A Continuing Partnership, Sr. Leone Villanueva, FMM


It was in January 1978 when the Urban Missionaries or UM through their two pioneering members, Srs. Fides and Noemi, invited me to their Theological Reflection. UM was barely nine months from its foundation, a cohesive reflection group of nuns and a few priests and seminarians. They were united by a bond of finding ways to heed the cry of the poor in their struggle for a decent life. I attended the reflection. I listened and I was touched by their contextual liturgy. I was moved by their endeavor to live out the GOSPEL IMPERATIVES as expressed in solidarity with the industrial with the industrial workers and the urban poor. I joined the UM monthly sharing and reflections for about three months.

I shared the experience with my community and the possibility of really joining the UM. I was elated when I heard words of encouragement and they approved it right then and there. At that time, I was working on a full-time basis with one of Pandacan Community Center’s Program, the Basic Christian Community (BCC), in the so-called “squatters” area known as Morales Compound. The word “squatters” has that sour tone that I never get used to, as no one should be considered a squatter in one’s native land. I was involved in the program implementation from 1977 to 1980, at that time, I was a part-time Urban Missionary. Subsequently, I integrated with our ministries with the poor the foundational charism and the basic orientation of the Urban Missionaries. It was a partnership in mission that evolved through our monthly sharing, evaluations and reflections. Inevitably a painstaking process, crystallizing the experience gathered from integrating with the workers, and accompanying them in their struggle for justice and fuller human life, but the specificity of GOD’s CALL to each one of us, unique as we are, was made clearer. Integration with the workers and embracing their struggle is a kind of nourishment empowering the faith. Its evangelizing impact is simply immeasurable. It sanctifies and purifies one’s faith option. Soon, I persuaded St. Carmen and Sr. Fidela, both were numbers of my community to participate in UM’s faith sharing and reflection.

The work for Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation is the basic principle that propelled me to responsibly participate in supporting the workers on strike, in joining different mass actions, big multi-sectoral demonstrations, rallies, pickets, symposia, processions and other collective efforts to pursue our common orientation and thrusts.

My congregation has continuously sent me to be an Urban Missionary for some 5 years on a full-time ministry and 10 years as part time now. I am quite grateful, as it is our joint expression of support and solidarity with the toiling workers in their struggle for total human development. I can only thank the Lord such an Opportunity to partake in this ennobling mission.

The on-going formation of UM is holistic, integral and pastoral. The programs are based on the identified and felt needs of the workers and their families. The dialogical methods of work between the service organization and its partner, the workers, volunteers, exposurerees and host families are made more meaningful through reflections. Clear areas of collaboration and coordination with other justice and peace organizations are being enhanced. Participative management ensures a free flow of communication, a necessary factor in the successful implementation of thrusts and objectives. Planning is based on the specific needs of the workers in context of the global, local and church situations. Reporting and shared reflections is done every month coupled with contextual liturgy. Annual process retreat for five to six days strengthens one’s faith-life commitment as it broadens the biblical, theological, ecclesiological, pastoral and sociological implications of our involvement with the workers in today’s realities. Constructive criticisms are applied for growth and development both of the person and the organization. Much learning as well as, enhancement of Christian values come from the continuing partnership with the workers and their families in the community, whether in Villa Paraiso, Paranaque, Kainging Bukid, Quezon City or Mapulang Lupa, Valenzuela.

Indeed, a continuing partnership. UM has evolved painstakingly throughout the twenty-five years of journeying with the workers. UM is strengthened by its challenges, difficulties, ups and downs, small victories and failures as well. UM has grown in and through a prophetic partnership – as an alternative vision, a mission, a challenge and primarily an attitude and a way of life, with and among workers and co-missioners in this relevant ministry.

This is a cause for a meaningful celebration, with all our Partners in Mission.

Sr. Leonie Villanueva, FMM

David Urieta