Vatluru – In the diocese of Eluru, the closing of the year of faith was officially celebrated by the Bishops of the dioceses of Eluru and Warangal in Nirmalagiri, the famous Marian shrine on November 15th. The year of faith officially ended at Sacred Heart Church on the Solemnity of Christ the King. Fr. Bosco Rajendra, Chancellor of the Diocese, was the main celebrant. The brothers from DGMS for the immediate preparation for their Perpetual Vows were also present for the Holy Mass. After the gospel they and the parish children performed a skit based on the theme of faith, visualizing the life of Abraham, Mary and St. Louis Guanella. With candles in their hands the people recited the Creed faithfully. The seminarians were honored at the end of the mass.
The first pilgrimage was on May 29th. The residents, staffs and volunteers of Guanella Home joined Fr. Charlton Viray, staff of the Guanella Center, and other members of the Guanellian community on a journey to the province of Bulacan for the Year of Faith pilgrimage. They left at around nine o’clock in the morning traveling first to Our Lady of Guadalupe. There they prayed the rosary and enjoyed lunch. The next church they visited was Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Barasoain Church, famous for being the Philippines’ most important religious building. Here they finished praying the rosary. The day ended with their return to the Servants of Charity compound around five. The day-long event allowed everyone to come in closer contact with God, more time to pray. As Maria Luisa Sumaoang, Guanella Home volunteer, said, “Have faith!”
On June 29th, the group again went on pilgrimage for the Year of Faith to intensify their relationship with God. The pilgrimage began with a mass at the Servants of Charity compound presided by Fr. Vincent Selveraj. Their first destinations were churches in the province of Bulacan. The first stop was the Divine Mercy Shrine, the second Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish or Barasoain Church, and finally the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception or Malolos Cathedral. Lunch followed to reenergize the faithful as the whole day event continued. They travelled next to the province of Pampanga to see the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando City, San Guillermo Parish Church, the Parish Church of St. James the Apostle (or Betis Church), and the Immaculate Conception Church in Guagua. The Rosary was prayed in each church to deepen each one’s desire to be more faithful. Personal reflections by the seminarians and lay cooperators also helped to intensify the atmosphere of prayer. The pilgrims returned to the Servants of Charity compound around eight that evening.
According to Fr. Charlton Viray, the Year of Faith pilgrimages were conducted as directed by the Generalate and also by the parish where the Guanellian community is located. The pilgrimages were done in the hope of renewing and deepening the faith of the Guanellian community.
On New Year’s morning, a priest and his catechist were going through the busy streets of a big city to celebrate Mass in a church attached to his parish. Since he was diabetic, suddenly he got exhausted and stood before a tea-shop to take a cup of tea with some snacks. In front of the tea-shop was a person with developmental disabilities sitting on a heap of waste with a few bags of rags and waste papers around him. He was seated all alone laughing and talking to himself. The priest had pity on him and wanted to offer him a cup of tea. He asked the catechist to buy a cup of tea and offer it to him. The catechist was afraid that person would react violently. So, he first approached him and asked him if he would take a cup of tea. The person with developmental disabilities nodded his head and the catechist gave him a cup of tea. The priest had all the more sympathy and he bought two ‘buns’ and approached him. The man got up and looked into the face of the priest and asked the priest with concern, “Did you eat?” He continued, “You are tired.” He received the two ‘buns’, took one and returned the other to the priest and said, “You take this.” These three sentences with three words each and the grace-filled eyes on the dirt-covered face of the “mad man” touched the priest and disturbed him very much that day. In his sermon, he narrated this story and said, “even if there is no one in this world to be worried about my welfare and concern, God will send a person with disabilities to inquire about my health and well-being and would tell me that he is concerned for me’. The man in rags and dirt, with developmental disabilities, was a source of blessing for the priest because he offered the “God-experience” to the priest.
The Hebrew word for blessing is “barak” or “berakah” which means to kneel down. A blessing is to bring a gift to another on bended knee. When we say, “be a blessing”, it means make a gift of oneself to the other. A gift is the symbol of a love relationship, a symbol of peace, respect and recognition. In this offering, the other experiences the concern and love of the parent God. For persons vowed to live in community and fellowship, there is no other way to experience “God” except in the self-gift of one to the other. Only those who can kneel (in humility), those who can offer themselves (as a sacrifice), those who esteem and honor others (in relationship) can be a blessing to others. Our holy founder St. Louis Guanella said, “God’s grace and blessing must be the whole treasure of our hearts”.
The New Year, 2013 is now here with newness, dreams, visions and reality; a time for us to become blessings for others. In the religious context God-centered, other-centered outlook, bless what’s good and beautiful; we can even throw away the negative experience of our “egoism” because God does not keep a record of our failures. God has given to us a blank check with his signature and it is up to us to write the amount of forgiveness, compassion and God’s love. Our Blessed Mother, in this Year of Faith, is the best example- her “Divine Motherhood” is the source of every blessing and a sign of God’s love.
Saigon – The Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh invited the youth to inaugurate the Year of Faith. Almost 2,000 young people gathered at Xom Thuoc Parish with Rev. Bishop Phaolo Nguyen Van Doc, of My Tho Diocese, presiding. Each parish presented a skit based on the theme ‘FAITH.’ At the request of the parish priest, Fr. Truong, Fr. Felicks directed a skit. Fr. Felicks, the brothers and parish youth decided to enact the life story of St. Andre Phu Yen, first martyr in Vietnam, who was canonized by Blessed John Paul II. Bishop Phaolo appreciated the skit which revealed the faith of early Christians in Vietnam, and encouraged the audience to strengthen their faith. Though the persecution is over, we are still faced with the temptations of modern society luring us away from our faith. This gathering proclaimed that only faith in Christ can bring miracles and salvation into our lives. It was not only a youth gathering, but a gathering of the Christian faith in Vietnam.