Subanen Crafters Christmas gift to students

Winning students chat with Columban Fr Kevin O'Neill and Sr Caroline Vaitkunas - Photo: Ajesh Abraham

Winning students chat with Columban Fr Kevin O'Neill and Sr Caroline Vaitkunas - Photo: Ajesh Abraham

Students and teachers who participated in the Columban Season of Creation school competition for 2022 recently took part in a wonderful zoom session to learn about the inspirational work of Columban missionaries and the Indigenous Subanen Crafters of Mindanao, the Philippines who have a special Christmas message.   

This year St Columbans Mission Society invited Primary and Secondary school students to participate in our first Season of Creation school competition.  The Season of Creation (Sep 1st – Oct 4th) is a special time in the liturgical year of the Church to celebrate the gifts of God’s creation.  We were delighted to receive entries from students across Australia and Fiji, where Columban missionaries live and work.  Students from Primary and Secondary schools submitted drawings, articles, digital poster and video that showed how they listened deeply to the voice of creation and were led by faith and personal experience to respond to the cries that come from Earth, our common home. 

Winners of the Columban Season of Creation school competition, along with their teachers and peers, have since participated in a special zoom session with Columban Fr Vincent Busch and the Subanen Crafters of Mindanao, the Philippines.  The Subanen’s are an Indigenous people who use their traditional skills to make crafts and Christmas cards that help to supplement their daily income.  Fr Vincent has been working for twenty years with the Subanen Crafters who tell of their love and concern for their traditional lands.  The Subanen people depend on a healthy habitat of forests, rivers and soil for their lives and livelihoods.  During the zoom session participants met the Subanen Crafters who were at work in their studio.  

Fr Vincent is a wonderful story-teller and told the story behind the Subanen Christmas cards which show ways of nurturing the human family and taking care of our common home.  He explained how the design process for the cards began by listing the ways people care for each other in daily life.  The next step was to select skills that Joseph and Mary may have utilized to look after one another, their new born child, and their stable.  Fr Vincent says “God so loved the world that he sent his Son to be born in that stable.” 

Winning students chat with Columban Fr Vincent Busch in the Philippines - Photo: Ajesh AbrahamWinning students chat with Columban Fr Vincent Busch in the Philippines - Photo: Ajesh Abraham

Fr Vincent taught how the nativity scene was a dynamic environment in which various activities took place that have spiritual and practical messages for everyone today.  The Subanen Christmas cards celebrate kindness and thoughtfulness in everyday actions that take care of people and the whole gift of God’s creation.  Fr Vincent says, “The Earth is our shelter and we take care of the Earth and each other.”  

The on-line session with Fr Vincent and the Subanen Crafters was a warm-hearted and encouraging gift for all who took part!   The message of the Subanen Christmas cards is one to carry forward as we move towards Advent, Christmas and beyond.  Fr Vincent tells of how the Christmas story is one of ongoing revelation. 

A Secondary school principal wrote:

“The students are in awe of the work Fr. Vincent and his crafters do.  We are deeply appreciative of the work Fr. Vincent does. Many of our students are from low to average (national) family economic backgrounds and understand well the struggle of the Subanen people.”

A Primary school teacher wrote:

“I just wanted to write and thank you for the wonderful zoom we had with Fr Vinnie and the Subanen crafters. It was beautiful to see their amazing skills, designs and special meaning behind the Christmas cards.  It is incredible that for over 20 years, the Columban missionaries, together with the Subanen people have been involved in the Subanen crafts project.  After the zoom session ended, the students had a very deep conversation about how hearing Fr Vinnie talk about the artworks and the perspective of Mary and Joseph really made them think about the ecology and experiences of the Subanen people.  I think they had a new appreciation of how our worldly experiences may be different but we are all connected through our environment and our love and understanding of Christ.”

Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon


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