I had a visit this week from Father Kyrill Shkarbul, the Moscow Patriarch priest from Taiwan who has been coordinating catechism for parishes of the Philippine Independent Church in Mindanao. A number of entire dioceses of this church have petitioned the Patriarch of Moscow to be received into Orthodoxy; the Moscow Patriarchate has responded by sending clergy to catechize over fifty parishes all across Mindanao, including some close to us.
I’ve known for several months that Moscow Patriarchate clergy were doing mission work in the Philippines, but I had not realized the scale of the movement. They’ve published this update:
In the beginning of 2014, a whole diocese of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church headed by their two bishops with all their clergies applied to convert their entire diocese composed of 28 parishes to the Russian Orthodox Church by writing a petition to His Holiness Patriarch Kiril of Moscow and All Rus’.
Just few weeks after and with the inspiration of their moves, the whole Aglipayan Christian Church, (another Aglipayan group) led by their 8 bishops and Superiors also write another petition expressing that they are also want to convert along with their entire flock to the Orthodox Church. This became the Russian Orthodox Philippine Mission of the Moscow Patriarchate.
On September 18, 2014, this mission was officially registered and incorporated in the Republic of the Philippines as the Philippine Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate.)
Now we are presently doing missions in 53 parishes.
Some time next year these communities should be ready for baptism. MP mission clergy intend to send several men to seminary to train for ordination; in addition a school is being established here in the Philippines to prepare men for seminary.
Father Kyrill also updated me on the progress of translating into Cebuano both the Orthodox prayerbook and the Catechism of St Nikolai Velimirovich. Both of these will be very helpful for the faithful here in Santa Maria when they are published.
What does this mean for our mission in Santa Maria and in Palo? For one thing, it is an enormous encouragement to have brother clergy of the Russian Church at work near us, and to know that our small missions are not alone: a sizable Orthodox community is coming into existence here in the southern Philippines, and our people will benefit from interaction with their newly-Orthodox brothers and sisters in neighboring towns and cities.
On the other hand, it suggests that the task before us is much greater than we had anticipated. When I petitioned Archbishop Kyrill and Metropolitan Hilarion a year ago to send me to the Philippines, I anticipated being the only Orthodox priest for two small mission parishes in a vast territory where Orthodoxy is unknown. Now by God’s providence it appears I am to be one of a number of priests amid over fifty parishes becoming Orthodox, in a movement that has rapidly outgrown everyone’s expectations.
A good beginning has been made in brotherly cooperation, both with clergy and faithful of the Miscow Patriarchate and with Antiochian missions in Luzon and the north. Our parishes have already benefitted greatly from books, icons, and typhoon relief received gratefully from the MP mission. Now we have the opportunity to participate in the task of catechizing these new parishes, teaching in a school for pastors, and teaching parishes how to serve the Divine Liturgy. Great opportunities; great chalenges; and a great need for your prayers!
God is good!
Saint Joseph the Betrothed Mission in Tantangan, South Cotabato
Saint Vincent of Lerins Mission, Mati City, Davao Oriental
Saint Vincent Orthodox Mission in D. Lotilla, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.
Saint Isidore of Chios Orthodox Mission in Kitakal, Malalag Cogon, Malungon, Sarangani Province.
Saint Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Mission in JPLaurel, Malungon, Sarangani Province.
San Jose Mission, Dinagat Province