In one of the 7000 islands that belongs to the “noble nation” of the Philippines (formerly called “The Antipodes” or “Pearl of the East”), Divine Providence entrusted to our Congregation cooperate in continuing the evangelization work begun half a millennium ago by Magellan, who not only discovered these lands, doing the first world-circumnavigation, but it was he who began to evangelize these Islands, carrying there the first Cross and the first “Holy Child.” With this great sailor of the “Hispanidad”, was held for the first time in history the Holy Mass in these remote islands. One of the main ministries that has our Religious Family in the “Pearl of the Orient” is the attention of the first Asian temple dedicated to the Patron Saint of Argentina, that is, the Quasi-Parish “Our Lady of Luján”.
Because the last time I got distracted and bought a wrong ticket, I remained five days, “surplus” in the Philippines, where we had gone for a meeting of Priests. But, it was a providential error because in those “extra” days I got to know our Quasi-Parish of the Philippines. In this text, so, I want to tell you something about this Parish.
When our Missionaries came to this place over ten years ago-there was practically nothing but a poor chapel with only one monthly Mass attended only by ten souls. This church is in “Bagong Barrio,” which is the second poorest district of Manila. Upon the arrival of our Missionaries, this chapel became “Quasi-Parish” (the prefix “quasi” is because the Bishop considers this land as “zone of Mission”). Today, in this “peripheral” Quasi-Parish six Masses are celebrated every Sunday, that are not only attended by a lot of people but they abound in “lay ministries” (singers, readers, sacristans , acolytes, makers of audio, …). The cause of this abundance is the desire of the souls to participate actively in the Divine Worship.
In this Parish, many apostolic ministries are made (are saved many lives by helping mothers not to abort, they take care for the sick, religious vocations arise, etc.) but I want to highlight a work that I could see very closely: the festive Oratory.
The Oratory has, approximately, one hundred children. They have, of course, the playful spirit of all normal children but surprisingly they also have a good behavior, which becomes even more impressive when we consider that they live in a very poor village. In the Oratorio they have lunch (they eat all sat in ordered groups) prepared by the Sisters and blessed by the Father and they play many hours, but the main thing is that they learn the Catechism, they receive the Sacraments, and learn to pray. It is noteworthy that, although adults in general-for the shortage of clergy had lost the habit of frequent confession, Oratory’s children confess themselves frequently (some of them, also weekly).
At the end of the games and prayers, many children do not go home, but they do apostolate. What do they do? They go from house to house carrying the Virgin praying the Rosary and singing in the street praises to our Heavenly Mother, doing the holy mess demanded by the Pope in Rio.
With impunity, I spent the A4 sheet, I will not say more about the exciting Mission of Bagong Barrio, a neighborhood that lacks everything material but abounds in children, radiating joy everywhere, that require the driver’s full attention because anytime they can appear with a ball running barefoot. Let’s finish off by saying that even now, it is possible to see fruits of three and a half centuries of Christendom in this Nation, who doesn´t know anything about shabbiness in their manifestation of their catholic devotion. So much could be written about the sincere piety of this Hispanic people, but, for lack of space, I only underline something I experienced in “own hand”. Too often in the streets of Kalookan, local people “interrupt” the priests –while they walk-, to ask for his blessing. It was very nice to see young children fighting each other to ask the blessing. Such was his fervor that I could not imagine it would be higher if they were sweets bestowed. I was surprised to see children under two years, well-educated by their simple parents, cut over to claim the heavenly Priest blessing. Sometimes they were so young that an older brother helped them to reach with their little hand the hand of the Priest and put it over his small front.
We entrust to the prayers of our Religious Family, the fruits of this thriving and difficult mission in the “Pearl of the Orient”.
Fr. Federico, IIW
Missionary Priest in Taiwan