A MILLION KIDS PRAYING TO HEAL THE WORLD

Hundreds of Filipino children prayed for peace in the midst of the conflict and violence that they are experiencing in their country and are witnessing in other parts of the world.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation, organized the One Million Children Praying the Rosary campaign last October 18, the feast of Saint Luke, the Evangelist.  The international campaign calls for children, ages 5 to 12, to say the Rosary on that day for world peace.

 

 

In the Philippines, a total of 40 dioceses, close to 1,300 parishes and 800 schools participated in this year’s celebration in solidarity with other children from some 80 countries.

Different schools organized their own special activities to teach children about the importance of the Holy Rosary. In Agusan del Norte province, soldiers joined schoolchildren while praying which served as a powerful and reassuring gesture for the students.

Meanwhile, the main event organized by ACN Philippines was held at the San Jose Academy, a school in Navotas, under the Diocese of Caloocan, that provides scholarship programs for the orphans of those killed by the government’s brutal war against drugs.  The Department of Social Welfare and Development estimates that about 18,000 children lost their parents from extrajudicial killings within the first six months of the government’s war on drugs.

Among these orphans is a 12-year old boy, who witnessed how armed men barged into their shanty in Navotas, and dragged his father out of their home in the middle of the night.  A few hours later, Joaquin Garbo was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds.  “They killed him.  They took him while he was asleep,” he shared while weeping.

When asked why ACN chose the orphans of the victims of the drug war to lead the rosary,  Jonathan Luciano, National Director of ACN Philippines said, “We wanted the children – these orphans – to be the agents of reconciliation, of unity and peace, so they were the ones who led the Rosary in this prayer campaign.”

Another prayer leader was a Grade 5 student, one of those orphaned by the war on drugs.  “I prayed that the killings would stop and justice be given to them and other victims,” she said.

Aside from praying for the victims of the war on drugs, students also prayed with child refugees in Aleppo, Syria, youth groups in Korea, and the displaced children from the war-stricken Marawi City who all joined the event by video.

ACN Philippines also introduced a new component to the prayer campaign called the ”One Peso Solidarity Project.”  Participants of the event were encouraged to donate a portion of their allowance to support projects that would alleviate the plight of children experiencing suffering and persecution.  Luciano quoted Saint John Paul II who said that the Rosary “is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces.”

Speaking at the event, Reverend Father Jeronimo Cruz, school administrator of the San Jose Academy, said, “The inspiring picture of one million children praying the rosary and sharing whatever they have for those who are suffering and have nothing in life teaches us that peace and unity among peoples are possible only if we have the heart of a child – humble and trusting in the goodness of persons and the love and mercy of God.“

Father Jeronimo Cruz, who is also the vicar general of the Diocese of Caloocan, recognizes the power of a child’s prayer.  “The prayer of a child’s heart is a powerful force that can change the world.  Jesus assured us that to such children belongs the Kingdom of God, and unless we have the heart of a child, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” he added.

 

Dorothy Claro, ACN Philippines Volunteer

FILIPINO FAMILIES SHARED THE GIFT OF JOY TO THE WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES IN IRELAND

Dublin, Ireland. A growing disillusionment among Catholics in Ireland due largely to decades of alleged child sex abuse scandals made Dublin an ideal venue of the World Meeting of Families 2018. Church leaders here confess to a crisis of faith.  “Families today face many challenges in their efforts to embody faithful love, to bring up children with sound values and to be a leaven of goodness, love and mutual concern in the larger community. I hope that this festival will be a source of renewed encouragement to families everywhere.” Pope Francis opened the gathering with this written statement.  But even the presence of the pontiff did not elevate the mixed feelings of joy, sadness, and confusion that pervaded WFM held in this city last August 22-26, 2018. But for one day, on August 24, Filipino families brought pure joy and hope to the gathering in what was called the Philippine Day of Witnessing.

Organized by the Aid to the Church in Need Ireland, the event was dubbed a Filipino Fiesta of Faith and Family, but instead of food, the ACN Philippines delegates offered a banquet of inspiring stories and joyful testimonies about the Gospel of the Family.

