Photo: Nestor Buendia
Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, center, with Filipino pilgrims who traveled to the Shrine from Canada.
by Mary Kathryn Volpone
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception hosted the Third Annual Filipino Day on Saturday, June 27, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, rector of the National Shrine, greeted more than 500 pilgrims who arrived in cars and on 10 buses from Canada, New Jersey, New York, and the Boston area. This was a day to celebrate Filipino heritage as well as to reflect upon how God is calling all Filipinos to spread the message of The Divine Mercy.
"No other country in the world has embraced Divine Mercy more wholeheartedly than the Philippines," Fr. Anthony told the crowd. "Is it any wonder that the Marians now have a mission in the Philippines to help the Filipinos continue to spread the message of Divine Mercy throughout Oceania and Asia?"
Pilgrims both young and old gathered at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine where festive music and songs of praise filled the early summer air. They praised the God in whom they've trusted through desperate economic and political times. The message of Divine Mercy has circulated throughout the Philippines since World War II. It is evident in the actions of the Filipino people that the message has provided a foundation of hope in the God who is Love and Mercy.
During one of the presentations, Fran Bourdon, executive director of the Association of Marian Helpers, shared how the first three Marian missionaries left a year ago for the Philippines with practically nothing but the shirts on their backs. They trusted completely in Divine Providence, and the Filipinos responded with deeds of mercy. The Filipino community welcomed these missionaries and provided for their needs. Now Filipinos are uniting with the Marians to strengthen the Catholic Church through Divine Mercy.
"After six months there, we already have our first postulant, Bart Lapus. Please keep him and future vocations in your prayers. Because we have not yet built a House of Formation in the Philippines, Bart will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this August to begin his novitiate year."
Mr. Bourdon detailed the plans for Divine Mercy Hills in Mindanao and the Formation and Spirituality Center in San Mateo north of metro Manila and challenged the audience to seriously reflect upon how God was asking all Filipinos to be part of this mission. "For more than 10 years, the Marian Fathers have had a standing invitation to establish EADM cenacles in the Philippines," he said. "Monsignor Josefino Ramirez refers to these cenacles as the backbone of the Catholic Church in the Philippines today. After the beatification of their founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, in 2008, the Marians felt this was the sign they needed to accept the invitation by Filipino Church officials to establish their Congregation in this nation."
The weather on Filipino Day was a mixed bag. The seasoned veterans of Eden Hill celebrations, many of whom have been coming to the Shrine for 14 years now, were prepared for anything. They pulled out their umbrellas for the occasional rain shower then used them again to shield themselves from the bright sunshine. And those who brought their portable seats and seat cushions were able to get the best viewing possible.
One of the highlights to the day was a raffle drawing of a beautiful statue of The Divine Mercy. When they announced the winner — Zaida Valera from Bronx, N.Y. — the first-time Shrine visitor was pleasantly surprised. The bigger surprise, however, occurred when Zaida returned to her seat. A friend Zaida had lost contact with about eight or nine years earlier, Mercy Dabu, appeared from the crowd. She, too, was at the Shrine for the first time. Zaida had tried unsuccessfully for years to contact her friend after she left the Philippines to come to America and had almost given up hope. "I am only visiting here and will be returning very soon to Quezon City," Zaida said. When she saw Mercy waiting for her, Zaida responded, "I felt our Lord was blessing me! That's why our Lord brought me here."
In this Year for Priests, Fr. Anthony asked God to bless the Philippines with an abundance of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He also reminded the pilgrims how important it is to evangelize their pastors and priests about the message of Divine Mercy. "Win one layperson over with the message of Divine Mercy and you've saved one soul. Win a priest over with the message of Divine Mercy and you could save one million souls."
Learn more about the Marians' mission in the Philippines and how you can help.