Concretizing the IEC call to action
As an advocate of co-operatives, one of the speakers who I looked forward to hear during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress was Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, also known as the “prophet of Mindanao” and the “Cardinal of the peripheries.”
Cardinal Quevedo is a product of the north and south having been born in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, grown up and studied in Cotabato. He was ordained priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1964. His elevation to the Cardinalate in 2014 by Pope Francis was viewed as an important development because Mindanao has never been a hunting ground for princes of the Church in the Philippines.
After serving as assistant parish priest of the Cotabato Cathedral, Quevedo rose to become bishop-prelate of Kidapawan in 1980. He was later appointed Archbishop of Nueva Segovia based in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in 1986; and later as Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and much later as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
It was in the dioceses of Kidapawan and Nueva Segovia where then Bishop Quevedo immersed himself in the work for the poor through the economic model known as cooperatives.
As bishop-prelate of the Diocese of Kidapawan, he helped set up a number of parish-based co-ops. In the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, he also worked tirelessly for the poor through projects assisted by Catholic charities. A failed Caritas project prompted him to set up a parish-based cooperative, which later on became the umbrella organization of many self-help organizations in the region.
The Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperatives NSCC is probably the only co-op in the country that bears the name of the diocese. From a one-desk office in the diocese, NSCC today has more than 1,200 primary-members and assets of over P1.4 billion. The chief executive officer of NSCC is Divina Quemi, the original girl Friday of the diocese for co-op development undertakings. She is currently chairperson of National Confederation of Cooperatives Natcco, the country’s largest co-op network.
Needless to say, I am an admirer of Cardinal Quevedo so that when I got wind that he met up with Natcco bigwigs in the sidelines of the 51st IEC, I requested for an interview through federation executives who were then attending a managers’ forum in an uptown hotel. A few texts from Divina Quemi to the Cardinal enabled me to interview him in the IEC Pavilion’s VIP Room 1.
The context of our conversation last Saturday was the statement issued on the penultimate day of the 51st IEC by Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma. His synthesis of the 8-day Congress is embodied in the reflection, “Bread of Hope, Bread for the Poor, Bread of Dialogue and Bread for the Mission.”
If I were to offer a layman’s summation, it can be found in Yangon Archbishop Charles Maung Cardinal Bo’s own reflection in his homily during the Statio Orbis mass in which he declared that, “Human development is the New Evangelization.”
Barely three hours after Cebu Archbishop Palma read out the preliminary statement and less than 36 hours before the papal legate pronounced the call to action, Cardinal Quevedo laid out a plan to concretize the fruits of the Eucharistic Congress.
He told this corner he will set up a meeting with cooperative leaders and dialogue with them together with local Church leaders, marginal farmers and the lumads or indigenous peoples in the South to map out a specific program that will integrate the Church’s mission with cooperatives.
When I mentioned that Pope Francis is also a believer of cooperatives, Cardinal Quevedo said that then Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was exposed to cooperative work in the poor districts of Buenos Aires. The Pope is known for his simple lifestyle and outspoken support of the world’s poor.
In pushing cooperatives as template for New Evangelization, Cardinal Quevedo will draw wisdom from his decades-long experience and close engagement with the movement and the marginal sectors in Mindanao.
Building edifices for poor people and extending them conditional cash transfers serve a purpose but dole-outs are not sustainable. This type of intervention merely compounds the problem and does not address the root causes of poverty. On the other hand, a values-formation program that, at the same time, teaches people “how to fish” under the mantle of cooperatives is an intelligent response to the IEC call to action.
But more than anything, Cardinal Quevedo’s initiative basically bids the Church to think out-of-the-box. It will be good to listen to him.
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