Alexian Brothers

Mission: Davao City, Philippines

Brother Maurice Wilson, Archbishop Antonio Mabutas, and Brother Eugene Gizzi (1982)

In 1979, an increase of vocational inquiries from the Philippines was noted by the Vocation Director, Brother Eugene Gizzi, and after much prayer and consultation regarding the potential for Alexian Brothers in the Philippines, he presented a proposal to the Provincial Senate on May 2, 1980. The proposal was that an Alexian Brother go to the Islands in early 1981, survey the potential for vocations and ministry, and submit a report. This was approved by the Senate and they commissioned Brother Eugene Gizzi for this survey January - March 1981 with high receptivity and prayerful support by the 1980 General Assembly. Father Cassian Yuhaus, C.P. rendered supportive consultation.

The response for Alexian Brothers' presence in the Philippines was overwhelmingly positive by persons contacted there for input. A report was submitted and accepted by the Provincial Counsel and they approved going to the Philippines to further pursue the potential for vocations and ministry for Alexian Brothers. Brother Eugene Gizzi was commissioned as the Director and transferred to the Philippines. October 2, 1981 was set as the Founding Day of the Philippine Mission.

In January 1982 Brother Maurice Wilson joined Brother Eugene. Through the discernment of the two Brothers, the choice for their initial settlement was Davao City in Mindanao, which was approved by Archbishop Mabutas of Davao and with great support by P.M.E. Fathers present in that area. A Mission Statement, Goals and Objectives for 1981, and other pertinent factors were highlighted in writing, and these were approved by the Senate.

Language School, a first residence, discerning and commencing initial volunteer ministries to enable familiarity with overall environment, culture and needs were priorities. The Brothers became well known, respected and knowledge of "Brothers" vocation became more familiar to people. In June of 1982, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, they moved into their first residence at 413 Champaca, Matina; and so the Patron of the Philippine Mission was chosen to be the Sacred Heart.

Many ideas for potential Alexian Brothers ministries were accumulated and compiled. In November 1982, Brother Eugene had to take sick leave, which led to his transfer back to the United States in May 1983. Brother Maurice continued on, appointed as Director, and Brother Robert Peterson was transferred to join him in July 1983. They were joined in the fall of 1985 by Brother Jeffrey Callander.

During this time, the Brothers were working with the Archdiocese in established outreach programs. Brother Maurice served at Caritas, an agency that brought the resources of the Archdiocese to the poorest of the poor. Brother Jeffrey was working at San Pedro Health Center in Agdao, and Brother Robert Peterson was working at Our Lady of Victory Center for the Handicapped.

On September 20, 1987, the Philippine Community accepted the first native postulant, Medal Laureto (he left the postulancy in December.) George Berza was the second postulant, accepted on October 18, 1987. In December of that year Br. Jeffrey Callander was appointed Director of Novices, with Brother Maurice Wilson as Director of Postulants. In June of 1988, George Berza was accepted into the Novitiate and chose the religious name Brother Francis of Assisi. He was the first Filipino Novice.

On July 13, 1989 the Community moved from the house at 413 Champaca, Matina to a larger house at 102 Santa Ana Avenue in Davao City. The Blessing and Open House for the new residence was held on August 17, 1989. Father Dennis Tremblay, P.M.E. blessed the new home. A social and buffet dinner for about 200 guests followed the blessing. There were three novices, three aspirants, and two Professed Brothers in the community at this time.

During the early 1990's, the Brothers began working with San Pedro Hospital in Davao, acquiring equipment from the Alexian Brothers' hospitals in the United States. The 220-bed facility served the very poor of the city, with sixty percent of its patients being charity cases. With the donated equipment, the hospital could develop profitable departments that would bring the proportion of paying patients to sixty percent, without crowding out the poor. The donated equipment included an exam table, calculating machines, instruments and medical supplies. Three crates were sent in October 1990.

In January of 1991, the community moved into their new residence on Bajada Street from Sta. Ana Avenue. An addition was completed in June, and the Brothers moved into the new building, which was apart from the main house. The building consisted of six bedrooms with a sink in each room, two showers, two toilets and a utility room. They named it "St. Augustine Home." The Blessing by Archbishop Antonio Mabutas took place on August 30.

