facebook “Beyond expectation”: Celebrating four years of the MSC Centre for the Poor in the Philippines - Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
25 Aug 2022

Our most recent update from the Philippines comes from Fr Richie Gomez MSC, community leader at the MSC Centre for the Poor. The Provincial Conference for the Philippines took place in August, in person for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck, and Fr Richie writes with the highlights of a report on the latest progress of the MSC Centre for the Poor.

“What has happened at the Centre for the Poor since it was established four years ago, up to this moment, is beyond expectation!” writes Fr Richie. “It has given birth to an agricultural cooperative movement among farmers that expresses our concerns, especially regarding the poor and the marginalised in our society.  Our Centre is a grass-roots, non-profit organisation dedicated to taking care of the environment and well-being of the people by providing services to the community in terms of spiritual, pastoral, and socio-economic needs.”


“A working arm of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.”

“The MSC Centre for the Poor Agricultural Cooperative (MSC-CEPAGCO) is a working arm of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, responding the many difficulties that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, by organising the farmers’ sector to ensure food sustainability and care of our common home,” Fr Richie continues.

The Centre for the Poor Agricultural Cooperative has been recognised by the Cooperative Development Authority in the Philippines, and in June received an award from the Department of Agriculture naming them one of the most outstanding Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country, and running one of the most successful agri-farms in the Caraga region. “This is a great honour for the Centre,” writes Fr Richie, “reinforcing our unique position as we help and better improve livelihoods and the quality of life of the community.”

Empowering the disadvantaged and marginalised

The cooperative currently has 30 young college students, all from disadvantaged backgrounds, working with them in their shared mission to “produce affordable, healthy food for all”. Not only is the cooperative focused on taking care of our earth, and creating sustainable food sources for local communities, it also prioritises development opportunities for young people, or marginalised individuals, who struggle to go beyond backgrounds that may be rooted in severe poverty, hardship, and social issues. “We want to empower the small-scale farmers, youths who are out of school, indigenous cultural communities, those who are working to overcome addiction, and repatriated OFWs (people from the Philippines who have been living and working abroad),” Fr Richie explains. Teaching these young or marginalised people invaluable skills, the cooperative allows them to find a place for themselves, playing valuable roles and being an important part of a bigger picture, while also learning useful skills that will help them to find employment opportunities as they move forward in life.

In essence, “The Centre for the Poor aims to help rural and urban poor communities to develop sustainable livelihoods that will benefit them and will support their daily lives”. Two centres are currently in operation, one in Butuan City and the other in Del Monte, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur, which is also home to the cooperative’s demonstration farm.

From “me to we.”

Responding to the “wake-up calls” that our earth is giving us, the MSC Centre for the Poor Agricultural Cooperative are promoting the shift from “me to we”, from “monoculture to diversity”, and from “competing with nature to partnering with nature”. From the construction of brick cooking stoves in several locations, to the installation of rainwater filtration systems, along with a host of further developments and partnerships, the Centre for the Poor Agricultural Cooperative has been going from strength to strength. We send our heartfelt congratulations to Fr Richie, his MSC brothers, and the MSC-CEPAGCO community on their tremendous achievements to date, with every blessing and good wish as they continue in their vital work.