ACN Ireland National Director Dr. Michael Kinsella explained his reason for including the Philippines in the special programme, “The Philippines has always been an inspiration to the Irish people. We have heard stories of how they as a people have suffered through the years but remained a joyful nation because of their commitment to Christianity.”

“Europe gave us the faith centuries ago. Now, it is the Filipinos turn to give back, and share the joy of Christian faith to Europe,” was how ACN Philippines National Director Jonathan Luciano opened the event.

Among the witnesses were the San Juan family from Tagaytay who shared about the joy of family evangelization. Loreto and his children are pioneers in a ministry in which the whole family is engaged in facilitating retreats or recollections, even the little ones. “Constant communication, personal and communal prayer, and participation in the parish are the three factors that help us grow as a Christian family.”

The banquet of stories included moving testimonies of Fr. Roberto de la Cruz, a recovering drug addict,  Arnold and Clara Brit, a couple from Palo, Leyte who lost eleven members of their family to typhoon Yolanda,  mother and daughter Jeneta and Jongko Aguilar of Tacloban whose family was blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to Leyte in 2015, and the Francisco family from Marawi City, Arlene, Diovelene and Barbie, who narrated the joys and sufferings of a Christian family during the Marawi siege.

The venue was transformed into a typical Filipino Fiesta with images of festivals, buntings, and even an ice cream stand. The Filipino Chaplaincy in Dublin volunteered to take part in the activity through the leadership of Fr. Rene Esoy, SSS. They brought an image of the Our Lady of Penafrancia which was used in the caracol dance procession to open the event. Romy Buenaobra, a Filipino OFW husband gave a testimony on the joy of being a Christian family overseas, and a special song number was done by a young Filipino singer Shaniah Rollo, fresh from her participation in The Voice Ireland.

Bro. Reynaldo Barnido of Duyog Marawi encouraged the audience to hold on to the Christian faith. “Filipinos families have suffered a lot, but we are not a sad people. We find joy and hope in our families and in our faith. We don’t let go of our Christian faith. It doesn’t matter if we were persecuted by terrorists, or mocked by a President, we don’t let go.”

The Day of Witnessing ended with a commitment rite officiated by Most Rev. Gilbert Garcera, D.D., Archbishop of Lipa and Chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Family Life.

A lady delegate from Peru offered a great compliment to the delegates, “For me, the two highlights of this gathering aside from the Pope is the talk of Cardinal Chito Tagle and this Philippine Day of Witnessing. It is always Filipinos to the rescue!”

 

RPBarnido, Philippines

Meditation Father Michael Shields in WMOF Dublin 2018

‘Praise to Jesus Christ – now and forever’. This is the English translation of the Catholic greeting in Russia. One more time: ‘Praise to Jesus Christ – now and forever’. Marvelous. Let’s be enthusiastic for Jesus.

My name is Fr. Michael Shields from Alaska. I have spent the last 25 years in Siberia Russia in a city called Magadan, a the former prison camp of Stalin. I felt called to live the spirituality of Blessed Charles De Foucauld there, after a 40 day retreat where I heard “go pray in the camps”. I knew it meant going there freely for the rest of my life.

I have been praying for the healing of families for these 25 years torn apart by atheistic communism that promoted abortion, denied the reality of God and attacked the Church. We need this prayer of healing today more than ever in our western culture that promotes abortion and has forgotten God.

I have preached the gospel of hope in this dark place of history that sent people to suffer and die because they believed in God. We are in a dark place and we need hope as we see attacks on the family, marriage, the sick, the elderly and on our religious freedom. We see culturally confusing teaching on human sexuality that denies the authority of God, His moral absolutes and the teaching of the Church. We need this gospel of hope more than ever today. What is the risk? Nothing less than the salvation of souls.

I have proclaimed the scandal of the cross in this place in Siberia Russia called the ‘Devils playground’. The scandal of the cross is God offering himself “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
1 Peter 2:24

We are in a time of scandals in the Church that need to be taken seriously to the scandal of the cross through deep prayer, repentance and asking and giving forgiveness. There is no way out of the scandal of sin other than through the Cross of Christ. ‘We adore you Christ and we praise you, because by your cross you have redeemed the world’.

