It was on Easter Sunday of March 31, 1521, when the Eucharist was first celebrated in the Philippines, on the island of Limasawa, Southern Leyte. The Christian faith arrived and prospered in our land, through the dedication and heroic sacrifices of thousands of men and women missionaries from various parts of the world.
Since 2012, the Catholic Church has embarked on a 9-year journey for the New Evangelization to prepare the faithful for the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines with a priority theme each year: Integral Faith Formation (2013), The Laity (2014), The Poor (2015), The Eucharist and the Family (2016), The Parish as a Communication of Communities (2017), The Clergy and Religious (2018), The Youth (2019), and Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue (2020).
With this, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has dedicated 2021 as the Year of “Missio ad Gentes”, the Latin for “mission to the nations”. This theme stresses out that all Christians are “gifted to give” which recalls the mandate of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel “What you have received as a gift, give as a gift” (10:8).
On February 7, 2021, Archdiocese of Manila celebrated its 442nd anniversary of being elevated to a diocese, the first in the country, having under its jurisdiction the entire country which was decreed by Pope Gregory XII. 16 years later, in 1595, Pope Clement VIII raised Manila to an archdiocese. This tells us that the expansion of the Church in the Philippines started from Manila and according to Bishop Broderick Pabillo, it is only appropriate that we open the 500th anniversary of the coming of Christianity in the Philippines on this very day.
With this, our Parish Santuario del Sto. Cristo, along with other parishes under the Archdiocese of Manila has opened this wonderful celebration of our Christianity last February 7, during the 9 o’clock am Mass. Our Parish Priest Fr. Matthias Nga Reh, O.P. has presided the ceremonial giving and wearing of the “Mission Cross” together with the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) and other Parish organizations. During the celebration of the event, the blessing of the Mission Cross took place. Members from the Catechetical ministry has performed the official mission song “We Give Our Yes” by the Archdiocese of Manila, composed by Fr. Carlo Magno Marcelo and sang by the Madrigal Singers, which the parishioners have enthusiastically sang and actively animated along with.
The celebration of the 500 years of Christianity here in the Philippines only proves that no pandemic or tragedies can stop our mission as Catholics to become Jesus’ missionary disciples both at home and beyond our borders.
As one body of Christ, we encourage everyone to be new evangelizers and wear our Mission Cross as a sign of our faith in Jesus, of protection from God, and most importantly, as a badge of our missionary work. Since we treasure the gift of faith we have received, it is now our responsibility to share and pass this gift with others. Let this year be the year that we graciously shout out the Good News of salvation to others and firmly say “YES” to Jesus’ calling to have a generous spirit of service and to have a special care for the poor.