19 September 2008

Faith and Light Pilgrimage 2008, Manila

Last Sunday, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I attended the annual pilgrimage of Faith & Light in Manila. Faith & Light grew out of a special international pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1971 after a number of families had been rejected by groups of ‘normal’ people. I’m certain that this rejection was more out of fear of the unknown than anything else, unlike the reaction of some in the USA to the fact that the youngest child of Sarah Palin, Trig, has Down’s Syndrome, or Trisomy 21, as it is often being called now, and that Mrs Palin chose to give birth to Trig rather than abort him. (It seems that ‘pro-choice’ people can tolerate only one choice.) She has spoken of her son as a blessing.

Marie-Hélène Matthieu and Jean Vanier built on the experience of the 1971 pilgrimage to found Faith & Light, a ‘first-cousin’ of the L’Arche movement, which owes its origins to Jean Vanier. L’Arche has residential communities, whereas Faith & Light communities meet together at least once a month.

Faith & Light, though not only for Catholics, has a strong Marian ethos and in each area where there are a number of communities they have a pilgrimage on or near the Birthday of our Blessed Mother. We had ours in Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary of the Archdiocese of Manila. Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, Faith & Life's reference bishop in the Philippines, was the main celebrant at Mass, as he has been in the last few years.

For me, one of the most beautiful things about both L’Arche and Faith & Light is that, while there are many persons involved who are totally dedicated, there is room for person like me who are very much on the fringes. I hoped start a community in Cebu in 1991 but it fizzled out after a couple of years, largely because those organizing it moved to other places. During a three-year stint in Manila from 1994 to 1997 as a Columban vocation director I was chaplain to the community in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. I have been at most of annual pilgrimages since 2003. Below is an article by the current National Coordinator of Faith & Light which I published in Misyon in July-August 2006. Cardinal Rosales is always present. Indeed, last year he was our host at his resident, the Arzobispado in Intramuros, Manila, the oldest part of Spanish Manila.

I’ll come back to F&L in another post.


By Maggie Rivera

The author is the National Coordinator of Faith and Light Philippines. Faith and Light is a movement of communities made up of people with an intellectual disability, surrounded by family members and friends, who meet at least once a month to pray, share and celebrate the friendship of Jesus. There are twelve F&L communities in Metro Manila. http://www.foietlumiere.org/ is the website of Faith and Light International.

Faith and Light Philippines (F&L) is very blessed in having Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, as its reference bishop. In spite of his very busy schedule, he finds time for us. He attends some of our meetings to be with and get to know the members of the community.

Even before becoming our reference bishop, Cardinal Rosales was close to people with mental disabilities. One of his friends is Bololoy, a member of Sampaguita F&L in Mandaluyong. He is about 50 and has Down Syndrome. For years, whenever the Cardinal would visit the Little Sisters of Jesus in Mandaluyong, he’d meet Bololoy, also a friend of the Little Sisters. Last September, they met again on the annual F&L pilgrimage that takes place around the Birthday of Mary. They were able to talk and share ‘high fives.’ When Bololoy was performing during the program I overheard Archbishop Rosales telling a priest beside him, ‘Yan si Bololoy, kaibigan ko yan.’

Maybe the Cardinal also told him about the time he went for lunch to the Little Sisters. Bololoy usually eats with the Sisters, as he considers himself a member of their community, and has his own fixed place at table. When he saw that the Archbishop had sat in this place he whispered to him, ‘Monsignor, your driver wants to talk to you outside.’ When the Archbishop came back he could only laugh when he realized that Bololoy had taken his place. But there was room for everyone.

As Bishop of Malaybalay, Cardinal Rosales attended a retreat in Cebu in October 1991 given by Jean Vanier, the Canadian layman who founded Faith and Light with Marie-Hélène Mathieu.

Our new cardinal agreed to be F&L Philippines’ reference bishop in April 2002. As such he is our overall spiritual shepherd, inspiring all our members, especially our chaplains in their important role, and encouraging other priests to join. He is also called to help facilitate the integration of persons with mental disabilities, with their family members and friends, into the wider Catholic community.

Since 2002 Cardinal Rosales has attended our annual pilgrimage in honor of the Blessed Mother and has been the main celebrant at the Mass. Those in 2002, 2003 and 2004 took place in Sto Tomas, Taal and Sto Tomas again, all in Batangas, Archdiocese of Lipa. As archbishop there from 1992 till 2003, Archbishop Rosales helped choose these venues and got involved in the preparation so that the people of the archdiocese would become more familiar with F&L. Though already Archbishop of Manila he still went to Sto Tomas in September 2004. As Archbishop of Manila he facilitated our having our pilgrimage last year in Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary, Makati City. As always, he found time to eat and mingle with the members of the community, particularly with our special friends and their parents.

Archbishop Rosales met up again with Jean Vanier in Lipa in May 2004 when he gave a retreat for Faith and Light, L’Arche, and other friends of the community.

In October 2004 and October 2005 our reference bishop invited the F&L National Council to his home at the Arzobispado, Manila, where he celebrated Mass with us, had lunch with us and spent the afternoon with us.

Cardinal Rosales is much more than a ‘reference’ bishop. His baptismal name, Gaudencio, comes from the Latin word gaudium, meaning ‘joy,’ ‘delight,’ ‘happiness.’ Particularly to his mga kababayan like Bololoy, he reflects the truth of God’s word in Psalm 149, ‘God takes delight in his people.’

In the cover photo above, then-Archbishop Rosales, shortly after his transfer to Manila, with Tess Villegas during the 2003 pilgrimage to Sto Tomas, Batangas, Archdiocese of Lipa, for which the Cardinal was originally ordained and where he was archbishop for some years.

Above left: Father Rolly Agustin of the Diocese of Parañaque, national chaplain of F&L, with Bololoy, Cardinal Rosales’ friend

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Where can I get in touch with the Faith and Light Community here in the southern part of Metro Manila? I have a friend who lives in Sta. Rosa, though she works in Makati and Batangas, with a daughter who has Down's Syndrome. This would be perfect for her. My e-mail address is tillic1947@yahoo.com.