Brothers on a mission: A house for Cebu's marginalized members

Jenara Regis Newman

THE Brothers of St John is a fairly new congregation, founded in France on Dec. 8, 1975 by Rev. Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe. They came to the Philippines—specifically Cebu—in 1994. It is a congregation that “wants to be a community of children of the Father and friends of Jesus, gathered together by the Holy Spirit, in order to live a fully evangelical life in the footsteps of Christ and in intimate communion with Him... a life of adoration and contemplation intimately close to Mary.” They live a life of penance, poverty, fraternal communion, liturgical prayer and intellectual work.

In an interview, Fr. Steban Savary de Beauregard and Bro. Benedict Charbel said that during the first 10 years of the congregation’s priory here, the brothers devoted themselves mostly to teaching in seminaries and establishing a youth ministry where their priory is located on a Banawa hillside. They also have a scholarship program.

Right now they have 27 scholars in grade school up to college.

They still continue to teach and have reached out beyond the Banawa community. They have a campus ministry in UP Cebu and, in their home base, they have what they call the “School of Life.” This is a six-month formation program where young adults take a break from their careers for discernment: what to do with their lives and where to go. The participants live together as a community, as a family. They plan their meals, cook them, interact with one another, pray as well as play together.

In 2008, the brothers started a novitiate in Cebu. Fr. Steban explained: “We belong to a religious community as brothers, therefore we join to be a brother. I am a priest and a brother in the community. The goal is to be a member of the congregation, not necessary to be a priest. Brotherhood means living in a community.”

These days, the brothers have a mission and a vision: To open a “house accessible to the people, and built for our missions, near the people we want to serve.” This will not only free the Banawa priory to be mainly a formation house but it will also enable the brothers to be nearer the people they want to serve, the marginalized in the center of the city.

They have found the right place in the Taboan area, on V. Rama St. extension near the San Nicolas Barangay Hall. This will be called the “Sugbo Mission” and Fr. Steban and Bro. Benedict are in charge of seeing that the project becomes a reality. They have the lot and the building plans—with a chapel, a welcome house, a garden, a counseling room, scholarship program facilities, mission office, big and small conference rooms, a refectory, a community room/library, rooms for the brothers and a small oratory.

They have the will to build it but they need the financial support. They have started raising funds with a concert featuring Dr. Ingrid Sala Santamaria last December 2019 but are still looking for more ways to generate funds for their mission.