According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are now some 6 million Filipinos in 149 countries of the world. With this great migration of Filipinos abroad in search of work, they have brought the Perpetual Help devotion with them to other lands.
Many Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East and elsewhere endure privations, both mateｬrial and spiritual. An increasing number of letters of petition and thanksgiving are being received at Baclaran Church from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Consequently, their pastoral needs are becoming one of the new concerns of the shrine. In fact, it is not uncommon to see people with tape recorders taping the novena and sermons to send to their loved ones abroad.
Because of the negative impact of migration and working overseas to family life which gave rise to cases like infidelity, adultery, absentee parents, drug addiction among youngsters, the Shrine community expanded the St. Gerard Family Life Counseling Center by setting up a separate counseling center for overseas Filipino worker’s families. It is named after St. John Neumann, one of the Redemptorist saint who was a migrant to the United States in the last century.
Filipino Migrants Spread Devotion to Many Countries
In some parishes in Canada and the U.S., the Filipinos have become the mainstay of their local parish or have helped to start a parish. It is they who keep the Perpetual Novena alive. According to a Redemptorist who studied in Chicago, a Filipino group there did not feel at home with the format of the novena in the Redemptorist church so they looked for another church where they could have it following the Baclaran format. In the New York area, Fr. Bernabe Sison works in a parish with hardly any Filipino church goers. When he introduced the Perpetual Help Novena, Filipinos from other parishes started coming regularly every Wednesday! Now other parishes are following suit.
Even in Rome where the original icon is found, the so-called Perpetual Novena was not worth mentioning until ten years ago when migrant Filipinos began to hold a weekly novena on Sundays and Thursday afternoons. On Sundays, the Mass is preceded with a novena for those who cannot come during the week due to their work. The other day for the novena is Thursday because that is the day when domestics have a half day off. And since the novena is said in English, it attracts people of other nationalities including Indians, Sri Lankans, Irish, Americans, etc. Lately, Perpetual Novena sessions have been started also in Italian on Tuesdays and in Polish on Wednesdays.