In 1951, on the far, distant side of a flourishing, booming town, a flurry of activities was reaching fever pitch. A family of landowners was laying down the cornerstone of what would become a place of worship to answer the spiritual needs and concerns of a new, emerging community. The family came from the clan of the Ayala/Zobel/McMicking and the church was Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati, an affluent district of the Province of Rizal.
In 1951, I was five years old, three years short of receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion and oblivious to the cares of the grown-ups and definitely unmindful of its exalted dreams and goals. Who would ever think that my tiny world would merge with this bigger world, sharing common values that organized religion provides?
Santuario de San Antonio has always been that hallowed place of worship for Catholics. I grew up looking at this revered structure, as a special place to celebrate life’s significant events and milestones like the holy sacraments and of course every girl’s wishful dream of walking down the aisle as a blushing bride.
When our family relocated to Makati, we were welcomed into the family of Santuario de San Antonio as brothers and sisters, linked and related spiritually.
Similarly for Jeannie Bitanga. The settling period however became quite challenging for her after having lived abroad. She went from questioning and doubting her faith to strengthening, nurturing and growing it. Jeannie, encouraged by what she saw in the parish, took the initiative to re-learn her Catholic beliefs by reading the Bible and teaching Catechism to young children, one of the outreach ministries available in San Antonio.
“It was a breakthrough,” Jeannie said. Soon, her husband, Doy, joined the Men of the Sacred Heart, where its members promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as serving as a lay minister of the Holy Eucharist. Jeannie’s participation in San Antonio’s various ministries expanded when the President of the Parish Council, Mike Limpe, asked her to create and manage a website and make it accessible to the public. Something vital in this age of Internet connection for the church to remain relevant keeping up with the technical development and progress of the times.
“My husband and I have, grown spiritually since those days of uncertainty. Santuario de San Antonio made us realize we had untapped potentials,” she remarked. “It was heart-warming to be welcomed in the family of Christ and meet some of the funniest and most dedicated people around the neighborhood.”
For Tina Teehankee, a secular Franciscan, she views life as a journey with its ups and downs. “With God’s grace and guidance, I find comfort in trusting in His grand plan, whether as a servant or as His child.”
Sadly, there are those who have relegated the role of the church in their lives as a minor concern, the last in the overall scheme of things, so to speak. I was therefore struck by a prayer that the faithful read in one Sunday service celebrated by our parish priest, Father Joel Sulse: “May no one among us feel so superior as to exclude others or feel so inadequate as not to contribute anything. Instead, may we be mutually enriched by one another”.
The lay community has a crucial importance in fulfilling the mission of the church. While there are many anonymous and faceless volunteers who work hard – silently – preparing each day to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, there are those who have bravely taken up the cudgels to keep things rolling and rolling. All in answer to God’s call to “Build My Church”.
The mission of the Franciscan Order has made an impact on the lives of the faithful (and the least, the last and the lost) because ordinary people devoted their time, energy, talents and material resources to reach out beyond their boundaries.
The Prison Ministry headed by Steve Lopez, who visit the inmates at the Makati City Jail and host regular activities like sports, dance and medical clinics as well as reflective and meditative invocations to give hope and renew the faith of those who were lost and are journeying towards reconciliation, spiritually and socially.
The Scholarship Ministry where indigent or low-income students with great potentials are sponsored giving them the opportunity to excel in fields of learning and thus complete and graduate and have a better chance of making it into the world as an auto mechanic, in the Food and Beverage industry, in shipbuilding, care giving, and others.
The Hospital Ministry with Father Jesus Galindo as hospital chaplain, who visit those confined in hospitals attending to their spiritual, medical, physiological and emotional wellbeing.
The Marian Cenacle and Contemplative Ministries focus on the reach of the third degree of mercy – prayer. It is said that if one cannot show mercy by deeds or words, one can always do so by prayer. Prayer reaches out even there where one cannot reach out physically.
The Music Ministry with Amelita Guevarra. Voices are lifted through song and music engulfing the heart and spirit in a deep and fervent melodious worship to God.
The Catholic Women’s League headed by Betty Roxas-Chua, who sponsors mass baptism, holy communion and wedding every year apart from charitable projects that benefit the deprived and downtrodden.
Advocacies and ministries are in constant need of moral and financial support in order to function, and function well. Every year, Santuario de San Antonio honors the patron saint, San Antonio de Padova with a feast as well as raises funds to support and maintain the various ministries, including the Franciscan Mission.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Santuario de San Antonio in 1951, this year’s Francisfest will mount a musical variety show that chronicles Santuario de San Antonio’s evolution as a dynamic and spiritual center. Performers will come from the ranks of our talented parishioners, their family and friends like Joe Mari Chan, and artists on stage and cinema like Cocoy Laurel, Joel Trinidad, etc. Randy Limjoco, this year’s Chairman, promises an evening of entertainment and delight to be held in the main church on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 8:00 p.m.
Recently, I attended a mass celebrated by Father Jade Licuanan. He spoke about Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and his Theology of crumbs. Succinctly, “All God wants is small things. Small things put together can start up a miracle. The issue is the love for the poor. Goodness is never complicated.”
I kept repeating Cardinal Rosales’ theology as I left the church. Indeed, Love can be a way of life and not just a one-shot thing.
Francisfest has taken this noble cause to heart. “May the Church and her leaders strive for humble service and simplicity rather than for power, influence and wealth.”
Remember, we leave this world empty-handed.
Let us support Francisfest, heartily and magnanimously, hand in hand and brick by brick.
For info and tickets and/or donations to Francisfest 2013, please contact the Parish Office (63-2) 843-8830 to 31 or email email@example.com.
as published on September 29, 2013 The Philippine Star Sunday Magazine
About Letty Jacinto-Lopez and some of her published Articles