Communion to community
Four days into the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, I met Clavel by chance. Who would have thought I should meet her at the IEC Pavilion with more than 15,000 participants from all over the world! The last time I saw her was May last year during the ordination of her nephew, Fr. Gene Llenos, SDB. I didn’t even know she came. That coincidental encounter was enough for her to invite me to a “secret” gathering. And I said Yes!
Clavel Rudatis is a member of the Society of St. Pedro Calungod (SSPC), a Switzerland-based Filipino Catholic Community organized in October 2012 to propagate the saint’s devotion as well as a faith support group for Filipinos in that part of Europe. Before the birth of this community, her group was like sheep without a shepherd. They were hungry for the Word of God and the Eucharist, but there was no one to take care of their spiritual needs.
The “secret” gathering was actually a birthday surprise for Fr. Karl Wolf, the chaplain of the SSPC. They were able to convince him to come to Cebu for this quadrennial event. This was his first time in the Philippines. And his birthday was within the week of the 51st IEC. It was a Gratitude Dinner for being the Community’s “answered prayer.” They were thankful that Fr. Karl opened the doors and welcomed them into his parish community where they could gather for Sunday Mass. He had been instrumental to their spiritual growth and their insertion into the local Church of Switzerland.
Indeed, Fr. Karl got the surprise of his life. He tasted Filipino hospitality at its best! Several local guests showed up. The presence of Archbishop Jose Palma and Bishop Antonio Rañola gave the brief celebration added importance. I was among those who felt blest for having been invited by chance. I was also able to connect with friends like Jojo, Sonia and Linda whom I had met in Switzerland.
When it was Fr. Karl’s turn to speak, we were in for a much bigger surprise. After thanking the organizers for the “secret birthday dinner,” he opened his heart to tell us of a personal miracle he experienced. Long before the SSPC came to his parish, he had been praying for a revival of the faith of his parishioners. He was really saddened by the indifference and lack of enthusiasm of his own people in church-related activities. The Church in Erlenbach was his greatest heartache. He had tried every conceivable strategy but results were nil.
In one pastoral immersion, he went to Africa. There he met the Filipino Apostolic Nuncio to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Padilla. After seeking for his advice on how to make his parish flourish in faith, he was told: “Take care of the Filipinos.” And he did. That, he said, was the turning point. Filipinos gave new life to his parish. They brought along not only their faith but also their joy, their songs, their dances including their food. In every gathering, it is always a celebration of faith! Hence, more than they thanking him, he had more to thank them for their presence. The SSPC was God’s answer to his prayers! He even ended by challenging them “to work together to evangelize the parish!”
A week after the “Statio Orbis” at the San Pedro Calungsod Templete in SRP, the words of Papal Legate Cardinal Bo still echo in my mind: “Filipinos, multiply your missionaries.” In many parts of the world we already have our “missionaries.” According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2014 there were 2.3 million Overseas Filipino Workers around the world. In my experiences abroad since 1993, whether in Israel, Egypt, Japan, Amsterdam or even Rome, it’s the Filipino Catholics who fill up the pews of these Churches. Catholic Evangelist and Word and Fire Founder Bishop Robert Barron affirms that the Philippines is doing what the Irish did years back. The vibrancy of our faith is contagious.
While it is something to be happy about, I think more work in faith education and evangelization has to be done. Let the fire of our Eucharistic encounter burn on especially in programs that benefit the youth and the socially marginalized. The only way to stop the tide of secularism to hit our shores is to foster a “Eucharistic culture” starting with the family. It may be a cliché, but this saying still holds true: “The family that prays together, sticks together.” It is only through our communion in the Eucharist that we become a community of faith through which we can change the world.
Belated Happy Birthday to Ma’m Chili Tita Cabatingan! A bouquet of blessings on you.
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