Verbum Dei community comes to Canada, with sisters now offering ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon

Sr. Marta Piano (left) and Sr. Malou Tibayan in a screen-captured image from a recent diocesan Zoom meeting. (Photo - Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Recently-arrived members of the Verbum Dei Missionary community are now providing ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, beginning with Lenten retreats focused on the Word of God.

“Come Back To Me” is the theme of the Verbum Dei retreat which several parishes are hosting during Lent.

Lenten Retreats with the Verbum Dei sisters are scheduled at the following parishes (contact the parish for information about attendance): St. Paul Co-Cathedral: Saturday, Feb. 27 from 1:15pm to 4:00pm. (306-652-0033); St. Philip Neri, Saskatoon: Monday, March 1, 2021 from 9:00am to 12:00 pm (306-343-0325); St. Augustine, Saskatoon: Thursday, March 11 (repeated Friday, March 12) from 9.30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. with adoration; Cathedral Holy Family, Saskatoon: Saturday, March 13 from 1:15 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (306-659-5800); and St. Mary Parish, Saskatoon:  Saturday, March 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. after morning Mass (306-244-2983)

Sr. Marta Piano and Sr. Malou Tibayan arrived in Saskatoon late in 2020, as part of the first Verbum Dei community to be established in Canada.

“Our name Verbum Dei (Latin for “Word of God”) expresses our total and exclusive dedication to praying, living, and proclaiming the Word of God, allowing it to transform our life on a daily basis, and teaching others to do the same,” states a description they have prepared about their community.

The Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity was founded by Fr. Jaime Bonet in Mallorca, Spain in 1963 and received pontifical approval as a new form of consecrated life on April 15, 2000. Verbum Dei includes consecrated religious women (sisters), consecrated religious men (brothers and priests), and associated married couples. Rooted in prayer and grounded in scripture and theological training, the community is both contemplative and active.

The work of Verbum Dei in 32 other countries around the world includes offering retreat ministry for all ages and levels, scripture-based prayer groups, Verbum Dei spiritual exercises, lay leadership formation, lay preaching formation and workshops, pastoral care for individuals and families, spiritual accompaniment, theological teaching, and university campus ministry.

After encountering Verbum Dei missionaries on a visit to Rome several years ago, Bishop Mark Hagemoen invited the missionary fraternity to Saskatoon, and after visits, discernment and discussions, the decision was made to send three missionaries to provide ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon.

Sr. Marta Piano has a Canadian-Italian background. She was born in Rome where she met the Verbum Dei community in 1997. She describes how the thirst to make God’s love known through the Word of God led her to enter the novitiate in Mexico in 2004. She graduated with a BA in Sacred Theology at Pontifica Universitas Urbaniana in Rome. Marta speaks Italian, English, Spanish, and some French.

“My father is Italian, and my mother is Canadian, so I always had the dream that our community could be in Canada,” says Sr. Marta, expressing appreciation for the welcome she has experienced in the diocese.

Sr. Malou Tibayan is originally from the Philippines. She says that experiencing the transforming power of God’s Word through prayer led her to join the community in 1987. She completed her B.A. in Sacred Theology at Instituto Teologico de San Pablo, Madrid, Spain, in 1996, and her Masters Degree in Spirituality & Licentiate in Theology of Consecrated Life at the Institute of Consecrated Life (ICLA), Philippines in 2007. Malou speaks Tagalog, English and Spanish

“I met the Verbum Dei missionaries in the Philippines when I was 17 years old, and I entered the next year when I was 18. It’s been 33 years now that I have been a missionary, and I thank God for the gift of his faithfulness,” says Sr. Malou, who has served in the Philippines, in Australia, and in Spain.

Still to arrive in Saskatoon is Sr. Claudia Vazquez, who is from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico where she met the Verbum Dei missionaries. She consecrated her life to God by joining the Verbum Dei community in San Francisco, USA in 2000. She completed her B.A. in Philosophy at Guadalajara University, Mexico, and her Masters degree in Theology and in Pastoral Ministry at Santa Clara University in California, USA. Claudia speaks Spanish and English.

Offering the Lenten retreats in local parishes is a start for ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon that is still being discerned and defined, says Sr. Marta Piano. “Really, right now everything is under construction,” she says.  “But I think that good things cook slowly  — and. we are really happy be here to share the Word of God.”

Sr. Malou Tibayan describes the Verbum Dei focus as “teaching people to pray with the Word of God.” This could include retreat ministry, organizing prayer groups, or spiritual accompaniment, she lists. “We are here at the service of the Word, we are here at the service of the diocese.”

The Verbum Dei sisters have been living with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary and are adjusting to life in Saskatoon, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

“We are looking forward to being part of the different ministries, whatever is needed in the diocese. We are here at your service and we are very happy to be here,” says Sr. Malou.

Verbum Dei brochure

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