05 January 2009

Holy Family Home: A Safe haven

The January-February issue of Misyon, which I edit, went online today.

My fellow-Columban, Fr Gary Walker, (on the left in the photo above) who edits The Far East, the magazine if the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand, visited Bacolod last May. As I do with every visitor I have, I brought him to visit Holy Family Home on the outskirts of the city where I’ve been going regularly for six years now and where I’ve become an unofficial chaplain to the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family who run it and to the girls who live there.

Father Gary wrote an article after his visit, A Safe Haven, which is in the new issue of Misyon.

Many of the girls come from very broken backgrounds but experience genuine love, care and Christian joy. They themselves help bring the healing love of Jesus to one another.

In our July-August 2008 issue we had an article by a young university student who is living there, Richelle Verdeprado. She has been involved in campus journalism since elementary school. You can read her article, ‘A Child Redeemed is a Generation Saved’ here. Every one who visits Holy Family Home reads that motto on the gate.

One thing that makes me particularly happy is that the girls know me first of all as a priest. Some of them remind me from time to time that it’s time to hear their confessions again. I usually celebrate Mass there on Sunday, though I’ve no commitment to do so, and I normally celebrate Mass with the Sisters on Monday morning, the one weekday when there’s no Mass in the chapel across the road from where I live.

But the girls also see me as a father/grandfather figure and like me to be there for their social events. The Sisters invited me for the noche buena, Spanish for ‘good night’, though very different in meaning from buenas noches, ‘goodnight’. The noche buena is the traditional family meal after the Christmas Midnight Mass, which in most places in the Philippines is now celebrated earlier. In our chapel it was at 8:30pm and I used the prayers of the Vigil Mass, the first of four different Masses that may be used at Christmas. However, as allowed, I used the readings from the Midnight Mass.

The Sisters and the girls in Holy Family Home attended a later Mass at the monastery of the Augustinian Recollect Nuns, contemplatives. After our Mass I joined a local family for their noche buena before going to Holy Family Home. After a simple meal the girls opened their Christmas gifts with squeals of delight. In every case they were clothes, received with gratitude.

Please keep the Sisters and the girls at Holy Family Home in your prayers. The Sisters live a simple, prayerful, Franciscan life and are attracting young women. On 8 December four made their first profession. There are more novices preparing for their vows, with eight or nine postulants and a similar number of aspirants behind them. The Sisters came to the Philippines as recently as 1982.Usually on the first Saturday of the month they have two hours of prayer for vocations to their way of lifebefore the Blessed Sacrament exposed. God is clearly responding to their prayers.

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