CEBU, Dec. 30, 2014 — The Superior General of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) chose to spend his Christmas this year among the poorest of the poor in Cebu.
Fr. Heinz Kulüke, SVD, the 11th Superior General of the congregation, pointed out the joy of being a Divine Word Missionary, saying, “The poor are most important to the Divine Word Missionaries.”
In Umapad, one of the dumpsites he visited, he was welcomed together with the Blue Sisters, and other Divine Word Missionaries. This old dumpsite closed down four years ago, but the people in the area now work in an even bigger dumping area just a few kilometers away where around 700 tons of garbage is dumped every day.
Heinz, who opted to spend the holidays in the Philippines despite his busy schedule of checking out on the various missionary endeavors of SVD, is no stranger to the people of Umapad.
When he was still the Provincial Superior of the Philippine Southern Province and was based in Cebu, he visited the site to celebrate Mass every Saturday, hand out biscuits and listen to people’s stories. He did medical check-ups, too, for free.
The priest listed a litany of unforgettable experiences in the country, ranging from the feel-good to the bizarre. Heinz shared, “I brought [some kids] to Cebu Hospital for a dental treatment. The first kid was already at the dental chair, and he was screaming and all the others jumped out of the window.”
In 1999, Heinz founded the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation – Integrated Development Center (JPIC-IDC) to help the poor and marginalized in Cebu, particularly scavengers, street children and young girls in red-light districts in particular.
Today, more than 40 people work for JPIC for these different sectors. The center was able to give 50 families from this dumpsite new decent homes in Compostela, Cebu where they have since participated in livelihood programs like hog-fattening, native chicken meat production, goat raising, creation of fashion accessories and others.
After the New Year, Heinz will go back in Rome. Certainly, he’ll be coming back. (Fr. Felmar Castrodes Fiel, SVD/CBCPNews)