Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as Catholic missionaries

Export Quality Christians

by Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ

San Pedro Bautista, OFM, in taking care of Japanese exiles living in Dilao, Paco, Manila was inspired to set up a center for training missionaries for Japan. Then he himself went to Japan and was martyred. San Ezechiel Montero. OAR, labored in Mindoro, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and Las Pinas. He may have baptized Gen. Miguel Malvar, the last Filipino general to surrender to the Americans Before he died in Spain, he received the professions of several missionaries to the Philippines who later were martyred in the Spanish civil war and were beatified by Pope John Paul II.
One of them, Fr. Leon Ynchausti OAR was the ancestor of Jesuit Manny Perez.

Blessed Diego de Sanvitores S.J., on his way to Philippines, passed by Guam where he saw the rich harvest in Guam. He labored in Mindoro, Marikina Valley and Manila. After several refusals, he was finally missioned to Guam. There he was martyred with Blessed Pedro Calungsod, a layman. When news of their deaths reached the Philippines, there were joyous public celebrations. Later Manila again publicly rejoiced when Fr. Francisco Esquera, S.J. was martyred in Guam. The added reason was that he was from Manila.

San Lorenzo Ruiz, a layman, was martyred in Japan in the company of Dominican martyrs. Jesuits too received the crown of martyrdom in Japan during the same persecutions.

The Philippine Hierarchy established a missionary congregation, the Philippine Mission Society, which recruits and trains diocesan vocations for foreign missions.

Right after ordination an SVD ordinatus is assigned a foreign mission. RVM sisters, Daughters of the Divine Zeal, MSSCs, FMMs and Missionary Sisters of St. Columban, to name a few, can be found in many countries. This is evidence that the Philippine church is coming of age, has become a missioning church. Jesuit scholastics too have been sent to foreign missions. The first was Rodolfo Fernandez who was assigned to Japan. Now they can be found in East Timor, Cambodia, Myanmar, and other places. Notable is scholastic Richard Fernando who gave his life for
disabled Cambodians.

Now too, laymen are foreign missionaries but they have not been missioned. These are the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), thousands of them. They fill empty churches, fill the air with joyous Hontiveros songs, praising God. They are the answer to the prayer of parish priests who have only a few old people left in the parish. They are active in the parish. Many a fallen-away Catholic returns to the faith of their fathers led by a child catechized by a yaya. A Filipina, taking care of children left alone by parents keeping up with the Joneses, shares the essentials of the Faith. The OFWs, who stayed away from churches at home, become fervent Catholics and even become apostles. In christianizing others, they christianize themselves. Ang bagong bayani ng bayan are also bagong bayani ng simbahan.

Their efforts are efficacious, even without training in catechetics. God more than makes up for their shortcoming. God cannot be kept from being with those he loves. He will always find or make the way. The hand of God is not shortened. *

Maids, or domestic helpers in Beirut, Lebanon, walking the dogs of their masters discovered a shrine of our Lady of Lourdes. They made it a frequent place to visit. Not only do they fill empty cold churches, they also people forgotten neglected shrines. Cardinal Sin was able to send many priests to Rome for their annual retreat without spending, since money came from one who had returned to the church because of their children were
practicing the faith. These had been catechized by a maid.

In Philadelphia the OFWs set up novenas on Wednesday. Not to Our Lady of Perpetual Help but to some other Saint. This shows that they were able to adapt. They carried their practices in the same way that the early Jesuits brought to South America through the Atlantic Ocean, and the dangers from Huegenots, their image of the House of Nazareth. In the diocese of Sacramento, California, they got the Bishop to allow the simbang gabi novena. In the grip of wintry cold before dawn, the Bishop celebrated the mass and socialized with the folks as they partook of warm salabat (ginger
tea) and bibingka (rice cakes). At peril of losing their lives, men and women in Muslim countries gathered for the celebration of mass and in sharing communion with those unable to go to the improvised chapels.

Without an missioning ceremonies, the OFWs are Christianizing a dechristianized Europe and Muslim countries. Just as the early church was spread not only by missionaries but by slaves, the same task is being achieved by lowly domestics.

“Send, O Lord of the harvest, more apostles into your church.”

blog: pedrocalungsod.blogspot.com
God bless you and all your efforts. Victor Badillo SJ

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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