By Serafin F. Peralta, CM[1]

I. Introduction

I like to introduce this synthesis as a work of one person- me. The interpretation of the talks given by our speakers is solely mine. This brings with it built-in limitations. So I’m asking the readers to expand as well as correct some misinterpretations.

The questions that I’m proposing are questions meant to expand our way of thinking. These are not exhaustive. There could be many more and other questions. Please add them up.

Political Charity was the term used by Father General during his visit to Indonesia last year as a challenge to the Province “to make sure that our CM candidates should not remain indifferent towards what is happening in contemporary society. The candidates should be grounded in their own social, political situations, be formed to analyze them critically so that they can respond to their challenges more effectively” (Introduction to the Theme par.3)

As admitted in the same introduction, the term political charity does not appear in the sociological or political science dictionaries. But any discussion of politics or political systems must go back to Aristotle whose idea of politics was a way of creating order, and art of good governance.

There is no single definition available for Political Charity. Fr. Danny Pilario in his talk “Vincent de Paul & the Court, responding to the Politics of Power”, by way of conclusion says that “political power is not only a gift, it is a skill that needs to be learned, a task that needs to be done” and “effective charity does not come in a platter, it comes after hard negotiations with the politics of power”. Political charity may be a process or a vision. As a process it takes a long time to realize, even beyond one’s initial formation. As a vision, it may not be even realized in one’s lifetime. It can only be improved upon. However, one speaker, Fr. Kusno, proposes that political charity can be defined thus: “a concrete solidarity with the poor at any given situation.”

II. The Speakers Questions

Our first speaker, Dr. Daniel Sparinga, proposed to us 10 theses regarding the political elites response to democratic transition in Indonesia. This is a critical analysis in Indonesian politics in the past eight years.

QUESTION: Beyond questions of philosophy and theology, are our seminarians taught to analyze critically situations, events, practices, and speeches by government people, church people, and other people of influence?

Our second speaker, Fr. Armada Riyanto CM, talked about “Poverty, Culture, Religiosity and Contemporary Responses in Asia Pacific”. In his talk, Fr. Armada presented three elements of Asia Pacific reality: Poverty, Culture, and Religiosity and a Challenge on how to respond to these elements. To learn statistics on poverty in Asia Pacific is a good start. Data on poverty will help us separate facts from fiction. But these facts offer us values that must be responded to. It is therefore imperative that our seminarians learn facts. At the same time the values behind the facts are dynamic. They must be discovered continuously and rediscovered again and again.

QUESTION: What mindset (of our seminarians and formators) must be corrected, discarded, changed, added, and enhanced?

Our third speaker, Fr. Marcelo Manimtim CM, presented to us a paper entitled “Social Political Forces in the 17th Century France”. This is a well developed treatise in the socio- political, economic, religious realities in France covering the years 1598- 1660, a timeframe of 62 years, the last 62 years in the life of St. Vincent de Paul. Based on this presentation the following questions may be asked: Along the way of Formation, for Political Charity to thrive

a. What kind of community or environment must we create?

b. What kind of curriculum of studies must be developed?

c. What kind of formators must we prepare?

d. What supplemental means must we provide?

e. What conditions of life must we expose our seminarians to?

f. What relationships must we establish?

g. What practice, custom, tradition must we introduce?

h. What values, virtues, and ideologies must we promote?

Our fourth speaker, Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario, presented to us his paper entitled “Vincent de Paul and the Court. Responding to the Politics of Power” Fr. Pilario gave the different understanding of power and how they are used. St. Vincent himself although “a son of a peasant farmer” lived with power, was surrounded by it and used it.

QUESTION: What must be our stand regarding the rich, powerful, the poor, and how do we convey this to our seminarians?

Fr. Guy Hatcher, was our fifth speaker, he beautifully filled in the vacuum left by Fr. Gregg Brett CM, who could not come. Fr. Guy’s paper was entitled “ Vincent de Paul and the Masses: The Attitude of a Man of his time Shaping his Response to the Social Issue of his day. In an engaging and entertaining way, without the use of Powerpoint but only with a white board and a non-erasable petal pen, Fr. Guy proposed that Vincent was a product of his times especially the hierarchical society and the patronage system.

QUESTION: 1. What kind of seminarians must we look for, from lower, middle, upper strata of society? Do we look for those in their teens, college students, professionals? 2. What changes, reforms would you like to see in your seminaries?

Fr. Charles Pan CM spoke on Political Charity and Vincentian Spirituality Today”. He traced the beginnings of charity from Jesus Christ to St. Vincent de Paul to Fr. Beunen CM, who founded the St. Anne’s Home in Taipei, the Jinde Charities in China, the Tzu Chi Foundation founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen and all the way to the challenges by Pope Benedict XVI: “To do everything possible… To end or at least reduce the scandal of hunger and malnutrition afflicting millions of people in our world…” To do so we need to be adequately prepared through practical ways in charity and justice (Sacramentum Caritatis).

QUESTION: What should be the thrust of Vincentian Formation and Spirituality: Prayer life or Apostolate?

Fr. Paul Bharati’s talk was on “Political Charity in the context of Inter-religious Dialogue”. He gave us a good background of Hinduism and why it is where it is now including, intolerance of other religions. For many who don’t know Hinduism, it has been reduced to superstitions and prohibitions. One’s lack of understanding creates a reaction that is prohibitive and intolerant.

QUESTION: What are our seminary policies regarding ecumenism, dialogue, liturgy, mission, fundamentalism/ orthodoxy?

Our last speaker is Fr. Kusno Bintoro CM. He speaks on Political Charity and Inculturated Formation. Fr. Kusno enumerates different thoughts regarding culture, self- development and formation. Abuses and misinterpretations are rampant. He calls for faith, hope and charity to characterize the work of formation. He also pushes for a definition of political charity which for him a concrete solidarity with the poor at any given situation. This is best realized through the revolutionary idea of “pay it forward”.

QUESTION: What level of comfortability is acceptable for our seminarians? When is enough, enough?

[1] Fr. Serafin Peralta CM is the current secretary executive of Asia Pacific Visitors Conference.

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