Acceptance Of Speech Of Fr. Gregorio L. Banaga, Jr. CM, New Provincial Visitor
Thank you dear confreres for coming. I am especially grateful for those who came from far away places and foreign countries to celebrate with us today. I wish to acknowledge some of our past Provincial Visitors present here tonight: Frs. Rolando dela Goza, Frank Vargas, Manuel Ginete, Marcelo Manimtim and Ned Disu.
To our guests, thank you for honoring us with your presence. I want to mention in particular the Daughters of Charity represented by Sr. Mary Ann Evidente, Provincial Visitatrix of St. Louise de Marillac – Asia; the various Vincentian Family branches; the Adamson University group composed mainly of administrators and alumni headed by Fr. Marcelo Manimtim, CM., President.
Dear confreres, thank you for your vote of confidence and for your trust. I am honored and humbled by this huge responsibility that is laid on my shoulders. In the name of the confreres of the Philippine Province, I wish to thank my predecessor Fr. Randy Agner for generously and unselfishly animating and leading the Province in the last five years. This past few days, Fr. Randy and myself spent many hours together in order to prepare a smooth transition of leadership and I appreciate his openness, simplicity and kindness.
A wave of expectations that can be quite overwhelming usually follows change in leadership. While it is normal to expect changes under a new leadership, human organizations are most resistant to change. Let me caution you to tone down your expectations. Please remember my name is Gregg Banaga, Jr. – not Jesus Christ. I am not a messiah, miracle worker or savior; just your humble servant in the vineyard of the Lord.
I bring with me neither ambitious plans nor a list of promises to further heighten your expectations. This is neither a political rally nor a campaign victory speech. I want to say simply and honestly that I will do my very best to walk with you, to inspire you and to encourage you. I invite you to work with me. I do not claim to have all the answers and the solutions to all our problems. My shoulders are not broad enough to carry all the weight of your expectations. According to our archivist and historian Fr. R dela Goza, I am the oldest confrere to assume the office of Provincial Visitor. This is very consoling because it is a sign that my shoulders are not strong enough to carry too much weight. Jesus fed more than 5,000 people from a few loaves and fishes brought by a boy. I shall put in my own share of loaves and fishes and invite you to add yours. If we do our share, God’s grace will never be wanting.“God never fails to come to our help in due time,” St. Vincent assures us, “after we, on our part, have done all we can.” (SVP, Reflections, July 2)
My initial plan is to visit all our communities and to listen to as many as possible. I don’t presume to know the situation of individuals and communities that comprise our province. Moreover, one’s perspective of people and situations changes when one assumes a different role or position within an organization or community. The view from the top of the mountain differs from that of below. Consequently, I wish to first know the “terrain and the troops,” as they say. That means, I shall visit communities to familiarize myself with our ministries and meet the confreres to listen to their needs and aspirations. These data will be useful to chart the course of our Province in the next few years. I am glad I am not starting from scratch; much has been going on in our ministries and I intend to build on what is working well.
Sisters and brothers of the great Vincentian Family thank you for honoring us with your presence tonight. You are all aware that this year marks the 400thanniversary of the Vincentian charism. I have purposely invited only my confreres and the Vincentian Family because we all share the great legacy of Vincent and Louise. Fr. Tomaz Mavric, our Superior General, in his letter to the Vincentian Family reminds us that “the 400th anniversary of the charism provides us with the perfect opportunity to celebrate our Vincentian heritage, to give thanks for all that has been done and to develop ideas and plans for the future. Of great importance is the consideration of our changing demographics and social contexts, the pressing needs of the poor, and our ability to best respond to these as a Family.” (Letter on 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism)
We are all responsible to keep the flame of the Vincentian charism burning and relevant to our times. You, dear sisters and brothers are our closest partners and collaborators since the spirit of Vincent and Louise flows in your veins. Vincent and Louise were both icons of charity and collaboration. Let them inspire us to strengthen our partnership especially in the areas of mission, formation and celebration. Share your thoughts and plans with us on how we your brothers can empower you and work with you. We have much to learn from you and from each other. Isolated the different branches of the great Vincentian tree cannot do much. But together we can become a truly dynamic force. “If we work together, for sure the little that each one of us can give will go a long way towards the realization of our goal to serve the poor better.” (SVP) Let us likewise heed Pope Francis’ invitation “to go forth from our comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, 20).
When our Superior General called me on April 28th and asked me whether I was accepting the responsibility of leadership in the Province, I told him I was accepting itwith great hesitation and fear. I have refused such positions in the past but I guess one cannot turn a deaf ear to God’s call all the time. I know full well my own weaknesses, limitations, faults and sins. Some of them you even know better than myself. I am no saint. But God in his mercy has chosen me despite my limitations. Miserando atque eligendo. Like Matthew the tax collector, I feel God’s call is his way of showing mercy to me, and assuring me of his grace.
In his first homily after his election as Superior General, the late Fr. Richard McCullen, CM shared what a confrere told him on the night before his forthcoming election. “No matter how unworthy you are, no matter what you have done in the past, no matter what you have failed to do in the past, if the confreres elect you tomorrow morning, it is a call to conversion.” (R. McCullen, Deep Down Things: Selected Writings, 1980, p. 5) I feel the same way. My election is a call to conversion. May my brokenness not be a hindrance to my animating role and to the growth of our community and its ministries. I shall rely heavily on God’s grace and mercy,and the continuing support of your prayers. I close with St. Paul’s comforting words: “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
As I end my speech I wish to follow the example of Pope Francis who asked the people to bless him as he started his papacy. (Kneel and ask the community to pray silently for you).
Delivered on the occasion of his installation as Provincial Visitor.
Verandas de San Vicente de Paul.
June 14, 2017