Our mission in the Philippines
Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical on missions; “Redemptoris Missio” wrote such words: “The testimony of Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission.”
“The evangelical witness to which the world is more sensitive is paying attention to people and love shown to the poor and the little ones who suffer. ” (R.M., point 42)
So each of us is a missionary in our environment in which we live and fulfill our apostolate.
I am grateful to God that again after a 3-year break, I can serve in missions of our Congregation and Church, this time in the Philippines, in the capital of the country, Manila.
It is a huge city of 20 million people created from the merger of 16 adjacent cities. I think that here, more than anywhere else, you can observe the existing contrasts on various levels.The first is both conspicuous wealth and poverty – often extreme.
You can see beautiful rich houses, shopping malls, skyscrapers and streets like from movies of American districts, and a few kilometers away shantytowns and slums, people living in barracks – huts made of leftovers found in a garbage can, without access to water, electricity and current, in an area that looks like one huge garbage can.
Some families with children live directly on the street or under a tree or bridge or in the cemetery.The second contrast is Filipino Catholicism. On the one hand, over 90 percent of people are Catholics and you can see religiosity outside, e.g. in a supermarket at noon through megaphones the Angelus prayer is conducted, and at 3 p.m. prayer to the Divine Mercy, each motorbike and cars you will find a rosary, almost every house has figurines and religious paintings, and on the other hand, a small percentage of Catholics attend Mass, almost all of them.They receive Holy Communion, and confession is hardly ever said, as evidenced by it no confessions in a typical parish church. LGBT propaganda stayed that way strongly accepted by society that people with a different sexual orientation manifest their otherness completely freely and are not even heard in the church Christian teaching on the subject. Many couples live without getting married and quickly break up, creating new relationships. And in civil law, divorce is not granted, only one can apply for marriage annulment. The abortion law is also restrictive, i.e. a total ban. Until some 15 years ago, the Philippines was full of priestly and religious vocations, and nowadays there is a huge vocational crisis. A lot of religious congregations – especially there are no completely new pleasures for women, and what is worse, many Filipino sisters are leaving religious life.Unfortunately, our Congregation also has not yet lived to see local slowdowns, though strenuous prayers and participation in numerous vocational activities on various islands of the country. We are currently waiting for the arrival of candidate Rachel, who is unable to travel due to the pandemic. Our sisters here in Manila have undertaken various missions and apostolates as a center tutorial for girls, kindergarten, catechesis at school and other activities for the benefit of the local society. When I joined the community two years ago, sister Martyna introduced me to for several years she has been carrying out an apostolate in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Manila – Payatas, just a few kilometers from our home.
It is a trash district where rubbish is brought from all over the city and a large proportion of the people living in the city, segregates rubbish in conditions that degrade people dignity, too meager, the lowest wage, enough for a little rice for the family. That is why in this district a large number of people, especially children, are malnourished, which results in high mortality – especially in children. For this reason, the sisters considered it right to start the so-called feeding programs for children,which is also run by the parish under which this poor area inhabited by 100 people. Using the experience of the local parish, we first choose the place where it is most poor families with children, often it is an ordinary square or chapel area, we visit these families, at the same time enrolling children in the program, it is a group of up to 50 children – depending on the funds obtained for a given program. Every day from mothers of these children prepare a warm, nutritious meal from Monday to Friday fruits, thus learning how to properly nourish these children, and we coordinate this work and give the children vitamins. Such programs also include, in addition to the meal, which is the main focus, also educational activities for children and catechesis. We first conduct a prayer with the children, often sung, then a short catechesis on a selected topic, and then educational activities depending on the age of children: pre-school, school, learning English. Children eagerly participate in the activities, because it is a time for them, where they are surrounded by care, attention and love that they often don’t have in the family. Mothers also help us with organization of classes and meals. Such a program lasts 6 months, then we look for a nother places to look after and help as many families as possible. Through close contact with children, we also get to know their families and problems by visiting often their homes. This is an opportunity to come to the rescue as far as possible specific, difficult situation. It is often help with getting medicine or getting to hospital.Sister Barbara was very moved by the conditions in which these families often live -wet, dirty barracks, without water and light, with a group of small children, she collected from her own friends some money and managed to buy 3 houses for 3 families with children. Now that we visit these families you can see a big difference in the lives of these families. They hope for a better future, they also try to take care of the family more, children go to school, they are there clean and tidy, the house becomes beautiful and the joy of guests is on their faces. We collect funds for this apostolate from benefactors from Poland, Germany and other countries and church organizations. Every Saturday we organize meetings for children from the neighborhood at our house.The Main goal is to teach children Christian values, catechesis and spending profitable and joyful time. About 50 children come, sometimes more.
We are assisted in these activities by the vicar priest from our parish, who leads catechesis in .local language – Tagalog. Children have a multimedia presentation and drawing classes connected with catechesis, then various games and activities, and finally a modest, warm meal, without which in the Philippines it is impossible to conduct a successful meeting. We also provide assistance in education to a small group of high school youth, leading the so-called scholarship (something like a scholarship). They are the poorest youth from the area families. In return for this help, they volunteer during Saturday meetings with children and help with various housework. They have also been provided by us for spiritual formation. The current time of the pandemic has forced us to limit our external action, but I trust that everything is in God’s Hands and that everything will soon be back to normal. Through prayer and sacrifice, as Jesus teaches us, we can sometimes do more than with our hands. May God be glorified in everything! Please pray for the missions, including those in the Philippines, that we can continue here in the Philippines and God grant to other Asia countries the missionary work of Koscius and our Congregation.
With greetings and prayer for all mission friends
Sr. Klaudia Olejniczak