Brief History of the
ASSOCIATION OF MAJOR RELIGIOUS SUPERIORS OF MEN IN THE PHILIPPINES

THE BIRTH

It was in 1955 that the Sacred Congregation of Religious mandated the formation of a permanent organization of all religious communities of men in the Philippines in the person of their major superiors. Membership was mandatory for all religious orders and congregations, and and societies living in common without vows. The purpose of the association was to create a closer collaboration among the member groups.

It is not surprising that the Sacred Office should mandate such an association. The plague of disunity and hatred was concretized only a decade ago during the Second World War. The division that is created and the consequent economic, moral and political problems called for a witness of unity in the Church. Pius XII made his call official as early as 1943 with his encyclical Mystici Corporis.
              
In line with this, one of the purposes for the creation of the association was to “effect a closer fraternal cooperation among the venerable hierarchy, the clergy, religious congregations, secular institutes and societies of the Catholic laity in the Philippines.” The focus of internal unity was implemented through General Conventions, the Executive Board, and the various Technical Committees. The problems of the Philippines Church was the primary concern. This was quite understandable since the world was fast changing. Even the political situation in the Philippines was something new. It was only a few years since Philippine independence was recognized by the U.S. one of the most communist rebellion was at its height; to mention just a few. The Church, before it could respond to outside needs must settle her own internal problems first. As late as 1962, for example, the main concern of the 8th annual General Convention was for a “more meaningful and more tangible expression of the celebration of the Pope’s Day and vocation recruitment.”
 
The period of the 60s was another period of drastic changes. This time it was economic. The widening gap of the rich and the poor; both on the international as well as local level was a scandal to Gospel values. Religious started to have doubts with the self-enclosed stance of the previous decade. It is not possible to be Church unless she be a community responding to the needs of the least of the brothers and sisters. She must be a community in mission, as Christ her Lord. The convening of the Second Vatican Council by John XXIII was culmination of this universal feeling that the Church, as she understood herself, was insufficient if she is to remain relevant. Therefore, many called the council an “ecclesiological council.”

The Church must open wide her windows and be of service to the world. The 1969 proceedings were a kind of self-evaluation for the role of the religious in the present  situation. “Adaptation and Renewal: Their Role in Promoting Relevance of Religious  life in the Philippines Today” was the theme for the year’s convention. One of the results of the convention, and of the greater cooperation with the women congregations was the formation of the Rural Missionaries of Social Action. This was an intercongregational project launched in 1969 which functioned as an arm of the AMRSMP for its apostolate among the rural poor.
  

   THE AWAKENING

If the decade of the 60s could be termed as an awakening, the ‘70s was nightmare of a newly awakened consciousness of the roles of religious in social reform. The paralysis of the fledging Philippines democracy was completed with the imposition of martial law in 1972. Inspite of the first papal visit to the Philippines (1971), the muzzling of freedom was evident. Martial law was dictatorship. General Order No. 1, dated September 22, 1972 gave no illusions. “I, Ferdinand E. Marcos, President of the Philippines… do hereby proclaim that I shall govern the nation and direct the operation of the entire government…”
               
The AMRSMP, together with the AMRSWP were early dissenters and fought courageously for the restoration of the democratic process. From the 1973 national survey of the effects of martial law, numerous task forces were created to fight dictatorship. The resistance resulted in an increasing persecution of church people. This prompted the AMRSMP to create the Justice and Peace Commission.
               
The tension between the religious and the government over human rights and freedom gave birth to varied and new ministries in the Church. Worth mentioning would be the formation of BECs. The formation of basic Christian communities for various sectors was carries out by joint commission of the men and women religious. This remained a top-priority well-over half of the 80s.
 
  

A NIGHTMARE  

The self-consciousness of the association regard to its mission was officially recognized with a shift from ad intra to ad extra in 1981. The role of responsibility of the Philippine Church to the rest of Asia was highlighted with the visit of John Paul II that year. With culmination of the tension between the Church and the political regime in the 1986 People’s Power Revolution, the much-needed self-evaluation, which had to give way to the more urgent needs of the country in the previous two decades, was realized.
                With a mellowing of the tensions that had existed particularly during two decades of martial law, the AMRSMP found time to reflect and reflect on what had been done with a view of improving their service and making relevant the preparation for mission. The role of the religious superior was clarified in 1984. The role of religious in Church and society as practiced was subjected to an evaluation utilizing the AMRSP mission statement in 1987. Recognizing that the Church’s nature is mission, the preparation of the religious, both those in on-going formation and those facing the difficulties of aging and chemical dependency was looked into in 1989 and 1990.
 
  

GROWING UP

Just as Vatican II provided the impetus for the Church to make a self-critique of herself and adopt the Church to the modern world, PCP-II provided for the contextualization of ecclesiology. In 1992, the implications of PCP II with the necessary shifts in the understanding of religious life was considered.  The following year as a necessary consequence, the challenges that PCP II posed for the religious was responded to by its implementation both in formation and ministry.

The 1990’s is a preparatory decade for the Third Millennium and the Centenary anniversary of Philippine independence. If the 80s were years of reflection, the 90s are years of visioning the future and thus preparing the association to harness its members to be better prepared to face the demands of the global village. In 1995, the vision focused on its mission to the world. It is no longer possible to remain myopic in responding to the challenges  of a fast-paced world.  The association’s thrust in mission  was to be of service to the world,  a thing that had been in its consciousness since Vatican II’s Ad Gentes.

The task and mission of the Church to the world, when properly understood, should not erase the Filipino identity and roots. If the religious in the Philippines could contribute something to Church mission, it is precisely that which is Filipino. Hence, at the centenary of Jose Rizal’s (1996), his challenge for the religious of today was deliberated on.

The task of the AMRSMP is not a task solely its own. It is a sharing in the mission of Christ and his Church. Mission belongs to the whole Church and cannot be claimed or confined in just one sector. The recognition of the importance of the laity as partners in the mission laid the foundation for the call for a greater and more sustained collaboration with them. John Paul II’s Vita Consecrata  reminds the association of the task of religious to witness to the “spirituality of communion.” Today, 25 years later, we realize we could not rest on our laurels. History must be reflected on and a common stance be taken viewed from the demands of the Gospel. The AMRSMP mission continues so that, as the AMRSP prayer for the Jubilee says  “ we could live and share the Good News of Liberation through the Risen Christ.”
  

TOWARDS MATURATION