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Missions in the Philippines
PHILIPPINES | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
Three groups of missionary youth witness God at work among the Filipino people.

Fr Pham with little girl
Fr Dominic Pham, LC, gives a gesture of tenderness to a little girl sick with meningitis in the Manilia slums.

May 16, 2011. Manila, Philippines. This year, from April 18-24, three groups of youth went on Holy Week missions in different towns and cities in the Philippines. Along the way, they discovered that their presence was, in some cases, a matter of life and death.

On the island of Tingloy

The first group of missionaries, a group of 30 young men guided by Fr Eric Nielsen, LC, set out for the island of Tingloy, about 2.5 hours away from the capital city of Manila. The island, which measures about 6 miles long by just over a mile wide, is home to 25,000 people organized into 14 small neighborhoods, called “barangays,” with just one priest to minister to all of them. Since one priest can only reach so many people in a given week, many of the local people do not have a regular sacramental life.

To help the priest and to bring the sacraments and the faith to those who need it most, the missionaries went to four towns on the far end of the island. Starting on Monday of Holy Week, they split up into teams of two and went door-to-door to get to know the people, asking about their families, their faith, and their needs, and gathering prayer intentions. The missionaries invited the people to the afternoon activities: there were games and catechism lessons for the children; and talks, Rosary, confession, and Mass for everybody at the local chapel. Once the Sacred Triduum began, the missionaries also invited the people to attend the liturgies at the local chapel, from the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday to the Stations of the Cross, Seven Last Words, and Easter Vigil Mass.

Most importantly, the missionaries found out exactly who needed the sacraments so that they could pass on the information—with the
philippines mission 2
Mission Youth volunteers spend time with the poorest of the poor in Manila just prior to the start of missions.
people’s consent—to the local pastor. Many of the people needed to have their children baptized or confirmed; some couples also needed the sacrament of matrimony. Others had bedridden family members in need of confession or the anointing of the sick.

Divine timing

One of the most powerful moments on the mission involved the imparting of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. On the second day of missions, a pair of the youngest missionaries in the group told Fr Eric Nielsen about two people who needed the anointing of the sick. The first was a bedridden woman lying unconscious in a small house. Fr Nielsen arrived and gave her the anointing, explaining to the family that this sacrament would forgive her sins and give her special graces to unite her sufferings to Christ. Shortly after that, he gave the sacrament to an old man who was also bedridden and in his final hours.

Four hours later, the missionaries and Fr Nielsen received the news: both of the people he had anointed had passed away in peace.

Afterwards, Fr Nielsen reflected, “On the last day of their lives, these people received the gift of peace from Christ who personally invited them to come with Him to the Father’s house. And all of this happened because a handful of people gave up their Holy Weeks to plunge into the unknown and let Christ use them.”

Not surprisingly, the timing of these two deaths—hours after the sacrament and during Holy Week— made an impact on the missionaries. Their decision to go on missions—and their visit to those particular houses—had been a matter of life and death.

God walks among the suffering

A second group of 22 missionaries, including a group from Atlanta, went to the city of Agoncillo, Batangas with Fr Duc Bui, LC, and Fr Dominic Pham,
philippines mission 3
The mixed group of Filipino and American missionaries, guided by Fr Dominic Pham and Fr Duc Bui, LC.
LC.  Before the mission began on Wednesday, the group visited the slums and also the Hospicio de San Jose, a hospice with over 200 orphans and abandoned people in the care of nuns and volunteers.

For Fr Pham, the visit to both sites was an experience of witnessing God in the midst of extreme suffering.

In his weekly “Chaplain’s Corner” in the Pinecrest Academy newsletter, he wrote about a 6-year old girl (who looked only 3), sick with meningitis and confined to a small cradle.

“When I entered, she looked up at me with expressionless eyes under heavy lids. As I beheld those tired eyes, I saw a divine spark that gave life to a mind and body accustomed to suffering. Though struck dumb by her illness, she was imparting to me a piece of wisdom found only in experience. The mother asked me to bless the child, and I did so with trembling hands, mostly because the thought of unworthiness overwhelmed me. Oh, how little we know about God in our suffering brothers and sisters. If we knew, we would never dare to condition our love for them by the external appearances. That was my lesson, and I am grateful to God for it,” he said.

In the city of Agoncillo, the missionaries followed the same routine of door-to-door visits in the morning and activities in the afternoon, including the Sacred Triduum liturgies. And here as well, the people of the city had lessons to teach.

“What is important during these missions is how we have lived the gospel of love,” said Fr Duc Bui, LC, who has worked in the Philippines for several years. “We learned many lessons in life from these simple townspeople. What God wants is for us to live the gospel with simplicity.”

Sharing that gospel with others was
missions philippines 4
"When you take a generous young person, set him outside of his comfort zone and give him the opportunity to put himself on the line for Christ, the most amazing things happen."
sometimes the best way of realizing lessons about one’s own life.

For third-time missionary Khalil Verzosa, one of the most powerful moments on the mission was when he had the chance to speak and listen at length to a mother who opened up her sorrow about her son, who had gone astray. Hoping to encourage her, he told her the story of the Prodigal Son.

“As I reached the conclusion, she was calm and silent… And it struck me that all this time, I have also lived that life [of the Prodigal Son], but when I took up Christ’s cross, everything changed. I lived more for Christ than I would for myself,” he said, adding, “I realized that through a single house visit.”

Out of the comfort zone

A third group of missionaries, young women guided by the consecrated women living in Manila, with Fr Dean Stasell, LC as the chaplain, went to Lipa City in Batangas from Wednesday of Holy week to Easter Sunday. Their routine was much like that of the other groups of missionaries.

For all of the missionaries, young men and women, a week of missions in the city or on a remote island is a step out of their comfort zone—and living out of one’s comfort zone forces one to grow.

For Fr Nielsen, seeing the missionaries rise to the challenge was like watching God’s action unfold in a special way.

“One experience that particularly moves me as a priest is to see the missionaries take on responsibilities and develop right before our eyes. When you take a generous young person, set him outside of his comfort zone and give him the opportunity to put himself on the line for Christ, the most amazing things happen,” he said.

“Suddenly this person who didn’t think his faith went beyond going to Mass on Sundays is comforting people, preaching Christ to them, organizing groups, encouraging them to receive the sacraments…”

“It’s amazing to see what happens when we take a leap of faith and simply let Christ do whatever He wants with us,” he said.

For more information about upcoming missions around the world, visit the Mission Youth web site at http://www.demisiones.org/usa/.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-05-17


 
 

Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
MissionYouth
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center


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