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!”