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Tuesday, 29 June 2021 12:56

Fr Elmer takes on Biblical Coordinator role for ASPAC Zone


Fr Elmer Biblical Apostolate 450Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD may be serving in the middle of the Australian desert, but that remote location hasn’t stopped him being recently appointed as Coordinator of the Biblical Apostolate for the SVD Asia-Pacific Zone.

Fr Elmer, originally from the Philippines, is the Parish Priest of Santa Teresa in Central Australia and he is also the Biblical Coordinator for the SVD AUS Province.

Now, his outlook with the Biblical Apostolate has broadened across Asia and the Pacific and he says he’s looking forward to his new role.

“The SVD is a worldwide missionary organisation and so the breakdown into zones is really about the sharing of experiences and resources in a zone where cultures are relatively similar, although not the same, and geographically closer to one another,” he says.

“It’s a way of sharing experiences and looking at what might be working in one place and how that could be applied elsewhere.

“Part of my duties is also to compile a report on the Biblical Apostolate in our zone every three years, to send to the Generalate in Rome.

“There is also a gathering of Biblical Apostolate Coordinators from our zone once every three years. The last one was held by Zoom due to COVID, but hopefully, for the next one, we’ll be able to gather together again.”

Fr Elmer says the Biblical Apostolate is one of the four key Characteristic Dimensions of the Society of the Divine Word and its significance is conveyed in the very title of the Society begun by St Arnold Janssen.

“The Divine Word is central to who we are as Divine Word Missionaries,” he says.

“Every Province has their own Biblical activities and programs and these might include Bible sharing groups, Bible studies and the production of Biblical diaries, which have proven to be a hit with people.

“But it’s always evolving. We’ve found lately that people are looking for something different to the traditional Bible sharing. They are looking for more substantial teaching and information about the Bible, so in the Australian Province we’ve moved more towards Bible studies and they’re proving very popular.

“I’m part of a couple of Bible study groups, which are currently meeting by Zoom and they’re going well.

“Across the Asia-Pacific Zone we’re seeing more of an emphasis on going online and asking questions around how we can spread the Biblical message through social media, given that’s where many people are gathering these days. So I can see things heading in that direction.”

In 2019, Fr Elmer, along with two AUS Province confreres, attended the SVD’s relaunched Dei Verbum Biblical Course for those engaged in Biblical ministry, held in Nemi, Italy.

The 60 day course is open to both lay people and priests and aims to meet three key objectives:

  • To accompany in attentive reading and diligent study of the Scripture in order to understand it properly;
  • Enable interiorising of the Word of God, through introduction into some selected themes, daily common liturgical biblical prayer, sharing and functions;
  • Inspire participants to find suitable ways in communicating the Word of God in today’s world.

“It was an excellent experience and a good foundation for both my role as Province Biblical Coordinator and now this invitation to coordinate the Zonal Biblical Apostolate as well,” he says.