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Photo: Chris Sparks
The Faith of Filipinos
Oceans of Mercy Prayer Community lent their beautiful voices.
Brother Christopher, MIC, gives thumbs up to his own Filipino heritage.
“I welcome you, all you pilgrims who are coming from faraway places to have your devotion here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy,” said homilist and lead celebrant Fr. Roy Regaspi.
By Chris Sparks (Jun 30, 2014)
More than 300 pilgrims came to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., on Saturday, June 28, the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to celebrate Divine Mercy, honor Mary, and share the rich Filipino heritage of Catholic faith and family.
"I welcome you, all you pilgrims who are coming from faraway places to have your devotion here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy," said homilist and lead celebrant Fr. Roy Regaspi, parochial vicar at St. Joseph's Parish in Oradell-New Milford, N.J., during the Filipino Heritage Day Mass. "Most of you are waiting for a long time for this day."
The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy has hosted Filipino Heritage day on the last Saturday of June for more than 10 years now. Organized by priests and laity involved in the Filipino Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the event is open to all pilgrims.
"We are happy to be here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy," said Fr. Roy. "We are asking the Lord to grace us from the very special occasion ... as we call to mind our sins, let us ask the Lord for pardon and strength, that we may receive the fullness of His mercy."
Throughout the Mass held at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, concelebrated with Fr. Roy by Monsignor Jeremias "Jerry" Rebanal and Fr. Peter Aquino from the Archdiocese of Newark and Fr. Robert Vennetti, MIC, the hymns and prayers alternated between English and Tagalog, but they were always sung or prayed with great fervor and reverence, the love of the faithful responding to the love of the Lord Jesus. Father Roy's homily focused on that love between God and humanity and the self-sacrifice that it represents.
"Jesus Christ suffered for us, but are we aware that Jesus Christ loves us, too?" asked Fr. Roy. He compared the relationship between God and believers to a long marriage between a husband and a wife. "If a husband and wife celebrate their anniversary, they should be aware it is full of commitment, of compassion, and especially of the mercy with others throughout these years."
"We should be aware that God the Father loves us so much that He gave us His only Son to redeem us from our sins," he continued. "He guided the Israelites out from the slavery of Egypt, from sin, and they were brought to the Promised Land. There was a sacrifice. Jesus Christ and God the Father have seen that His people, the Israelites, were suffering. We are aware of our suffering, but we should always be aware also of the love of God for us."
"Sometimes we are only aware of this love that we give to our brothers to our sisters, to our parents, but if we are aware of their sacrifices also, of their sufferings, then we will be aware of this generosity of heart," Fr. Roy said.
The celebration included a picnic lunch, free time to walk and pray the life-sized Stations of the Cross, as well as the other places of prayer around Eden Hill, and the regular shrine devotions: Eucharistic Adoration, the Rosary for Life, Confession (for the heritage day, in both English and Tagalog), Holy Mass, and the 3 O'clock Hour devotions of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the perpetual novena, and other prayers.
"We always have a good time, especially finding peace in this place," said Arnel Pring, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy in Jersey City, N.J. and a member of the Oceans of Mercy Prayer Community, which provided the music for the day.
"Also, when we are with the other sisters and brothers in the faith, we really have that sense of the unity in the Body of Christ," he explained. "I've talked to a lot of people, and I think they feel the same whenever Mercy Sunday comes or the Filipino Day or important events the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. It's always an experience for me."
Arnel said, "Thank God that He is giving us the strength, the zeal to come here, and by the same token, we pray for the Marian priests and the brothers, and everybody who's really devoted to making this place a sanctuary for a lot of pilgrims."
Monsignor Jeremias "Jerry" Rebanal, a former pastor of St. Aedan's Church in Jersey City and one-time coordinator of the Filipino Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Newark, is the man who started the tradition of Filipino Heritage Days at theShrine. Why? First and foremost, he said, it was to seek out the graces God was offering through the devotions at the Shrine.
When asked why Filipinos love Divine Mercy so much, he said, "Well, because we consider ourselves humbly as all sinners. We need God's mercy. Most of all, because we love families. Even the concept of family is being contested and debated, even in governments. That's why we have to exercise our faith and be able to stand up for it."
And so the Filipinos will continue to flock to the National Shrine for years to come, celebrating family, faith, and a great heritage. Monsignor Jerry is making sure of it.
"I'm training the younger guys to take over because I will not live forever," he said with a laugh, "but they want this to go on forever."