COMMUNITY INITIATIVES DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC (2nd Series)
By: Rev. John Francis C. Aberion, RCJ
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect lives and disrupt the daily living of many people, the Communities of the St. Matthew Province (SMP) made some initiatives in adapting to the “new normal,” and at the same time, to respond to the needs of their neighbor that affected by this crisis. Here are some of the community initiatives which took place between April to May 2020. This article is an update to the 1st of a series, which featured the activities from February to March 2020.
EXERCISES OF PIETY IN THE “NEW NORMAL”
While there may be a “new normal” as a response to the crisis, the SMP Communities maintained their regular observance of the exercises of piety. They increased in prayer and fervor, keeping in mind their witnessing as religious to be men of prayer and thus, making their communities “houses of prayer”. On May 6, the SMP participated in the Healing Rosary for the World with the Religious Men and Women of the Philippines as organized by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP). The Fr. Hannibal Formation Center Community, on behalf of the SMP, took part in the premiere of their part in the Holy Rosary.
DAILY LIVESTREAMING OF LITURGIES AND PRAYERS
The SMP Communities who can livestream their liturgies and prayers continued uploading them in the social media for the benefit of the faithful. In addition to these communities, the Mission Stations in Indonesia and Australia also continued holding livestreaming Masses as posted in their Facebook accounts “Padretirso Rogasyonista” and “Holy Family Parish,” respectively.
No pandemic can stop the visit of the Blessed Mother Mary among her faithful. For instance, last April 27, her statue as the Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag visited the St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Bautista, Pangasinan. The visit came, while adhering to the guidelines of the Church and government about the gatherings and processions.
On May 11, the statue of St. Anthony of Padua arrived at South Sariba Mass Center of Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish in Sideia Mission Center, Papua New Guinea. The Parish Community and its parishioners welcomed St. Anthony through prayers and introduction to the devotion.
Meanwhile, last May 13, the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish (OLMHRP) in Multinational organized their Marian Month celebration with theme “Mary in our Homes (Quarantine Edition).” In the morning, it featured a catechesis on Our Lady of Fatima, followed by the Holy Mass. Afterwards, the Marian hymn “Awit sa Ina ng Santo Rosaryo,” was sung, followed by the talk show on the short history of the Rosary. An hour was also dedicated to an exposition on the biblical perspective of the Holy Rosary. At noon, the OLMHRP joined the Archdiocese of Manila in the National Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Early in the afternoon, a music video of the “Stella Maris” was premiered, followed by a Marian devotion sharing by one of their parishioners. The celebration was concluded with the praying of the Holy Rosary that premiered each sponsoring family assigned in the five decades.
57th WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR VOCATIONS
No pandemic hindered the SMP Communities in their preparation and celebration for the 57th World Day of Prayer for Vocations (WDPV), which is the Rogationist Day “par excellence.” Beginning the month of April, the Rogate Vocation Center (RVC) started distributing the official poster, the prayer guide Kaya Idalangin, 57th WDPV Edition, and some stampitas – all in their digital format – to the communities, to other religious congregations, parishes and dioceses, and to the benefactors, as well as to the friends and relatives of the Confreres.
After the materials were distributed, the SMP also organized its common preparation of the 57th WDPV with the theme: “VOCuarantine: The Online 57th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.” The Communities who led and sponsored the celebration were the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish (Multinational), the St. Hannibal Formation Center (SHFC) in Cebu, the Fr. Hannibal Formation Center (FHFC) in Parañaque, and the Fr. Di Francia Center of Studies (FDFCS) alos in Parañaque. From April 30 to May 2, the triduum of preparation was posted in the social media pages “Rogate Media SMP,” “Kaya Idalangin,” and the “Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish.” Each day featured a catechesis, vocation story sharing, and a lyric video in the morning. In the evening, the SHFC, FHFC, and FDFCS presided the holy hour of Adoration as the 57th WDPV approached.
On the day of celebration, May 3, some Confreres, Church official, and friends were invited to take part in leading the communities and the faithful in the 57th WDPV through prayers (Holy Mass and Adoration), catechesis, vocation story sharing, as well as featuring the life of St. Hannibal Mary Di Francia, all following the theme, “Words of Vocation: Gratitude, Courage, Encouragement, Fatigue, and Praise.”
