible, a painting of the founder, St. John Calabria, and a crucifix for each one of them.

The next day, they traveled from Verona to Manila. An Italian priest, Fr. Pietro Ferri, MI was waiting for them and offered hospitality. They stayed for a week in the Theologate, in Quezon City; later they transferred to St. Camillus College Seminary in Marikina City. After some initial difficulties, they rented a house in Kingsville Subdivision, Cainta and continued to learn English, looking for a suitable place to establish the new mission. Since the Congregation came to the Philippines by the invitation of the late Most Rev. Protacio Gungon, the bishop of the Diocese Antipolo, the three Religious moved only within the boundaries of the Diocese.

After three months in the Philippines, on the occasion of the visit of Fr. Santino and Bro. Mario, members of the General Council, they moved around, visiting some possible places to establish the mission. They’d visited the towns of Cogueo and Jala-Jala, the two possible places offered them by the bishop. However they found both places not suitable for the PSDP.

Nevertheless, after listening to their point of view, the bishop offered them a place still unknown to him, the newly constructed San Lorenzo Ruiz chapel, which was formerly part of the territory of the Archdiocese of Manila. The preparation committee along with the bishop went to visit the place. Alas, everybody, including the bishop, was impressed at what they found. The comments were unanimous: “If we are looking for the poor, here they are!” Definitively, this is the place where the Providence had reserved for the PSDP.

At times they couldn’t reach the place because they had to pass through the Smoky Mountain of garbage. After nearly six months of English studies, on September 15, 1990, the religious wrote a letter to the bishop expressing their readiness to start the mission in San Lorenzo Ruiz. The bishop’s affirmative response came on September 22, 1990. Afterwards, on October 17, 1990, the religious received at Kingsville the visit of the committee of San Juan Resettlement Homes, along with Rev. Fr. David Colong, Parish priest of San Sebastian Parish, in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig. They came from Antipolo after meeting the bishop in order to make the boundaries of the new parish. Then on October 25, 1990, a certain Msgr. Balbago from the Diocese of Antipolo came to inform them that they can, at any time, begin to celebrate Mass.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1991, the three missionaries started to shepherd the communities of San Juan Resettlement Homes in Taytay, Rizal and in Pag-ibig Homes and Greenwoods Executive Village in Cainta, Rizal. They went to these different communities introducing themselves and explained to the people their mission and goals: Their names were: Fr. Giusto Squizzato from Italy, Fr. Miguel Pacheco from Argentina, and Bro. Olinto Jose Bet a theology student from Brazil. ‘We are a small community of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Divine Providence. Our mission is ‘to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’”.

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