28 February 2009

First Sunday of Lent; National Migrants' Sunday, Philippines

Above is the cover of Misyon for September-October 2006 featuring Tony McAvoy, lay chaplain of the Apostleship of the Sea in Teesport in the northeast of England, and Vincent, a Filipino seafarer. Vincent was the ‘poster boy’ of the AOS for their annual appeal in the dioceses of England and Wales in July 2005, when I did some appeals for the Columbans in Westminster and Nottingham.

Fr Arsenio Redulla, a Filipino diocesan priest who worked for a while with the Columbans in Ireland, told me a beautiful story of something that happened about twenty years ago. He was doing mission appeals for the Columbans in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. Waterford is a port city in the south-east of Ireland. Early on a Sunday morning he was driving from the city to a parish outside when he saw a young Filipino man, the only person on the streets, thumbing a lift. Being the only Filipino priest in Ireland at the time Father Arsenio, of course, stopped.

The young Filipino was a seaman whose ship had just docked and he was hoping that someone would help him find a church where he could attend Mass.

I told that story during my homily in a church in Westminster where I saw the poster with Vincent. After Mass a young member of the Royal Navy, a West Indian, approached me and thanked my.

It is persons such as the young seaman in Waterford that Fr Edwin Corros CS, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, has in mind in the statement below for National Migrants’ Sunday, observed in the Philippines every year on the first Sunday of Lent.

As the second reading in the Mass for Ash Wednesday reminded us, ‘So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us’ (2 Cor 5:20).

When I go home to Ireland I inevitably hear from friends about the kindness they found in Filipino nurses, either while they were patients or while visiting someone in hospital. One friend, whose wife died after a long stay in hospital, brought me to meet the nurses who had taken such loving care of her. One of the typically Filipino things they had done was to have a little party on what was to be her last birthday, even though she was totally unaware of it.

Politicians here speak of ‘OFWs’ (Overseas Filipino Workers) as our ‘modern-day heroes’. Very few politicians here care about the people so their words are empty. Some people suggest that those who stay at home with less pay are the real heroes.

Some sacrifice family life totally in order to build a better house for their family and send their children to good schools. But is it worth it? Husbands and wives are separated. Children grow up not knowing one or other parent, sometimes not knowing either, as they are left in the care of grandparents or of uncles and aunts.

OFWs are ambassadors for Christ, says CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) official

MANILA, February 27, 2009─Overseas Filipino workers are not only “modern heroes”, as the government would like to cite them for the money they bring, but in the eyes of the Church, they are ambassadors for Christ.

Fr. Edwin Corros, CS, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) said OFWs are evangelizers in their own right and as such can be regarded as ambassadors for Christ.

“That is a beautiful word to describe the migrants, that they are actually ambassadors for Christ. Imagine, as ambassadors you are carrying with you the values of Jesus,” said Corros, adding:
“Think about the roles of our ambassadors, our diplomatic officials. They carry with them the culture, the values [of their native land]. That is how you are supposed to present yourself to your host. St. Paul as ambassador for Christ, carried with him such responsibility, such value that wherever he goes as a missionary to the gentiles, he presented not himself but Christ,” he explained.

Cited by Pope John Paul II as modern-day missionaries, Filipinos working overseas practiced the Catholic faith in their adoptive country more fervently than in their own native land.
They find solace in their faith in the midst of deprivation, loneliness and exploitation in the workplace.

The 23rd National Migrants Sunday celebration on March 1 has taken the theme “The sacrifices of the Filipino migrants mirror the journey of St. Paul.”

Corros said the chosen theme is very opportune not simply because the Church celebrates Pauline year but that OFWs can relate very well with the Apostle’s own experience of travails and uncertainties.

“Our migrants are sacrificing [a lot] for the sake of their [families’] future. St. Paul always reminded the communities he founded to think of other Christians, other communities who need help,” Corros said.

Despite poverty and difficulties Filipino migrant workers can still think of reaching out to others in need, said Corros

“The Filipinos are very generous; they are always expressing their philanthropic [acts] either in goods or in cash. I remember when a landslide occurred in Quezon in 2004 [and the] province was inundated by flash flood. I called up our chaplain overseas. In a matter of one month I was able to gather I million plus of donation. This is for me a testament to the generosity of our Filipino migrants,” said Corros. (Pinky Barrientos, FSP)

Please pray for all migrants and refugees.

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