The Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, leading a Spanish expedition, reached the Philippines on March 16, 1521 and planted Christianity there. 2021 marks the 500th anniversary of this event. Pope Francis kicked off the yearlong celebration with a festive Mass in the Vatican last March. The entrance procession of the papal Mass was led by a young woman carrying a statue of the Holy Child of Cebu and a young man holding a replica of the Magellan Cross that was first planted on Filipino soil, accompanied by Filipino women dancers, followed by the ministers, clergy, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, other cardinals and the Pope.
The Filipino Apostolate of our Diocese, headed by Rev. Gerry Paderon, pastor of Queenship of Mary Church, Plainsboro, arranged to have a novena of Masses at different churches.
The venue for one Mass was here at St. Matthias, on Sunday, August 1, at 5 pm., and it was organized by Don & Gondee Tibay, Aida Santos, Emile Capuno, Jerry Tiongson, Carlo Hermino, Alma Valdez, and Menchie Ventura. They gave me the honor of presiding and preaching. Rev. Roberto Coruna, Pastor of the Annunciation Church in Bloomsbury, and our Msgr. Seamus Brennan concelebrated the Mass, assisted by Deacon Joey Perlas of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Port Reading and Deacon Roger Ladao of St. Francis Cabrini Church in Piscataway. We congratulate all the Filipino friends of our parish for organizing it and making it a meaningful celebration with beautiful singing in Tagalog and having a special 10-foot replica of the Magellan cross for the procession.
For the Philippines nation, the Catholic faith is part of the ethos of the people, etched deeply in their cultural and religious life. The Filipinos have carried their faith wherever they have immigrated. It was quite amusing to hear the comment of Pope Francis that the Filipino women were “smugglers of the faith,” meaning they carried with them the “torch of faith” wherever they went. He encouraged all Filipinos to continue being “smugglers of faith.”
One recent evidence of the Filipino witness to Catholicism was when the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, manifested her faith and devotion to Holy Mary for the whole world to see. Diaz’s triumph came in the women’s 55-kilogram weightlifting event on July 26. After completing her final lift in a very close competition, Diaz held her hands to her face, burst into tears and clutched at her Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging from her neck. Later at the medals ceremony on the podium, Diaz pointed heavenward after singing the Philippine national anthem, then made the Sign of the Cross before stepping down and shouting “Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” (“Long live the Philippines!”)
As we appreciate our Filipino community who have the fire of the Faith in Jesus Christ and a great commitment to the Catholic Church, we pray that their example will continue to inspire us and make us greater witnesses of the Lord.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal