Monday, January 21, 2008

Fr. Paul Cunanan, 68

Editor-in-Chief / Davao Catholic HERALD

“Death comes as a new birth to Eternity. Live and love, then – Heaven is now,” runs the last line of the poem that Fr. Paul DC Cunanan composed last New Year’s eve.

On Saturday, January 19, 2008, at around 3:00 PM, he faced what he called “a new birth to Eternity”, as he succumbed to a massive cardiac arrest at the Mindanao Heart Center. He was 68.

Until his death, Father Cunanan was the director-curator of the Archdiocesan Church Cultural Heritage Commission (ACCHC) and held the said agency located at San Pedro Cathedral Parish since 2004.

Born on June 3, 1939 to Ildefonsa Donayre and Blas Cunanan, Fr. Paul, as he is fondly called by brother priests and friends, is the third of nine siblings, and an older brother of Dr. Gerardo Cunanan, Davao Medical Center's Chief of Hospital who passed away last November 27, 2007, also of cardiac arrest at the same center.

One of the two “most senior” Davao clergy – the other one is Msgr. Edgar Rodriguez, presently the chaplain of Sto. Niño Shrine – Fr. Paul was ordained priest on May 1, 1966 and would have celebrated his 42nd anniversary this year.

In his more than 40 years in the priesthood, Fr. Paul has been assigned either as vicar or as parish priest in a total of 9 parishes of the archdiocese, including the parishes of Sto. Rosario (Malita, 1966-67) and Immaculate Conception (Bansalan, 1967-68).

He was the former parish priest of St. Jude Parish (1974-76) and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish (1978-83), during which term his pet project was the Comprehensive Resettlement Program (CRD) in Talomo area.

In 1969, he founded Operation Build-Up (OBU), a movement which aims to develop Christian leadership and citizenship in the young people. It was an off-shoot of his 7-year stint as the director of the Archdiocesan Social Action Center (ASAC) of Davao from 1967-1974.

He was also the founder of 4L (Love Life, Live Love) Mission Foundation, Inc., an advocacy that promotes family and life, community services and scholarship programs.

Since 1977, Fr. Paul was the chaplain of the Sta. Ana Multipurpose Cooperative. His love for cooperatives must be undoubtedly deep for he founded the San Lorenzo Development Cooperative in 1985.

A Datu Bago awardee in 1990, Fr. Paul was also a national recipient of the San Lorenzo for Peace and Unity Awards in 1991.

In 1998, he became a delegate of the Church to the City Government’s Peace & Order Council. He was also involved in the Philippine National Red Cross as board member since 1989. He was also involved in farmers and workers apostolate from 1967 to 1974 and a member of the Association of Voluntary Arbitrators in the Philippines for 10 years (1989-1999).

A master’s degree holder in Oriental Religion and a licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila, Fr. Paul showed his passion for inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism when he was appointed director of the Archdiocesan Center for Ecumenical & Inter-religious Dialogue (ACEID) from 1996-2000.

On Friday, January 19, Fr. Paul went to the doctor for a check-up. Confined to be scheduled for a heart operation, he gave in after struggling with a cardiac arrest at around 3:00 PM.

His remains lie at the Chapel of the Saints of San Pedro Cathedral, San Pedro St., Davao City. Requiem masses are offered daily from January 21 – 28, 2008, at 5:30 PM.

Friends and relatives may also participate in the novena prayers during the wake from January 20 – 28, 2008, at 8:00 PM. Necrological Services are set on January 28, 2008, at 7:30 PM.

Funeral Mass will be on January 29, 2008, 2:00 PM at the San Pedro Cathedral. Interment follows at the Roman Catholic Cemetery, Father Selga St., Davao City.

A week before his death, in an interview for the “Know your shepherd” column of the Davao Catholic HERALD, Fr. Paul quipped, “My heart plans my way, but my Lord directs my steps.”

Truly, the Lord has directed the plans of Fr. Paul’s heart “to live and love” until he comes to what he calls “a new birth to Eternity”.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Look for your ‘Star’

As the New Year starts, people are asking what year are we now in the Chinese calendar. A national paper was quick to put on its front page a photo of a rat and pointed out its predominant characteristic: its being clever.

A fable is told about how the rat won the race against other fast-running animals simply by riding on the fox’s shoulder and jumping ahead of it upon reaching the finish line.

According to a Chinese zodiac, people born in the Year of Rat are clever and bright, sociable and family-minded. They have broad interests and strong ability in adapting to the environment and able to react adequately to any changes.

They are gifted in many ways and have an easy going manner. They are active and pleasant, tactful and fantastic, and are able to grasp opportunities. They seem to have interests in everything and hope to participate in doing it and usually do it very well.

* * * * *

But who believes in zodiac signs and in what they tell us about ourselves?

Are we supposed to be guided by rats this year? Are we gullible enough to take these predictions and forecast as hard truths and let ourselves be guided blindly by what they say?

Zodiac signs and Chinese animal astrology seem to convince us that our behavior and personality are governed by outside forces and not by our own free will and personal decisions. They seem to tell us: “You are what the stars say you are” instead of “You are what you think and decide you are.”

I may be “clever and bright sociable and family-minded,” I may have “broad interests and strong ability in adapting to the environment and able to react adequately to any changes” because I decide to be or to have them, not because the Rat – of which year I was born – so disposes!

* * * * *

To believe in what the stars dispose is wanting of enough courage to believe in Who made the stars.

But there is also wisdom in being guided by the stars. It is the wisdom that made the Magi “wise men from the East”.

