This past October, during the inter-term recess, the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus ran a conscientization program for about 35 Jesuits. This program was part of the effort of the Province to implement its thrust for justice, a thrust very strong in the Church today. The conscientization program was geared for awakening, awakening us to the realities of life, especially life among the poor and the oppressed. We were divided into three groups. One group went to the mountains of Bukidnon in Mindanao to experience the life of the people there. The Jesuits who went there lived with the Jesuits who run the mission parishes in Bukidnon under the dynamic leadership of Bishop Francisco Claver, a Jesuit Bishop. A second group went to Negros to experience the life of the sugar workers. The Jesuits who went there came back very aware of the plight of the sugar workers and the oppression of the system there. A third group of which I was a member went to Tondo, to experience the life of the urban poor, in particular, the squatters of the North Harbor. In a land area roughly equal in size to the campus of the Ateneo de Manila, there are about 200,000 people struggling to live. Most of them come from the southern provinces. They come to Manila to get jobs. Most of their jobs are on the piers or in Divisoria, so living in Tondo is very convenient for them, putting them very near their source of work. It was quite an interesting experience for us. We lived in one room of the community center of Slip Zero, near the San Miguel glass factory, all seven of us. It was very difficult for us to adapt to the living conditions, very difficult. Yet, somehow we managed. We broke up into three groups: one group worked in Zoto, where there is a very active community organization; another group went to Barrio Magsaysay to see the situation there, and the third group of which I was a member went to Magsaysay Village where the P.I.M.E. fathers, an Italian missionary Institute, have a parish. Here I saw the Church more alive than I have seen it in many other places. Amidst the poverty, the disease, and the filth I saw a vibrant community centered around the Church, struggling against many difficulties both within and without. Here I saw a living Church; here I came to understand more fully what I have committed myself to; here I came to see the face of Jesus Christ redeeming the hearts of God's people. There are many difficulties there yet, but something is happening. When the fathers first went there, there was only apathy and indifference. Before martial law there was on the average one murder a week, with intense block rivalry. At first, the people tried to get all they could off the fathers, playing on their sympathies. Hardly anyone came to Mass. But gradually trust was built up, things started happening. The fathers became very much a part of the people's life, and the dynamic of involvement and concern started to grow. Now, the liturgy there on a Sunday is one of the finest I have experienced either here or in the States. The people sing out full throated, participate fully, and have truly become a worshipping community sharing their common difficulties and common struggles. I bring up the example of my experiences in Magsaysay Village because I want to make clear that for the Christian faith to be realized today, it must be realized in a living community, and this is what the Church is, or is supposed to be. But, isn't this precisely the problem, the lack of a living community. Because there is this lack of a living community, there is a weakening of our faith. We all know how difficult community is to achieve. Even those of us who are in religious life where our very existence is community centered know how difficult it is to form a good community. There are so many things in our human nature that work against community. There is a real alienation in our lives.
GIORDANO, P. (1974). The Challenge of Faith Today. Philippine Studies, 22(1/2), 3-18.