Our world needs a humble Church, built on healing and hope with heads bowed and on our knees in repentance but our hearts soaring on eagles wings proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord. It is amazing to me that so many have such a low expectation of their faith and their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, is this the best that the death of Jesus Christ the Son of God the savior of the world can do for us? That we should just live in mediocrity, boredom, worldliness, and struggling with sinful habits and patterns, but seeing very little progress. Really? “By his wounds you have been healed.”

It is in Jesus that sin is put to death, that you really com alive, that sorrow, anxieties and fears give way to joy. Brothers and sisters the world needs Jesus. We need Jesus. A story of hope.

Ilita was 5 years old when she came to our Sunday mass by herself in the middle of winter at 40 below zero. She was so small she could barely see over the pew when she knelt. She had no faith background. And no catechetical formation. Her family was not religious. Yet there she was concentrating every Sunday with an undivided attention watching me as I prayed at the altar. She would come up for a blessing at communion time. Then one Sunday after she had attended Mass for a few month she was blessed and she did not move. And I blessed her again and again she remained. She frowned when I asked her to go back to her seat. I knew after mass I was going to get balled-out by a 5 year old but I didn’t know why. After Mass Ilita with a hurtful look asked me a question that changed the definition of my priesthood and defined the mission of the church. She asked, “Fr. Michael why didn’t you give me Jesus. I wanted Jesus. Why didn’t you give me Jesus.” A 5 year old heart discerned what the world is blind too. Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and this 5 year old heart wanted him. And you know the world wants and needs him.

At that moment I envisioned men and women “from all nations, races and times huge crowds behind Ilita with desperate and painful looks crying out to me as a priest and to us His church. “Why don’t you give us Jesus? We want Jesus.” We are the broken body of Christ that needs healing and hope. We need Jesus. Why? Because we can only give away what we have. The world will judge us if we give away too little. We can give away our brokenness or give away the one who was broken for us. Jesus. The savior of the world. Who died for our selfishness and sinfulness so we could be set free to love like Jesus. What does it mean to love like Jesus? Look of the cross.

A young man came to me quite poor and broken. He was obnoxious and ungrateful and I didn’t feel like I wanted to help him let alone love him. The Lord spoke to me these simple words as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament “I died for him. Will you?” Love is the cross of Christ. My life for yours.

I have been 25 years in a former prison camp of Stalin. I have more hope than I can express. I have more joy in my heart that I can proclaim. Why? Because as St Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Phil. 3:8

Yes, broken body of Christ, my dear brothers and sisters in faith, lets give the world what it seeks – Jesus. Mary, dear mother lead us to your Son Jesus, so that the world can be saved. Now and forever.

 

ACN International

Northern Luzon Dioceses hold Clergy Retreat

In celebration of the 2018 Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons in the Philippines, an estimated 770 priests and 15 bishops from the 16 dioceses in Northern Luzon Philippines converged in Baguio City at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Atonement for the Northern Luzon Clergy Retreat from July 16-20, 2018. “To Be One With the Lord” is the invitation of the homilist during the Opening Mass, Bishop Valentin Dimoc of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe.

Reflecting on the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Bishop Dimoc pointed out that we usually encounter God on the mountain: (God tested the faith of Abraham on Mt. Moriah; God gave the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Jesus was transfigured on Mt Tabor; the prophet Elijah defended Israel’s faith in God on Mt Carmel, and the Northern Luzon Clergy are called by God to this Cathedral of Our Lady of the Atonement to be one with Him.

The main presider of the Opening Mass, Archbishop Marlo Peralta, is the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia, Ilocos Sur, the first diocese created in Northern Luzon, and may rightly be called the mother archdiocese of all the dioceses in this part of the country. Archbishop Peralta reminded all priests-concelebrants to offer all their Masses throughout the 5-day retreat for the intentions of the donors offered through the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Since the retreat covers the 3-day invitation of the CBCP (July 17-19) to all the faithful to prayer, penance and almsgiving to invoke God’s mercy and justice on those who have blasphemed God’s Holy Name, who slander and bear false witness, and who commit murder or justify murder as a means for fighting crimes in the country, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan and ACN Philippines President, elaborated that the 3 days of prayer, penance and almsgiving were imposed by the bishops on themselves, but inviting all the faithful to do the same. Archbishop Villegas encouraged all the priests present to give alms for the persecuted Christians particularly in Nigeria, Egypt and Syria.

Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, is the main facilitator of the retreat. He will give a series of talks on the theme: Renewed Servant-Leaders of the New Evangelization. In his opening conference, he led the Clergy to reflect on “Now Is The Time Of Mercy” by quoting Romans 5:20: My grace is sufficient for you. Following the advice of St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, Fr. Gaitley encouraged the Clergy to overcome cynicism by trusting in Divine Mercy.

All throughout the retreat, the Clergy together will pray their morning and evening praise, say the Rosary, and spend Holy Hour in silence. The highlight of the retreat will be the Forum and the Solemn Mass of the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, DD on July 19.

 

– Fr. Reynaldo Romero
ACN Philippines Ecclesiastical Assistant

STAND UP FOR OUR FAITH: Which dioceses are joining ACN’s Red Wednesday campaign?

Earlier this year, pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need, with the endorsement of the CBCP, invited all dioceses, minor basilicas and shrines to participate in the first Red Wednesday campaign in the Philippines. Bishops were requested to light their church facades in red in remembrance and honor of all modern-day Christians who were martyred for their faith. A Holy Mass and ceremony will be held on 22 November 2017. As of 20 November 2017, 82 ecclesiastical territories, churches and universities responded favorably and have committed to hold the Red Wednesday campaign. Other churches and schools in Metro Manila and in other parts of the country have initiated their own campaigns as well.

 

Anyone who wishes to join us in praying and speaking out for persecuted Christians around the world may join Red Wednesday by going to any of the participating minor basilica, cathedral, shrine or university nearest you.

 

As of 20 November 2017, Red Wednesday will be held in:

  1. Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe
  2. Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo
  3. Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa
  4. Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay, Palawan
  5. Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose in Mindoro
  6. Archdiocese of Caceres
  7. Archdiocese of Capiz
  8. Archdiocese of Davao
  9. Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
  10. Archdiocese of Lipa
  11. Archdiocese of Manila (Manila Cathedral)
  12. Archdiocese of Ozamiz
  13. Archdiocese of Palo
  14. Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga (the cathedral, selected parishes and universities)
  15. Archdiocese of Zamboanga
  16. Basilica of Our Lady of Charity (Agoo, La Union)
  17. Basilica of Our Lady of Piat (Cagayan)
  18. Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag
  19. Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo Church)
  20. Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church)
  21. Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Salvation  (Tiwi, Albay)
  22. Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Jude Thaddeus (Lucena)
  23. Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. Vincent (Albay)
  24. Diocesan Shrine of Maestra Senora de los Dolores of Turumba (Laguna)
  25. Diocesan Shrine of Mahal na Señor Sto.Cristo de Burgos (Sariaya, Quezon)
  26. Diocesan Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace (EDSA Shrine)
  27. Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Aranzazu (San Mateo, Rizal)
  28. Diocesan Shrine of San Geronimo (Nueva Ecija)
  29. Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph (Cubao)
  30. Diocesan Shrine of St. Peregrine Laziosi (Parañaque)
  31. Diocesan Shrine of Sto. Nino (Butuan)
  32. Diocesan Shrine of the Holy Cross (Catanduanes)
  33. Diocesan Shrine of the Holy Face of Jesus (Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija)
  34. Diocese of Antipolo
  35. Diocese of Bacolod
  36. Diocese of Baguio
  37. Diocese of Balanga
  38. Diocese of Bangued
  39. Diocese of Borongan (all parishes)
  40. Diocese of Cabanatuan
  41. Diocese of Calbayog
  42. Diocese of Cubao
  43. Diocese of Digos
  44. Diocese of Dipolog
  45. Diocese of Gumaca
  46. Diocese of Iba
  47. Diocese of Imus
  48. Diocese of Kalibo
  49. Diocese of Kalookan
  50. Diocese of Laoag
  51. Diocese of Lucena
  52. Diocese of Malaybalay
  53. Diocese of Malolos
  54. Diocese of Mati
  55. Diocese of Novaliches
  56. Diocese of Paranaque
  57. Diocese of Pasig
  58. Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija
  59. Diocese of Sorsogon
  60. Diocese of Surigao
  61. Diocese of Tagum
  62. Diocese of Tarlac
  63. Military Ordinariate of the Philippines
  64. National Shrine and Parish of St. Padre Pio (Batangas)
  65. National Shrine and Parish of the Divine Mercy (Bulacan)
  66. National Shrine of Divine Pastora (Gapan, Nueva Ecija)
  67. National Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Regla (Lapu-Lapu City)
  68. National Shrine of Our Lady of Correa (San Agustin Church, Intramuros)
  69. National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (Cubao)
  70. National Shrine of Our Lady of Namacpacan/ St. Catherine of Alexandria (La Union)
  71. National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows (Dolores, Quezon)
  72. National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church)
  73. National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette (Silang, Cavite)
  74. National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels (Manila)
  75. Prelature of Batanes
  76. Prelature of Isabela de Basilan (all parishes)
  77. Prelature of St. Mary’s in Marawi
  78. St. Paul University Manila
  79. St. Paul University Quezon City
  80. University of Santo Tomas
  81. Ateneo de Manila University
  82. Holy Angel University (Pampanga)

