The creation of the Augustinian Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines: Establishment of a Juridical Person


I. Introduction

In order to appreciate better the celebration of the silver anniversary of the Augustinian Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines, it is important to have a brief glimpse on how she came into existence. In 1565, the first group of Augustinians, spearheaded by Fray Andres de Urdaneta, OSA came into the Philippines for the task of evangelization and conversion of the people of the archipelago to the Christian faith. They first established themselves in Cebu, the heart of the country. They soon extended their apostolic activities to the neighboring towns and islands until they reached the principal regions of the archipelago.

After ten years of apostolic activities, the Prior General at that time, Rev. Fr. Tadeo de Parusa, OSa decreed on March 7 the establishment of the New Augustinian Province in the Philippines with the title “Santisimo Nombre de Jesus de Filipinas.” From this period until 1898, they founded almost three hundred towns and churches as result of their missionary endeavors.

Mindful of the success of the Augustinians’ steadfast apostolic ministry for more than 300 years, the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines decided to shift its missionary activities to newer territories like Peru, Columbia and Venezuela. For this reason, the seat of the Province was moved from Manila to Madrid. In effect, the presence of the Augustinians in the Philippines declined in number. To fill the gap, the Augustinians who were left behind doubled their effort in the recruitment and formation of the Filipino candidates.

Having obtained good numbers of Filipino Augustinians, the idea of creating a Vice-Propvince was put into consideration by the Regional Assembly of the Philippine Augustinian Vicariate in 1974. It was brought up in the assembly but was not taken seriously until a group of Filipino Augustinians revived the plan. At this time, the petition was changed into a new Province.


II. Establishment of the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines

Prior to the official move to establish a new Province in the Philippines, the petition for a new Province underwent stages of approval. Under the leadership of Fr. Eduardo Perez, OSA (Regional Vicar of the Vicariate of the Orient), all the members of the Vicariate were issued a circular containing the following elements” “a) a questionnaire regarding opinion on and affiliation to the proposed Province or Vice-Province; b) the position paper to be presented to the Provincial Chapter and General Chapter; c) and the drafting of the petition to the General Chapter for the creation of new Province or Vice-Province. Out of 49 respondents, 41 favored the creation of New Province,

[1] The Historical account that follows is patterned on the Brief Historical Introduction of the Provincial Statutes and Quadrennial Program (2004-2008) of the Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu, pp 2-5, BHI hereafter.

[2] The Constitutions provide a definition: “a Vicariate is a grouping of Houses of some Province, which exist in a distant region where the Provincial cannot easily exercise immediate rule. It is governed by a Regional Vicar” (Constitutions of the Order of St. Augustine, n. 259), COSA hereafter.

Five for Vice-Province and two Abstentions.” In effect, the petition for the creation of the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines was officially endorsed by the regional Assembly of the Augustinian Vicariate of the Orient (July 19, 1981), and by the Provincial Chapter of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines (July 15, 1982) to the General Chapter in Spain. The members of the General Chapter overwhelmingly approved it.

To make clear the presentation of the establishment of the new Province of Santo Niño de Cebu, it is of primary importance to know what the Constitutions of the Order of St. Augustine say. The Constitutions stipulate:

In establishing a new province the needs of the Church and the particular condition of the region are the chief things to be considered. The new province ought to have a territory separate from the other provinces, unless the good of the Order should require otherwise. Ordinarily a new province is not to be established unless it has five houses and fifty friars in solemn vows, ascribed to it, possesses temporal goods sufficient for its needs and for the support of its candidates; and is clearly able, on the basis of experience, to progress by means of its vocations, especially native ones.

1. Needs of the Church and Condition of the Region 1. Needs of the Church and Condition of the Regions far as the needs of the Church and the conditions of the region are concerned, Fr. Eusebio Berdon, OSa, during the Ordinary Provincial Chapter presented four important reasons justifying the viability of the creation of a Province in the Philippines. Two of the four main reasons as to why a new Province should be created are put into consideration. As for the Church, the reason was stated thus,

As already stated, the Church today wishes that local Christian communities, especially those which had been evangelized for already a considerable period of time, like the Philippines, be self-sustaining. This is also the spirit of our Constitutions (no. 193). And today, the Filipino Augustinians strongly believe that a fully independent Augustinian community (as a Province) can fruitfully exist in the Philippines with a minimum help from the Mother Province.

The call to be a self-sustaining community – as a Province – deeply penetrated the hearts of the pioneering Filipino Augustinians. It might be very difficult for them to take the risk, but still they took courage, mindful that the establishment of anew Province would be a big help for the Order and for the mother Church is governing her children scattered in different parts of the world. Likewise, the observance of the three-fold purposes necessary for the establishment of a juridical person, e.g., “works of piety, of the apostolate, or of charity” (cf. Can. 114, 2) renders the establishment of a new Province fruitful.

Although the Church encourages local Christian communities to be self-sustaining, according to Fr. Eusebio Berdon, OSA, there were still some Augustinian Friars at that time did not favor the creation of a new Province. Two reasons were considered: a) the sense of history and b) sense of immaturity. As for the former, some wished, especially some of those who remained affiliated, that the Mother Province be intact. As for the latter, some were not ready to be independent for fear of handling bigger responsibilities. Nevertheless, the creation of the new Province was pursued and eventually established. Further, as for the condition of the region, it said thus,

[1] Fr. E. Berdon, OSa, The Making of a Province, A Souvenir Program for all Members of the Province, 1992, p. 13, photocopy. MP hereafter. The data presented here are taken from an officially circulated or printed document as far as the author of this article is concerned.

Similar to the gospel, the spirit and teachings of our Father St. Augustine, as particularly contained in his Rule and our Constitutions, could be lived and expressed in slightly diverse says, according to the cultures of different people.

Vatican II encourages that “the studies for the priesthood should be undertaken in close contact with the way of life of their own people.” And one important was to assist the spirituality of the native people is to encourage local native vocation. As a Province composed of Filipino Augustinian members, the inculutration of faith could be best demonstrated and applied to the diverse Filipino culture. Considering these two essential reasons, the chief requirements are met.

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