An Alexian Brothers' outreach ministry called the Community Health Program made its first visit to the village of Bucana in July of 1991. This was a barrio community of about 300 families whose major source of livelihood was fishing. The village had no sanitary system and the children were malnourished. The lack of a ready supply of drinking water was the worst problem. During their first visit, the Brothers visited each home to get to know the families and tell the people about the simple nursing care that they would make available. They also handed out powdered milk. Afterwards, they evaluated the socioeconomic and health conditions of each family. Brother John of God Oblina, a medical doctor, set up a clinic in the local chapel, and the Brothers hired a midwife to work full time visiting homes and teaching classes on childbirth and childcare.

In the early part of 1991, the Provincial Council approved the purchase of a van that the Brothers, in a collaborative effort with San Pedro College, could use for a mobile health clinic to bring health services to the poor in needy areas. San Pedro Hospital was also an integral part of the service. The Mobile Health Clinic was developed and became operational in April of 1992. It was blessed by Father Conrad Lafortune, P.M.E. on April 25, 1992.

One morning each week, the Brothers boarded the mobile unit and traveled about forty-five minutes to the poor fishing village of Bucana. They fed the children, weighed them, and checked their physical condition. They provided a midwife and supplied two water tanks. Brother John of God took care of the medical needs of the community and two Dominican Sister catechists taught and used play therapy with the children. Brother Justin organized a cooperative for the fishermen, Brother Dominic fed the malnourished, and Brother Levi was in charge of the medicine.

On January 13, 1994 the Alexian Brothers, Inc. in Davao was incorporated. The Board of Trustees was formed in February and consisted of Brother Jeffrey Callander, President; Brother Francis Berza, Vice President; Brother John of God Oblina, Secretary; Brother Gary Sinclair, Treasurer; and Brother Maurice Wilson, Auditor. In June, Brother Dominic Andes was appointed as the first full time Vocation Director for the Philippine Community.

By December of 1995 the community was operating four outreach clinics serving three parishes in the Archdiocese. They had also established a feeding program which rehabilitated fifty percent of the malnourished children of Bucana, were running a successful pig raising program, and were helping eight families receive proper nourishment through an Adopted Families program. The outreach programs continued to expand during the next several years.

On March 19, 1996, Brother John of God Oblina made his Perpetual Profession at the Carmelite Monastery Church in Davao. He became the first Life Professed Filipino Brother.

The desire for a more permanent ministry site in the Davao area resulted in the development of plans for a wellness and outpatient center to provide diagnostic, curative, and preventive care with a holistic and comprehensive approach to health. Property along McArthur Highway in Matina was purchased and the site was blessed on September 29, 1999. Ground breaking took place on November 3, 1999. Archbishop Fernando Capalla officiated at the ceremonies for the groundbreaking and blessing of the cornerstone of the Alexian Brothers Health and Wellness Center (ABHWC).

Construction commenced in May of 2000, and by the next January, the Brothers Residence was completed and Brothers Maurice Wilson, John of God Oblina, and Dominic Andes began living there. As of January 3, 2001, there were two Alexian Brothers communities in the Philippines. The original community in Bajada served as the novitiate and was called the Sacred Heart Community. The new community at the Health and Wellness Center in Matina was called the St. Alexius Community.

Alexian Brothers Health and Wellness Center opened on August 16, 2001. It featured sixteen doctor's offices, an X-ray department, labarotory, pharmacy and chapel. It was located on a 2.5-acre site that also included a new education building and Alexian Brothers residence. By late summer, six doctors and two dentists had joined the center's staff. The facility was able to accommodate as many as 45 medical professionals. Part of the agreement with the doctors at the center was that a percentage of their patients must be indigent patients sent from the outreach clinics. The education building was used for seminars for the center's medical staff and other employees, as well as nutritional and wellness programs for the public.

Dr. Arnold Pasia, a cardiologist, performed a contrast echocardiography using Optison on a patient at the Heart Center in the ABHWC on November 15, 2002. This was the first time that this procedure was done in Mindanao. He also performed a transesophageal echocardiograph, a procedure that was usually only performed in Manila. In addition, ABHWC became the first health-care provider to open a kidney transplant clinic and laboratory on the island of Mindanao

Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines honored the Alexian Brothers with its Archbishop Clovis Thibault Award on March 22, 2003. The award recognized the Alexian Brothers for dedication "to the mission of their healing ministry that has brought so much benefit to so many; for their work in health services that is as professional as it is compassionate, that is as outreaching and untiring as it is quiet; that is as creative and modern as it is open to both the rich and the poor."

