Exhorting the participants to become the missionaries of compassion, the four day long pilgrimage-congress with the theme “Icon of Compassion” was inaugurated at the national shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Baclaran, Manila in Philippines. After a colorful dance in front of the shrine honouring Our Lady, prepared by the local youth, there was a solemn precession to the church followed by the opening Eucharist at 8.00 a.m. presided by the Redemptorist Bishop Most Rev. Emmanuel Cabajar and concelebrated by the Superior General Fr. Michael Brehl, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Surigao Most Rev. Ireneo Amantillo CSsR and confreres from different parts of the world as delegates.
Excluding the delagates from other countries, there are almost 400 participants in the Pilgrimage-Congress, from different parts of the Philippines who came to the shrine to honour our Mother of Perpetual Help. The first day’s sessions were animated by Fr. Carlos Ronquillo, CSsR (The year of Mercy and the 150th Jubilee of OMPH), Fr. Dmytro Dnistrian, CSsR (The Eastern Catholic Tradition and the OMPH Icon), Fr. Amado Picardal, CSsR (Devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines: Phenomenological Perspective), and Sr. Miriam Alejandrino, OSB (Mariology in the Jubilee Year: Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the 21st Centuary). Followed by each presentation of the topic there were short group discussions and participants were encouraged to ask questions. There were also animated cultural programmes after every session to help the pilgrims to relax and to be entertained.
Probably being the only church in Philippines that is opened for the public 24×7, the national shrine of Baclaran stands out as a place of spirtual solace that consoles people from around the country and also serves as a platform for serious social ministries amidst the political turmoil and the changing scenario of the culture of violence. Something special about this shrine is that anyone who comes for the first time could feel at home and and we can see that people take take the devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help home with them.
During the sessions the participats were reminded not only to celebrate the 150 years of the Icon with the Redemptorists, but also to continue to make her known amid the challenges of our fast-paced world. Our Mother of Perpetual Help calls us to be more action oriented than just being pious and ordinary devotees. The Icon of Mother of Perpetual Help is not only and Icon of Love, but also an Icon of Mercy and Compassion.
Biju Madathikunnl, CSsR