Mindanao, the Philippines, 25 February 2019 -- As the second largest island of the Philippines, Mindanao main island with adjacent islands makes up 97.530 km2 with 25 million people. It is a multi-religion and multi-cultural population, with a majority of Catholic Christians, and minorities of Muslim and Animist religions. The evangelisation of Mindanao goes back to the 16th century and in the whole country the vibrant lay-driven Catholic communities are well known for their well animated Basic Ecclesial Communities and numerous priestly and religious vocations.
The poverty of Mindanao is striking - probably even 40% of Mindanao children suffer hunger and are malnourished (Save the Children, Philippines info) like in Sub-Saharan Africa. Catholic education (Philippines with 84.5% public schools and only 11% of Catholic schools) is not among the best in this zone. In the Year of the Youth (Filipino Catholic Bishops Conference declared this for 2019) the number of poor young people of Mindanao calls our attention.
Salesians of Don Bosco have been in Mindanao only since 1991 with three presences: Don Bosco Mati (Davao Oriental) with one parish, TVET and High School; Don Bosco Dacudao (Davao-Calinan) with one parish of Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco Buda (Bukidnon province with one TVET and social work among the indigenous youth). Recently a Boys Home (Davao) was closed and there is a pending invitation to Cagayan de Oro (main transport hub of Mindanao) is being discerned.
The vocation-rich Mindanao Catholic community has already offered 8 professed Salesians (6 priests, one practical trainee and one postnovice) and two novices. However only one Salesian Brother (80 years old), 7 Salesian priests and one student in practical training are there after 27 years in Mindanao. Fr Franco Uras (in charge of Don Bosco Buda, Bukidnon Vocation Training center) and Fr Marcelino Benabay (Dacudao parish priest) are among the few long-term Mindanao missionaries.
Buda Don Bosco is the frontier of our mission in this island: probably the most humble Salesian structure in the whole of the Philippines, located in the Bukidnon highland (900 m above sea level) among the Lumads, original Mindanao indigenous people. The Buda Don Bosco Agri-preneural training center and social work for the rural indigenous people in Bukidnon has slowly developed since 2004 and at present there are two resident Salesians - the founder, Fr Uras (Italian missionary) and young Mindanao Salesian Fr Ariel. Together with 15 lay mission partners and daily educating our 14 boarding high school students this youth empowering humble and prophetic mission is developing.
Mindanao mission might be a true prophetic call for many Salesians to leave their comfort zone and embrace a new frontier in their own country, witnessing to Don Bosco's heart among the poorest of the poor young people. Every 25th of the month we pray in our EAO region for the 'NEW FRONTIERS' - not only to start our work in some new country like Malaysia (2017 - FIN) or possibly in Vanuatu (PGS dream). NEW FRONTIERS are in each of our countries where youth poverty touches our hearts and calls us to reach out!