Caring for the Generations to Come

Address of the Rt. Rev. George C. Harris to the Alumni of St. Mary's School at the "school mass", during the alumni reunion on 02 May 2000.

Thanks to the alumni of St. Mary's School from your good friend George Harris far away in the Mid West of the United States. I'm sorry that I can't be with you personally, but I do hope that you'll understand the circumstances of my illness. Also, my sickness has done some strange things with my voice and occasionally it cracks and breaks, I hope you'll bear with me. I did plan to share some thoughts with you while we were together and the suggestion that I make an audio-tape was one that I welcome because it means that at least my voice can be with you.

As I read over the lessons that will be used at the Eucharist of the mass that we are celebrating, I found they have been chosen for the theme of "Caring for the Generations to Come".  I know it is the concern of many of the Alumni of the school that the continuation of the high quality education that St. Mary's has offered over the decades is threatened by a lack of resources and by competition from other schools in your community. I find that this is a real challenge and I find that the scriptures that we have read to us today, challenge us to take this challenge seriously.

But we share the scriptures today - when we hear them in church, when we go to worship - against a very different background than the understanding we had forty years ago when I was exercising a ministry with you as your Chaplain and parish priest. For one thing we have come to a fresh understanding, a new one, a clearer understanding that when we are baptized we are all given gifts for ministry. We are called to exercise these gifts in the variety of ways that lie open to us.

It is our responsibility, personal individual responsibility to take our part in the life and mission and ministry of the Church; for each of us to do what we can to make our contribution, so that the church and its institutions like its schools remain strong.

So it's against that kind of understanding of our baptismal covenant, our agreement through our sponsors with God, that we will be active and not be passive in the exercise of those baptismal gifts for ministry.  

So verses from scriptures, like the verses that will be read from the Psalms today, ... that the generation to come might know, and the children yet unborn that they might in their turn might tell it to their children. Here we have the picture, an image, a metaphor of successions of generations, each making its contribution to the life and strength and energy of the generation that is to follow. 

The Pslams and the other readings, time and time again, ... to the things that we can do to undergird and support the institution like, St. Mary's School, which in our own day benefitted us greatly, allowing many of us to go on to higher education and to receive degrees, and to find vocations and careers in the life of our community whether here in the Philippines or elsewhere such as in our country, America.

But I find nothing strange here in the challenge that we will take our responsibility and our role, because the culture of the Filipino people, strongly urges each generation to be responsible for the generations to follow. 

I remember a teacher, who taught here in Sagada, not at St. Mary's school but in one of the village schools, who delayed her marriage several years so that she could finish the education of her younger brothers and sisters; help them to graduate from high school, so that they could then stand on their own feet.

This ethic of sharing and responsibility and hospitality, of generosity was... to Scott when he adopted the phrase from the pagan prayer Aditako Bokodan di Gawis and I think it has been successively put on t-shirts, sweatshirts and slogans, on stationary, "let's not keep the good things for ourselves". This fits in beautifully with the Filipino understanding of obligations, which we incur when we engage in relationships with other people. We learned the Tagalog phrase of "utang na loob" ... that we hold within ourselves debts of gratitude, which must be discharged.

But I'm afraid my dear friends, that my voice and my energy are very small and that you will have to be satisfied with these very short messages from me to you. 

Just now that I am with you in prayer today I would have given my right arm to be able to come but the doctor's recipe for my healing and medication and chemotherapy that I am receiving must take priority. 

So celebrate your reunion with glad hearts. Do everything you can to find ways to support your school financially and otherwise and do realize that Mary Jane, Mrs. Harris and I think of you often. Many years we have sent modest gifts to the school and we will continue to do that as long as we are here in this wonderful earth. 

God bless you all and keep you safe and enjoy your time together.


NOTE 1: The 3 dots (...) in this transcript indicate words or phrases that could not be picked up from the tape because they were not audible due to the fading in Bishop Harris' voice.

NOTE 2: All highlights and underscoring were supplied.

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