Malasiqui, January 2017.
We would like to share with you our missionary experiences as a community, here in Malasiqui, Pangasinan located north of the Luzon Island in the Philippines.
We are doing our pastoral work in two neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Malasiqui city. It is a rural area with rice and corn plantations. In this place there are 5 chapels and we the missionaries together with Dario are supporting the pastoral work in these chapels. These two neighbourhoods are called Alacan and Guilig.
We are trying to strength the communion among the 5 chapels in order to become one community. With this intention we have done several activities, such as: a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Manaoag Sanctuary (patroness of this diocese), a school of evangelization focusing on Mercy and now we will start one deepening on Communion. This year’s theme for the Philippine Church is precisely “The Parish: a community of communities “. On the other hand, we had several retreats, with the children and the youth from our chapels, and also another with the teenagers from the Public High School.
One of the main activities we had during this time was a Christmas Mission with a group of children/teenagers during one whole week, then again in the following week another mission, this time with the youth who had participated in a previous retreat. These missions took place in four areas of our neighbourhoods; these areas are very deprived, families face great poverty, particularly in two of these areas.
The mission involved visiting families, going from house to house, having a time of prayer together and then inviting them to stay for Mass. The Mass was either in front of one of the houses or in one of the streets. We divided ourselves in small groups, and each group would bring with them an image of Our Lady of Manaoag, she was the one who opened our way in each home. The people were all very receptive and so we enjoyed very much these very unique moments of visiting the families and sharing with them the message of Christmas.
For all of us who participated, the children and the youth, and we ourselves, this was a time for us to experience that we might have great difficulty in speaking their language and we might have very little to give, but others have much less than what we have.
We would like to share with you one experience which has meant very much for all of us, and that expresses the true Christmas’ spirit. When the first group visited the homes, one of the groups met an old lady, of more or less 80 years old, who makes her living by fabricating bamboo baskets. This lady told the group that sometimes it happens that she has nothing to eat. As they heard this, the youth group which sung carols every night for a fund-raising, decided by themselves that part of these funds would be spent on a grocery basket for this lady. Therefore, on the last day of the mission we all brought the grocery basket for the old lady and it became a very nice moment. We had decided to go all of us, we sang for her some carols songs and we stayed with her for another short time. The most important part of the missionary
experience is to come near to each person, to meet them face to face, and to experience that they are part of us. We came to realize once again, that it is true that there is more joy in giving than in receiving.
The people in the Philippines are very welcoming and with much faith. They know how to live happily with the little they have and to thank God for the gift of life, they can enjoy life each day, even in the midst of great hardships. This people always have a smile on their face.