Zamboanga City. In a ceremony held on 24th of March, 2001 at the Ateneo de Zamboanga, in the presence of invited guests and the Ateneo community, Fr. Carlos Rivas, Provincial Superior received, on behalf of the congregation, the Archbishop Luis V. del Rosario, SJ Award, in recognition of the fifty years of generous service to the people of Zamboanga and Basilan, Christians and Muslims alike, in full commitment of the gospel injunction to teach and to lead for the love of God and His people.
The award was given by the Ateneo de Zamboanga, in recognition of the Claretian Missionaries’ selfless commitment to the pursuit of the dialogue of life, generosity of service to God’s people in the midst of extreme difficulties and hazards, and for having distinguished themselves in working for the poor, building basic ecclesial communities, engaging in inter-religious dialogue, proving to the world that Krislam, in the context of peace and justice, is not an impossible task. For having withstood harassments or being misunderstood, to the point of being hounded by both government and rebel forces, sometimes being kidnapped and slain, in the midst of such difficulties for over half a century now, they continue to walk with the people, sharing their pains, their joys and their hopes.
The Claretians came to Zamboanga at the end of the Second World War when it was a time of much rebuilding in the Diocese of Zamboanga, because of a dire need for priests, a Jesuit, then Bishop Luis V. del Rosario, S.J. invited the Claretian Missionaries, who at that time were settled in Pangasinan, to come to Mindanao. They arrived in January 1951, and immersed themselves in Zamboanga City and Basilan. The first group of five was joined later by more missionaries who had been targets of persecution in China. Among them were Bro. Jose Ma. Torres, and Fr. Jose Ma. Querexeta, who later became bishop of the Prelature of Isabela in Basilan.