ACN Philippines Establishes First Regional Office in Pangasinan

The Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan has agreed to establish a special committee based in Dagupan, Pangasinan to respond primarily to the call of help coming from an increasing number of Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith.

 

This decision comes after Aid to the Church in Need Philippines had held a Solidarity Congress last June 29 for religious and lay leaders of all parishes and congregations under the Archdiocese. Through the Congress, participants learned about the experiences of Christians undergoing oppression in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria. Meanwhile, Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña, the keynote speaker of the Congress, shared what it was like for a Filipino Christian to feel persecuted as a religious minority in Muslim Mindanao.

 

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas has appointed Fr. Rey V. Romero, parish priest of San Fabian Parish to head the special committee that will initiate spiritual, informational and fund-raising activities for the intention of persecuted Christians.

 

“We will organize our community and continue praying for suffering brethren and even their persecutors. May God strengthen us [in our efforts],” said Fr. Romero.

 

The committee will serve as the regional office of Aid to the Church in Need Philippines, the pontifical foundation that serves the needs of persecuted and suffering Christian communities. The activities that the committee will undertake fall under three main focus areas: prayer, information, and action.

 

During the Solidarity Congress, participants, mostly lay leaders, suggested their own activities under the three areas which they believe will be feasible to implement in their own parishes.

 

Under prayer, the lay leaders have suggested holding different spiritual activities for the sole intention of suffering and persecuted Christians. These included praying a special Angelus, the Holy Hour, the Holy Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

 

Under information, different parishes have volunteered to disseminate news and stories about persecution in order to raise awareness about the issue. These will be published on their respective social media accounts and bulletin boards. Several parishes have also signified their interest in echoing the Congress to their own respective communities so as to get the cooperation of the different parish committees and affiliate organizations under the parish.

 

Finally, under the area of action, participants suggested having a second collection for the intention of the Church in need along with a special donation box for the same intention. Different fund raising activities will also be held which will be initiated by the respective social action ministries of each parish.

 

Fr. Romero’s committee, in cooperation with ACN, will study all of these activities and submit a final proposal to Archbishop Villegas. Once approved, these activities will be implemented by all the parishes in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. The committee aspires that this united effort will serve as the model for all the Archdioceses in the Philippines to follow so that the country may become a compelling voice in upholding religious freedom and in promoting the love of Christ during these troubled times.

 

“Please help them feel that they are not alone. Please make their sufferings our sufferings, and if the Lord has blessed us, let our blessings be their blessings,” pleaded Archbishop Villegas, who also sits as the President of ACN Philippines.

 

By Josemaria Claro, ACN Philippines

 

Oppressed But Not Forgotten: A Solidarity Congress for Persecuted Christians

Aid to the Church in Need’s 1st Diocesan Congress on Persecuted Christians entitled: “Oppressed But Not Forgotten: A Solidarity Congress for Persecuted Christians” held on June 29, 2017 at the Lay Formation Center, Dagupan City. The Congress aims to raise awareness about the situation and experiences of our suffering brothers and sisters in faith who are living in areas of persecution and/or poverty.