Evangelization-A Christian Duty and Calling: The Role of Filipino Catholics
It’s been eight years now after the launching of the 9-year “spiritual journey” focusing on faith, evangelization and discipleship which started in October 2012 and will end on March 16, 2021. The said journey is called the “New Era of Evangelization” where Filipino Catholics are being challenged and encouraged not only to educate, promote and effectively spread God’s word to the people within their community but likewise to practice what they teach about the faith, wherever they may be.
But for us Filipino Catholics, the said spiritual journey is a great preparation for a timely and opportune event particularly on the 9th year wherein the Philippine Catholic Church will commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the coming of Christianity to our homeland. Indeed, this journey to great jubilee of 2021 is a grace-filled event of blessings for all of us, both in the Philippines and abroad. With the Covid-19 pandemic still in our midst, however, the said quincetennial celebration which culmination was initially set in April 2021 has been moved for another year in April 2022.
It will be recalled that Pope Francis, during his visit to the Philippines early 2015, addressed the Filipinos to serve as “outstanding missionaries of the faith” specifically in Asia. The Holy Father stated that Filipinos should continue working together for a common goal to achieve a “world of justice, integrity and peace”, starting from their circle of influence in their respective families and communities. As mentioned by the Holy Father, teaching/spreading the good news is “both a special blessing and a vocation.”
Few days ago, Pope Francis called for everyone to “take a step forward” in carrying out the Church’s mission of evangelization in a preface to a book “Symphony of Ministries: A renewed presence of laity in the Church,” written by Bishop Fabio Fabene. The Holy Father cited that the “mission of the laity is not a privilege of a few and it involves total dedication”. And such mission should be undertaken by everyone now, for the world is in dire need of it right away.
This call for evangelization from the Church hierarchy simply reiterates and reminds us of our duties and responsibilities as followers of Christ. Based on the Scriptures, our Lord God commissioned all His followers to evangelize, to wit: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Mt 28: 19-2. Our Lord Jesus wants us to evangelize so everyone would know that He is present in all of us and that as our Lord and Savior, He wants us to know that salvation is possible and available for everyone even those who have sinned against Him but have repented and are willing to be saved.
As mentioned in my previous blog articles, the corona virus pandemic is a spiritual challenge for us all, to grow in our love for God and love for our neighbors. It stopped us from doing the things that we have been comfortable with in every facets of our lives. It reminds and tells us to deepen our faith and relationship with our Lord God. We have observed and seen some of us on the internet calling for God’s intervention for some of our friends who have been affected by this virus. We have learned to share with them some of the prayers which provided them relief and comfort which serves as healthy spiritual aids. The internet and the high technology are tools which can help us respond to the call to perform our Christian duty to spread God’s word to others.
As we all know, Filipino Catholics are found in almost all parts of the globe and they are known for their fervent love of God and pious devotions. Thus, it is not surprising if Filipinos are called faith missionaries and are utilized as instruments of the new evangelization. We see Filipinos actively visible and involved in parish communities abroad participating in church related activities. Some of us have served as religion teachers, catechists, lectors and are even responsible for providing liturgical music for the Holy Mass. We also introduce and share with the international community our culture and traditions and our unique way of expressing our faith, particularly our devotions to the Blessed Mother.
In the Philippines, there are about 85 million (out of 100+ million) Filipino Catholics but not all of them are churchgoers. Only about 13 million go to Church while the remaining 72 million are labeled as “Unchurched” Catholics (The data is based on a slide show presentation of the officiating priest as part of his homily on the subject). If only these “Unchurched Catholics”, including some of the so-called millenials who have seemingly drifted away from the Church and likewise those in the grassroots community who have not had the chance to receive at least the basics of Catholic Christian doctrine are transformed and are drawn to these faith communities, the Church would be able to achieve its goals of new evangelization, having a Christian community that maintains a culture of love and discipleship and a community that shares wealth and responsibilities with the view of transforming and changing its people and the country in the long run.
In the United States, Filipino Americans are the second Asian immigrants in the U.S. based on the study conducted by Pew Research Center. There are approximately 3.4 million (excluding the one million estimate for undocumented) Filipinos who are residing in the U.S. And out of the total Filipino Americans, Filipino Catholics account for a measly 2.6% of the U.S. Catholics.
While there are only few Filipino Catholics in the U.S., the Filipino Apostolate however is widely dispersed in all parts of the U.S. and is one of the active faith-based organizations in the country. In the tri-State area alone (NYC, New Jersey and Connecticut), there are many religious affiliations and church based organizations where Filipinos are actively involved with and these are some ways of effectively spreading their faith culture to others.
Apart from being visible in Church communities, Filipino Catholics in the U.S. are making waves due to their contributions in their respective parishes’ religious related activities. Due to their deep and great faith, Filipino Catholics abroad have successfully introduced their way of Christian life and these are welcomed by other nationalities. Some of these activities are manifested via celebrations of Advent (Simbang Gabi), Lent, Easter and even fiesta celebrations honoring the feast of Santo Nino, Our Lady of Manaoag, Sts. Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, and some patron saints in their homelands and other significant Church events. As a matter of fact, a statue or wooden image of our Filipino Saints are enshrined in some of the Churches in the U.S. which serves as reminders to Filipinos of their religious roots and identity.
Bible studies are also being conducted with the priest leading the group. Said Bible study gatherings and sharing of experiences help in one way or another in the effort of the Church to imbibe the teachings of Jesus Christ to those who participate and listen to it and be able to reflect on it with the end view of sharing what they’ve learned to others too.
Without a doubt, the duty of evangelization is not an easy thing to do. It would require our strong commitment and renewed investment of our 3T’s (time, talent and treasure) with the assistance of all concerned stakeholders to ensure that we remain true instruments of the New Evangelization. We can’t do it alone. We need guidance from the Holy Spirit and the inspiration from the Blessed Mother to keep us going and not falter in our Christian duties and ultimately in our quest for holiness.
She is so grateful. She has been given the opportunity to do it. And it was fulfilling and so far, it is one of the greatest achievements of her life! And evangelization (spreading God’s word ) is still and remains a commitment from her side.
With the foregoing, we humbly pray to our Lady, Mary Mother of Our Lord, to lead us all in our desire to respond to God’s command to effectively and properly communicate the joy of faith and the Good News, in line with His teachings. Amen.