Redemptorist Popular Mission in Calandagan, Philippines (2)
In 1866, Pope Pius IX bestowed the icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help to the members of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, along with the command: “Make her known to everyone.” Since then, the Redemptorists, wherever they are, have always been eager to find ways to introduce our Mother under the title of Mother of Perpetual Help to everyone. Discussing the history of the icon means talking about the Redemptorists because their histories are intertwined and connected. The Popular Mission is an extremely convenient and suitable occasion to promote the love for the Mother of Perpetual Help.
Upon our arrival in Calandagan, we first placed the icon in the chapel dedicated to St. Joseph. This chapel is located in Purok 4. Father Mark shared a thought during his sermon that resonated with me: “On the left side of the sanctuary, we have the statue of St. Joseph, and now on the right side, we have the icon of Mother Mary carrying Baby Jesus. Thus, the Holy Family is complete.”
I want to mention a small detail here, not necessarily a miracle, but something that touched me with reverence. Our icon is originally one of the 150 icons blessed by Pope Francis on the occasion of the Congregation’s 150th anniversary of receiving the mission to introduce the Mother of Perpetual Help to people everywhere. During our sea journey from Araceli to Calandagan, the glass in front of the icon became slightly moist on the inside. However, we were surprised to find that the glass covering the face of Mother Mary remained dry, without any moisture clinging to it. This phenomenon lasted for quite a while, from the moment our boat arrived, throughout the procession around the island, and during the entire opening Mass. The countenance of Mother Mary remained radiant, manifesting herself to her children.
The next morning, we visited various families and invited them to attend the evening program promoting the icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help. The program began with a dance song celebrating the 400-year jubilee of the announcement of the Good News in the diocese of Taytay and Palawan. Then, a short video introducing the history of the icon was presented. This professionally and captivatingly produced video was created by the media office of the Manila Vice-Province. Sister Leny spoke about the significance of the details in the icon, and Kya Loy, a lay missionary, guided the community in praying the Novena in honor of Mother Mary. While these activities were taking place, Father Jose sat in the confessional to hear the confessions of penitents. Once the Novena concluded, we proceeded with the Holy Mass, followed by the procession of the Blessed Mother to visit other communities.
The program during the week of visitation and promotion of the love for Mother Mary followed the same pattern every day. Regarding the explanation of the significance of the details in the icon, Brother Jeric, Sister Leny, and Brother Kloy, lay volunteers, took turns presenting them. Instead of the usual blessing, we handed out copies of the Mother of Perpetual Help icon to the families, inviting them to approach the icon and place the photo on it, then offer prayers. The people were deeply devoted and wholeheartedly engaged in this act of love. Some shed tears, while others used their handkerchiefs to wipe the icon.
In other smaller communities of Calandagan village (purok in Tagalog), where there were no chapels, the people erected temporary prayer stations in their neighborhoods, covering them with tarpaulins. The villagers stayed awake all night beside the icon and, in the early morning, recited the Rosary together. They exhibited true virtue and enthusiasm.
Two sisters from the Congregation of Missionaries of Our Lady of Perpetual Help instructed the people on how to pray the Novena in honor of the Mother of Perpetual Help. This allowed the lay faithful to conduct the novena on their own or with the community, without necessarily requiring the presence of a priest or religious brother or sister.
When promoting the devotion to the icon, we spread the love and devotion to the Blessed Mother, who is always there to help us. By doing so, the members of our group are also nourished with love for the Mother. Bearing witness to her is a way to express that love. May we grow in the loving care of our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Duc Trung Vu, CSsR