Philippines' rural missionaries mark 50 years of service

National assembly of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines calls for halt to govt attacks on church people
Philippines' rural missionaries mark 50 years of service

Members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines call for peace, respect for human rights, and a stop to attacks on church people during the organization's 50th-anniversary celebrations on Aug. 13. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

A Catholic missionary group in the Philippines marked its 50th anniversary this week by renewing its commitment to serving the poor in rural areas.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a group of priests, nuns, and laypeople, was established on Aug. 15, 1969, as a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors.

"It has been 50 years since we embraced the mission that God entrusted to us," said Sister Elsa Compuesto, the newly elected RMP national coordinator at the organization’s national assembly in Manila on Aug. 13.

"We are ready to move onwards over the next 50 years of journeying with the rural poor," said the nun of the Missionary Sisters of Mary congregation.

She said that despite recent attacks on church people, including the RMP, "we will not abandon the poor in their struggle for land, justice, and peace."

The RMP is one of several church and civil society groups accused by the government of having links with communist rebels.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has lodged a perjury complaint against the RMP and other organizations for allegedly issuing false statements.

The groups have denied the allegations.

Outgoing national coordinator Sister Belardo urged religious men and women “to continue to live a prophetic life in the midst of immense difficulties.” 

During the RMP's national assembly, Good Shepherd nun Elenita Belardo, the organization’s outgoing national coordinator, called on religious men and women "to continue to live a prophetic life in the midst of immense difficulties."

She said there is a high demand for missionaries in places where human rights violations and killings are rampant.

Sister Belardo condemned "unrelenting government attacks," including red-tagging, surveillance, and the filing of charges against missionaries to hinder them from performing their mission.

The nun appealed to the public to support and protect missionaries, especially the laypeople, "who are in the frontline of the struggle against injustices." 

She urged religious missionaries "to find courage in the masses and let their struggles inspire us to deepen our commitment."

In his homily during the anniversary celebration, Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of Kalookan, praised the "sacrifice and dedication" of religious missionaries in bringing the Church closer to the people.

The prelate called on other church leaders "to get out of your comfort zones ... and lend our voices in denouncing evil and injustices." 

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