A “NEW NORMAL” IN VOCATION PROMOTION, SEMINARY FORMATION, AND SCHOOLS
The formative itineraries in the seminaries also responded to the “new normal” beginning with its vocation promotion. For instance, on May 4, the FHFC Community released a poster which invites young applicants from incoming senior high school and College to join the online application, with the theme: “Home for Vocations.” The seminaries in Manila and Cebu also continued the follow up of the seminarians in their homes, while adhering to the government’s guidelines on community quarantine. The postulants and novices also continued their formation, considering the situation. The religious students in FDFCS strived their best to accomplish their academic requirements in the Institute of Theological Formation (ITF) of the Don Bosco School of Theology. Their professors forwarded to them the requirements for the completion of their “home study,” for their 2nd semester in the academic year 2019-2020.
On May 8, from 8:30pm-10:30pm, the Association of Rogationist Catholic Educational Communities in the Philippines (ARCEC-P), together with the Rectors of the Rogationist Schools, had a meeting/discussion via video conference. They discussed and shared the concerns of the member schools specifically regarding the following: (1) opening of the school year 2020-2021, (2) modes of curriculum delivery/flexible learning options, (3) enrolment/enrollees, (4) employees/teachers, etc. Knowing the challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic/ECQ are grave, delicate, and serious, they planned of coming up with a RESILIENCY PLAN that involves all the stakeholders. The latter will be kept posted the soonest possible time and are assured that the Rogationist schools are collaborating to fulfill their mission of forming the hearts and minds of the young/students.
On May 9, the Mission Station in Indonesia has released an invitation among the high school and the vocational high school graduates who feel called to become workers in God's vineyard by becoming priests or brothers. They are called to immediately register with the vocation promoter of the Rogationist seminary in Maumere.
On May 11, the Technical Working Group-Resiliency Planning Team (TWG-RPT) of the Rogationist College-Parañaque prepared the first part of the RCP RESILIENCY PLAN for SY 2020-2021. It included the formations of the TWG (Create a Resiliency Plan/Road Map), a Committee for the Redesigning of the Curriculum (Come up with Flexible Learning Options or Modes of Curriculum Delivery), a Review Committee for the Grading System, training of Teachers/Technical Support Team, conduction/Gathering/Analysis of SURVEY for Parents/Students/Teachers, review of school fees/Online Enrollment/Opening of the School Year 2020-2021 on August 24 (while waiting for the final update from the Department of Education), and the Pilot Testing/Roll Out. The complete structure/outline of the Resiliency Plan of the Rogationist College-Paranaque was released on May 15. The school now offers an online learning, blended learning, and face-to-face learning, which will then be advertised as part of the school’s curriculum.
The next day, May 12, the Rogationist College-Paranaque, through its Technical Working Group-Resiliency Planning Team (TWG-RPT), continued to draft the second part of the RCP Resiliency Plan for SY 2020-2021. The second part includes the Health and Safety Guidelines for Staff, Teachers, Parents and Students, designing a Risk Management Plan (for critical functions/staff/offices), a review of Financial Projection for SY 2020-2021, the releasing of Communications (for Employees, Parents/Guardians & Students), the promotion and campaign for RCP, and the launching of the Opening of SY 2020-2021. The same day, the RCP conducted an online survey for the Parents and Guardians, about the readiness towards online learning for S.Y. 2020 – 2021 as transition to the “new normal.”
CHARITY AND OTHER FORMS OF ASSISTANCE
Communities continued organizing relief distribution and sharing of food packs to help sustain their neighbor.
For instance, within April, the communities of St. John Paul II Sub-Parish and Holy Family Quasi-Parish reached out to their parishioners and gave some relief goods. Last April 24, the St. Hannibal Formation Center in Cebu began a free mineral water distribution of one container every family for at least 30 families at the back of their seminary every Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. In May, the Rogate Oasis Organic Farm (ROOF) in Bolinao, Pangasinan also began organizing, already on its 3rd part, the relief distribution to nearby houses as a response to the pandemic. Already on its third month, the community of Fr. Di Francia Center of Studies continued preparing food packs for some of the poor settlements in Paranaque which are affected by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, both the Boys’ Villages in Silang, Cavite and in Davao strived their best to sustain their interns while the government enforced strict community quarantine. The SMP Communities also strived their best to assist their respective staff and collaborators, while adhering to the policies of the government and the Church on the pandemic.
PERSONAL AND COMMUNAL ONLINE EVANGELIZATION INITIATIVES
The Rogate Vocation Center (RVC) continued the online evangelization initiatives, especially on the promotion of the charism of the Rogate and the wisdom of St. Hannibal Mary Di Francia, which are posted on the Facebook pages “Rogate Media SMP” and “Kaya Idalangin.” Some confreres also opened and continued their personal online evangelization initiatives such as written and video blogs shared in the social media, with the handle #RogateMediaSMP.
This article will regularly be updated with the inputs from the communities and confreres. The present article is a compilation of the initiatives that were posted in each of the communities’ official social media accounts or through their respective beneficiaries and parishioners.