Sending Scholarships to the Philippines

By Chiqui P. Sanchez, Filipino-American Catholic Community

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One of our diocesan Filipino/American Catholic Communities is based at Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia. As a Fil/Am Catholic ministry, one of our goals is to reach out to the Fil/Am community at OLGC, its neighboring parishes and to our fellow countrymen and women in the Philippines. Since its inception 10 years ago, we have been blessed with opportunities to reach this goal. We have financially contributed to the assistance of major disaster victims in the Philippines through collaboration with major organizations in the Washington DC Metropolitan area such as Feed the Hungry, Inc. and through partnership with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  We have reached out to families in the areas who have suffered financial setbacks because of illness. We have also extended support to the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, Inc. (Mowelfund) which is a leading film and resource center that contributes to the overall improvement of the Philippine Film Industry and whose major objective is to address the needs of the movie workers behind the scenes and their families. Through our community outreach program, another goal that the Fil/Am Catholic ministry of Our Lady of Good Counsel has been aiming for is to provide a Filipino student a college scholarship.  College costs for many of those living in poverty in the Philippines are extremely out of reach.   For just a few hundred US dollars a year, we can provide the opportunity for impoverished youth of the Philippines to access a college education.

In March of 2016, we met with Father Posey, Pastor of St. James, Mr. Mike Mele, who travels with Father Posey on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Society and Mrs. Corinne Monogue from the Diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries about scholarships through YSLEP (Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program) under Caritas Manila (a Catholic organization). Father Posey, Mike and Corinne were in the Philippines in February 2016 to see for themselves what YSLEP is and all three were able to convince those of us in attendance from the OLGC ministry that this scholarship program is a worthy endeavor for our ministry to take on. This meeting concretized our long-time goal to be able to support students in the Philippines.

Through our contact with Caritas Manila, our OLGC-based Fil/Am Community Ministry now has an YSLEP scholar. Leobert Francisco from Basilan, Isabela is in his 2nd year of studies in Education at the Claret College, and we will see him through until he gets his degree in 2019. With our fundraising initiatives that we continue to pursue, with the unfailing moral and spiritual support from our Pastor and staff at OLGC, and the untiring effort from the members of our ministry, God willing, we will be able to sponsor more students who are in need through Caritas Manila. We feel blessed that we have been given yet another opportunity to serve and we are deeply grateful that we are able to make a difference in the life of one of our own brothers and sisters in Christ.  Please keep Leobert Franciso in your prayers for his educational opportunities and future success.

Simbang Gabi: A Filipino Tradition

Written by: Chiqui Sanchez

Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster), Misa de Aguinaldo (Mass of the Gift) are a couple of terms commonly used to literally interpret SIMBANG GABI (Night Mass). These interpretations stem from the fact that these Masses are traditionally held at dawn in the Philippines to give farmers and fishermen, who either began or ended their days at dawn, the chance to participate in the celebrations, and dawn is the time when the roosters crow to signal and welcome the beginning of each day.  It is also known that the Pope in the latter part of the 1500’s granted a request from an Augustinian Prior to hold these Masses outdoors to accommodate all the people who attended the services at dawn. Simbang Gabi typically starts on December 16th and culminates with the celebration of midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Typical Filipino fare, shared by families, inevitably follows each Simbang Gabi Mass during this Novena.

Simbang Gabi, a Filipino Tradition in which Advent Novena Mass - 12232014 30

Simbang Gabi has become one of the most popular traditions in the Philippines; a tradition that strengthens relationships within families and one that intensifies the faith of the Filipinos during the Advent season to prepare for the birth of our Lord. Filipino/Americans all over the United States have clung to this tradition and the Filipino/American communities in the Arlington Diocese claim no exception. Simbang Gabi is celebrated in numerous parishes in the Diocese, with one or more parishes taking turns celebrating one evening at a time to complete the novena of Advent Masses. The majority of our diocesan parishes hold the Masses in the evening, deviating from the practice to celebrate at dawn. The parish of St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington, which in December 2016 will be holding its 20th year of celebrating Simbang Gabi at 5:00 in the morning for nine consecutive days, is an exception.

At Our Lady of Good Counsel (OLGC) parish in Vienna, Virginia, the tradition has been going on for the past several years.  The parish-based Fil/Am Community Ministry sponsors the Simbang Gabi on the Saturday that falls within the  Simbang Gabi novena in the Diocese of Arlington. As tradition has it, Simbang Gabi at OLGC is followed by a reception in the church hall. A distinct feature of our Simbang Gabi at OLGC is the Panunuluyan, a short skit depicting Joseph’s and Mary’s Search for an Inn, played and/or sung before Mass begins, by a cast of Filipino/American children in the parish. This play has taken a form that varies from traditional to contemporary throughout the years, with Luke, dressed in a tunic, rolling down a scroll to tell the story or clad in shirt and blue jeans thumbing the story on an iPad.  Our Ministry is also blessed to have its own choir known as Serenata – Fil/Am Community Music Ministry, which provides the liturgical music for our Simbang Gabi at OLGC. The Musical Director also scripts and directs the Panunuluyan and leads the children in song in collaboration with Serenata either during the Mass or at the reception.

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The Fil/Am Community Ministry at OLGC sincerely acknowledges the support of our Pastor and his staff and the Offices of Multicultural Ministries in the Arlington Diocese, without which our endeavor to carry on a most beloved tradition would be in vain.

*Photos taken by Phyllis L. Johnson of the Black Catholic Ministry and various members of the Filipino-American Catholic Ministry.