On June 13, 2003, the Alexian Brothers Vocation Club (ABVC) was launched at St. Alexius Chapel of the ABHWC. The first members of the ABVC were received by Brother Amado Ancla, Director of Vocations and witnessed by Brother Francis Berza, Brother Maurice Wilson, Brother John of God Oblina and Brother Dominic Andes. The creation of the ABVC was a major step in the promotion of vocations for the Alexian Brothers. There were 25 members at the time and they all participated in the Alexian vocation seminars that were conducted by Brother Amado.

In a partnership with the Marist Sisters, the Alexian Brothers created a computer literacy program for the prisoners at Ma-a Prison. Every Tuesday in 2004, Brother Romie Duriman taught classes in computers at the prison. Brother Romie had a degree in Computer Science, and he was instrumental in fixing the donated computers. He taught the classes in the morning for the men and in the afternoon for girls in the juvenile facility.

Collaboration began with Care for the Elderly Foundation on December 8, 2004. Mrs. Fe Bada-Arobo and her friends began to accept and serve abandoned elderly in a dilapidated house that was earlier repaired to a useful condition through donated labor and materials. The house was painted by Brother Amado Ancla and the Alexian Brother Vocation Club.

In June of 2005 construction began for the addition to the Brothers Residence in Matina. The expansion included a new building which had five additional bedrooms, storage room and a laundry room at the back of the original residence. Included in the project was the renovation of the original building to add one room and space for additional storage and partitioning to make the bedrooms and hallways more private. Construction was completed early in 2006.

The Silver Jubilee of the Alexian Brothers in the Philippines was celebrated October 2, 2006. In attendance were Brother Eugene Gizzi, Brother Edward Walsh, Brother Warren Longo, Brother Richard Dube and Brother Lawrence Krueger from the U.S. Brother Nicklaus Hann came from Germany and Brother Dominiek Champagne came from Belgium. At 4:00, Mass began with a procession that was graced by Archbishop Fernando Capalla, celebrant, and 15 Priests. The Alexian Brothers entered in the procession and were seated in the front three rows of the chapel. Brother Edward Walsh, Brother Richard dube and Brother Eugene Gizzi presented the gifts for the Mass at the Offertory and many others joined the procession with other gifts placed at the altar true to the Philippine tradition. Brother Edward Walsh spoke about the Alexian Brothers and their Mission and Values. At the end of the Mass, Brother Edward Walsh and Brother Richard Dube presented the Bonaventure Thelen Award to Mr. Constantino Rabara.

On February 28, 2007, ground was broken for the construction of the Home for the Aged on property purchased by the Alexian Brothers with initial funding by Alexian Brothers Ministry Fund. The Provincial Council approved the purchase of a one hectare property in Biao-Guianga, Tugbok, Davao City. Archbishop Fernando Capalla led the ground breaking. Care for the Elderly Foundation will operate the facility.

 Construction for an expansion of the ABHWC began in May of 2007. A new four-story building housed a cardiac imaging unit; Day Hematology and Oncology Unit; Stroke and Cardiac Rehab; Clean and Dirty Wound Management Unit; and Smoking Cessation Unit. The Canteen, Edessa Multifunction Halls, Heart Station, Davao Volunteer Corps Office, Special Procedure Rooms, and added Doctors Offices were also housed in the new building. The old space vacated by the Special Procedure Room was used to expand the Pathology Department.

Brother Eugene Gizzi, C.F.A., on the left, with Father Gognion, P.M.E., blessing the Alexian Brothers' first house in Davao on July 17, 1982 

Bro. Maurice Wilson with a needy family who have come for help to Catholic Charities, Davao, Philippines  (1986)

Alexian Brothers Community 1989

Equipment donation to San Pedro Hospital. Brother Maurice Wilson, Sister Maxima Ramos, Brother Jeffrey Callander (1990) 

Brother Francis Berza dispensing medicine at the outreach in Bucana (1991) 

Mobile Unit (1992) 

Alexian Brothers Health and
Wellness Center (2001) 

Chapel at Alexian Brothers Health and Wellnes Center (2001)

Alexian Brothers Vocation Club (2003)

Banner for the 25th Jubilee outside of Alexian Brothers Health and Wellness Center (2006)

A cultural presentation was held to celebrate the 25th Jubilee of Alexian Brothers in the Philippines on October 1, 2006 

Alexian Brothers from all over the world and Archbishop Fernando Capalla celebrate the 25th Jubilee of Alexian Brothers in the Philippines on October 2, 2006. 

Copyright © Alexian Brothers Provincial Archives, 2008

© 2017 Congregation of Alexian Brothers. Pencil

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