An Eight Month Popular Mission Preached on a remote Island in Southern Philippines

0
290

The Mission team of the Redemptorist Community of Legaspi in the south of the Philippines at the foothills of the Mayon volcano preached an Eight Month Popular Mission in the true Redemptorist tradition of St. Alphonsus and Blessed Sarnelli.

The Eight-month long mission was carefully planned at the invitation of the Parish Priest. The People, comprising of about 30 families from each of the 6 zones of the Island of Tagnagan welcomed the mission team who lived on the island with the people sharing their humble dwellings and their life. The team comprised of a couple of Redemptorists from the Legaspi community, two Redemptorist postulants, and three Redemptorist Lay missionaries. The Redemptorist RYM team would make periodic visits from the mainland to the island to accompany the team. 

The Mission entailed visiting and sharing the life of the people so as to understand their life situation. They would have had mass only once in 4 to 6 months, and even though there is a simple but beautiful chapel in the heart of the island, the people lacked the pastoral care of the Church. The people belong to two communities. One a fishing community that earns its livelihood on fishing using traditional fishing methods in small boats. The second is an agricultural community that earns its livelihood by growing rice. Both communities are hardworking and industrious but since they live on an island which is not connected to the mainland with a bridge, they have to brave the weather, the lack of facilities, higher education, electricity, and the normal means of living. Life is simple and basic and yet filled with challenges including that of the fear of the people losing their land due to the encroachment of big hotels who seek to invest and build resorts without compensating the people. 

Photos by: Redemptorist Legazpi Media and Communications Team 

I was very touched and moved by the enthusiasm of our Redemptorist confreres and lay missionaries who spent time with the people, sharing their lives, listening to their stories, ploughing their fields with them and fishing with them. They gradually won the people by gathering them for prayer, devotions, and catechesis, established the Basic Christian Communities, a youth group, and a children’s group, choose and trained leaders and catechists from among the people, conducted training sessions, catechesis for First Communion and Conformation and the sacrament of matrimony and organized mass/community weddings on the island. At the end of the mission, the Lay leaders and the Catechists were commissioned during the closing Eucharist; they pledged to continue the regular catechesis, prayer services and devotions in the chapel and in the communities. The Parish Priest himself was present at the closing Eucharist and profusely thanked the Redemptorist Mission team for the amazing revival that they have done through the 8-month mission on the island of Tagnagan. He hoped that the Redemptorist community would take up another such mission in another part of his very large parish for another group of abandoned people. One of the devotions begun for the people on the island was the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The Redemptorist Mission team had carried the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and it rested in the Chapel for the duration of the 8 months, and each Wednesday, the novena devotions were conducted with much fervour. Leaving the island at the end of the mission, the Redemptorist Vice Provincial, Fr Raymond Urizza, C.Ss.R., gifted the people a copy of the Icon for their Church with the lay leaders gratefully accepting and pledged to continue the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help each Wednesday. 

At the end of the Eucharist the people expressed their thanks to the Redemptorist Mission team as the lay leaders came up to speak. There was a dry eye among the people as the people were weeping with emotions of gratitude for the way the Redemptorist Missionaries had touched their hearts and lives. I myself was moved with both pride and joy at the amazing work of my Redemptorist confreres and lay partners on a mission. The work of the 3 lay missionaries was absolutely outstanding as they connected with the people, the youth, the children, with men and women of all ages that the people took them as their very own. The teamwork of the Redemptorist Mission team, the confreres, the postulants, and the lay missionaries, along with the Redemptorist Youth Ministry, was a marvellous testimony to the power of the Gospel proclaimed as a Community. 

At the end of the Eucharist, there was a community meal cooked by the people themselves in celebration. Around 500 people from the 6 communities participated. Following the meal, there was a procession with the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help through the Island to the boat to hand over the Icon to the Redemptorists and the Mission team, who bid farewell to the people as they boarded the boat back to the mainland. It was a tearful farewell as the people stayed long on the shore watching the boat with the Redemptorist Mission team return to the mainland, but their hearts filled with the joy of the Lord and with renewed grace and enthusiasm to continue to live the mission in their own lives on the Island. 

I was fortunate and blessed to be part of the close of the mission in Tagnagan, and I congratulate Fr Roel and his team of missionaries. Redemptorist Popular Mission for the abandoned is alive and active in the Vice Province of Manila as Our Confreres, formandi, and Lay Missionaries strive to be Missionaries of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer.

Joseph Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R.
General Consultor

Grace-filled…

Taking part in the mission of Christ is indeed a grace-filled event, not only for the people in the mission area but also for the mission team.

It was a meaningful eight-month mission in Barangay Tanagan, Bacacay, Albay, Philippines. It is a response to the Lord’s invitation to renewal. The desire of the parish priest, Fr. Sotero Ubalde III, to deepen the Christian community’s understanding of their faith and life as a community, has paved the way for this mission. The Synodal Mission began in September 2023 and ended in April 2024. Members of the Redemptorist Legazpi Community, lay missionaries, and seminarians compose the mission team. Six zones and one sitio have formed within the church, recognizing, and strengthening their unity to face any challenges that may come their way.

Indeed, it is not easy to start the mission, but as days and months pass, the grace of the mission has flowed to those we encounter, the homes we visit, the sick we anointed, and the people who receive us not as strangers but as friends, family, and fellow travelers. Just like the rice planted in the fields of this community, the Synodal Mission has gone through various stages, starting with tilling the fertile soil. Similarly, the Church in this community, with its wealth of faith already present in their hearts, only needs to be cultivated and prepared for the next stage—planting the seeds. Each heart is planted by the Lord with His words and love, which, as the mission continues, are deepened, and nurtured to sprout and grow once again. It’s not easy; there are trials and challenges that bring questions, doubts, and even fear. But in the end, there is still a gradual rise, not only for individuals but for all. Ultimately, what will be harvested are hearts drawn closer to the Lord and those who have been open to receiving Him. It is an offering to God and a return to Him of this grace.

Despite the blessings we have received from the presence of the Synodal Mission in this community, it is important to offer all the joy, friendships, and success to the reason why we have them: the Lord. From Him flow plentiful redemption, mercy, and love, which are the true reasons why there is a mission. Jesus is the one who broke open the ground in our hearts, planted the word and love, and who rightly harvests our hearts.

In the end, and in our renewed journey, only one thing remains and is held onto. It is the people in the community who will continue this. As a Church, each one will become a missionary for their neighbors, friends, siblings, and families. The mission that originated with God will return to God. And our offering is our life as a new community that is strengthened and deepened by unity and continuous appreciation of grace.

Fr. Roel S. Gutierrez, CSsR.