The celebration of the 17th Foundation Anniversary of our diocese finds us in the midst of COVID-19 Pandemic. It has been more than five months since we were locked down and many people are depressed, desperate, sad, and have a strong feeling of hopelessness barraged by daily statistics of increased cases, displacement of livelihood, and uncertainty of the future. In this bleak backdrop, many ask:
How can we really be the Church in this pandemic times?
We are asked to go back to our vision and mission: to be a City on a Hill, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
I thank the Lord for how the Santatlo has responded to this Covid19 pandemic. We did not allow the health crisis to hinder us from working together. It did not stop us from reaching out despite physical exhaustion or personal circumstances. We went beyond personal crisis, the temptation to become selfish and attend to our own needs first. Instead, the pandemic spurred us to respond generously despite the great odds. We had to. The poor, the hungry, the homeless and the lost needed a lifeline.
Our priests have been creative in finding ways not just in nurturing the faith and spiritual life of our faithful but also in meeting their physical and various needs. They dug deep not only in their pockets, but in their talents to find the means to live another day. AND it is heartwarming to read of their efforts in the continuing miracle of living another day. From baking to painting to sculpting to selling beloved books and other possessions, they are pooling resources to make ends meet.
Our religious mobilized their communities and found ways of attending to the needs of their neighboring informal settlers. Despite the risks of contracting the virus themselves, they are always in the midst of reaching out to the poor.
Our Laity have been generous in sharing their resources and reaching out to their less fortunate brothers and sisters. We salute them for responding immediately to our financial appeal to attend to our diocesan, parish employees and catechists. With the closing of churches for public gathering and no collections since March 15, when we started our lockdown, we had to tap also the more developed parishes to assist the smaller ones. It is a Big Brother, Small Brother act that flowed spontaneously.
Our DOCES schools have to be commended because despite a steep 70% decrease in private school enrolment nationwide, they are able to continue their mission to form our young people with quality education and Gospel values.
This is how we become Church in this pandemic.
With the Lord guiding and blessing us we continue to discover new ways of being Church especially in reaching out to many who have lost their jobs, to many who are infected, sick and hungry.
They say that this is the worst crisis the world has ever experienced in many years. But beyond the dismal statistics of infection, death and joblessness, we have the grace to see the mercy of God embracing us as we stand on this City on a Hill. We take this opportunity in celebrating our 17th Foundation Anniversary to renew our commitment to the mission of Jesus believing that the Spirit empowers us to be true to our vison and mission in being the salt of the earth, the light of the world and a City on a Hill.. May Mary our Mother protect and keep us in her maternal love and bring us closer to her Son Jesus!
As your bishop, please be assured of my fervent prayers and remembrance in my masses. Please pray for me too.
MOST REV. HONESTO F. ONGTIOCO, DD
Bishop of Cubao