The “Three Wise Men” (if in case they were really only three) were also guided by the star in their journey in search for the “newborn King of Israel”. They were basically astrologers, that is, those who could read the signs and movements of stars and interpret them.

They are wise not because they could interpret the stars (like modern astrologers and authors of zodiac signs would want to be called). They are wise because they let their craft lead them to the discovery of the truth. And that Truth is Jesus Himself.

* * * * *

Let us also look for our own stars. But not the zodiac signs!

Let us look for stars that would truly guide us and lead us to the truth about ourselves, about the world and about God. The world today is offering and presenting to us oftentimes false stars (and most of them are falling stars, because they fail to guide us).

Instead of a sure guide to show us who and what we truly are as a human person with intelligence and will, the world today offers us zodiac signs, which are nothing but false stars telling us that we are not governed by intelligence and will of our own but of fate and chance.

Instead of telling us that the world is created and governed by Divine Providence, modern astrology tends to convince us that the world is governed and ruled by cycles of stars.

Instead of the stars pointing us to God, their Creator and to Whom they pay their homage (as the Psalmist sings “Stars of heaven, bless the Lord”), we tend to make them the object of our homage and in the process, ignoring God and His actions in our lives.

* * * * *

As the New Year 2008 begins, the Church presents to us another star to follow: Mary, the Morning Star!

2008 is the Year of Mary, the Star of the Sea. People born in the Year of Mary are humble, obedient, chaste, charitable, other-oriented, orderly, peace-loving, wise, God-fearing, hopeful, faithful and an unending list of good qualities that we can find in Her.

And all these good qualities will become theirs not simply because they are born in the Year of Mary, but because they want and decide to imitate Her.

Mary is the Star par excellence because She points to us the Sun, Her Son Jesus, our Lord. To be led by this Star, let this following principle be our guide:

“I will not think what Mary would not think; I will not say what Mary would not say; I will not wear what Mary would not wear; I will not do what Mary would not do…”

Husband: male/female?

One diocesan priest asked her: “Why is there a choice of male/female within the box that corresponds to the Husband and Wife column?” He was referring to the 2007 revised form of a Certificate of Marriage provided by the NSO, the one supposed to be used from now on.
She answered: “It is an internationally accepted form.” What she meant was that the international community is now open to the idea that the husband may not necessarily be a male person and the wife may not necessarily be a female person.
As the OIC of the Provincial Statistics Office, Ms. Melba N. Danlay explained to some 77 solemnizing officers (SOs) – Catholic priests and non-catholic ministers alike – present during the two-day government-required seminar on marriage laws how to fill up the new form.
When I asked why the form would reflect such a choice when in the Philippines, we are not open to same-sex marriages, she answered, “The forms are already printed.”

* * * * *

What I see in this scenario is a subtle attack on the institution of marriage and family, a gradual conditioning of the Filipino mind which is already too gullible to whatever is “internationally accepted”. Not all that is “internationally accepted” should be “nationally admitted”.
Such a subtle conditioning may grow into a welcome opening towards that mentality that accepts same-sex marriage as a basic right. I had the chance of witnessing this scenario in Spain during my four years of stay in Pamplona.
I witnessed how the Catholic Church in Spain fought “tooth and nail” (and lost) to oppose the “re-definition” of the term “marriage” in the constitution. Marriage is now defined as the union of two persons.
How close is that newly-revised marriage certificate form to that scenario!

* * * * *

Maybe, we are not so aware of it, but the idea that has invaded Spain, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa and some regions of USA, Australia and Latin America has crept its way into the Philippine society. How I wish it had been barred at the door of NSO when they revised the form!
The data asked for in the form may be too insignificant, but its implication is colossal and may be tragic to the foundation of society itself. The mentality that lurks behind the “Husband: male/female” thing implies a Machiavellian plot. What it attacks subtly is the “primary living cell of society”. Ultimately, it will undermine society itself.
Pope Benedict XVI emphasized in his message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace that “whoever circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community…since he weakens in effect the primary agency of peace.”
“Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman…constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace,” the pope added.

* * * * *
Today’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family brings us back to this realization. The family nowadays is under attack. And how frequently we just shrug it off! Anyway, it’s not my family, we might think.
But when our community is plagued with conflicts, crimes, petty quarrels and the lack of peace, we readily point our fingers to all directions: the government because it has not provided us our basic necessities, the Church because it has failed in its responsibilities of teaching us good morals, the military and the police because they failed in keeping peace, etc. At times, we also blame the family of perpetrators, which in turn will pass the blame on the above-mentioned “culprits”.
Yet, ultimately, perhaps no one would – in his right mind – pass the blame on the “anti-life” health measures and other “anti-family” bills passed in city councils, in Congress, and in the Senate by our “supposedly” brilliant lawmakers.
I said “no one” because I refer to those who have not detected that these bills are a direct or an indirect attack against human family, and have not seen that an attack against the human family is also an attack against the society.

* * * * *
I THINK the best way to honor the Holy Family today is to open our minds to these attacks and be on our guard against them. We also honor the Holy Family of Nazareth – Joseph, Mary and Jesus – if we do whatever it is in our capacity to protect the sanctity of marriage and the institution of family which the Church rightly defines as “a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 211), and as “the primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Christifidelis laici, 40).
I THINK, we give the Holy Family great honor when, upon seeing that the institution of marriage and family is under attack, we stand up and fight for what is right and true, and don’t just say, “The forms are already printed.”

FR. RUSSELL A. BANTILES is presently the Manager and Editor-in-Chief of the Davao Catholic HERALD, the only Catholic weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Davao.

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.