THE FILIPINO PASTORAL MINISTRY: WELCOME CARE FOR FILIPINOS
Celebrating its 20th year serving the Filipino migrants.
The Filipino Pastoral Ministry (FPM) is the pastoral arm of the Shrine of the Our Lady of Pompei dedicated to welcome and minister to Filipino immigrants in New York. The Church is located within the famous Greenwich Village in downtown Manhattan and is under the care of the Fathers of the Society of St. Charles or better known as the Scalabrinians. Ministering to migrants is the main charism of the Scalabrinians.
Nowhere in the world is the phenomenon of migration more obvious than in the City of New York. Being considered as the capital of the world, it is the melting pot of all races, cultures and religions. The presence of the Scalabrinians in New York is truly a pastoral blessing. Seeing the importance to address the needs of the ever-increasing number of Filipino immigrants, the then Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of St. Charles, and now Papal Nuncio to Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, c.s., and Rev. Charles Zanoni, c.s., former Pastor of Our Lady of Pompei, decided to have a concrete pastoral response to the needs of Filipinos in New York. Hence the Filipino Pastoral ministry was conceived.
The Filipino Pastoral Ministry of Our Lady of Pompei was officially launched on October 26, 1988. The heavy burden fell on the shoulders of Fr. Bobby Sison who eagerly accepted the challenge to establish this first pastoral ministry in metropolitan New York.
The main objective of the FPM is essentially evangelization. More specifically, however, its focus and direction are mainly towards Filipinos in the East Coast with the following goals:
1. To give every Filipino migrant a “home church” where they can express their unique Filipino values within the context of the Catholic faith, tradition and practices.
2. To minister to their spiritual needs such as consultations, preparation and validation of marriages, weddings, baptisms, house blessings, funeral and other religious services.
3. To help them adjust to their new environment by providing pastoral programs, counseling service and any assistance in their personal, legal and social needs.
4. To develop pastoral and formation programs that will harness their potentials and mold them to become effective lay leaders in their respective parishes.
5. To foster and deepen the spirit of unity and brotherhood among Filipinos.
Understandably, these are not easy goals to achieve. But for over 16 years, Fr. Bobby undauntedly showed his sincere and selfless service to his “kababayans”, helping to rekindle in them the deep Filipino religious and cultural values through various activities and programs of the ministry.
Filipinos are known for their Marian spirituality. Fully aware of this, Fr. Bobby launched the FPM with the initial devotional program, the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Novena became a regular Wednesday happening and it evolved into what is now known as “Baclaran sa Village”,
Other devotions soon followed: the devotion to San Lorenzo Ruiz, Poon Hesus Nazareno, St. Bartholomew, Santo Niño, and Our Lady of Manaoag. Following the lead of the FPM, many churches in the metropolitan area particularly those with Filipino parishioners have now their own similar devotional programs.
As the years went by, other socio-cultural practices were introduced: Flores de Mayo and Santakrusan, Pabasa during Holy Week, Sayawan Sa Village, Town Fiesta celebrations, concerts, fund-raising activities for calamities and rehearsals for Filipino plays. Seminars, conferences, bible study and other similar activities were also conducted by the FPM on a regular basis. It even extended other forms of assistance to Filipinos such as in facilitating job placements and referrals to immigration lawyers.
All these programs and activities are undeniably hinged on the heart of Christian life: the Eucharist. That is why Fr. Bobby zealously campaigned for the regular Sunday Mass in Tagalog every 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. And as an added feature to encourage attendance and foster fellowship, the Line/Ballroom Dancing was introduced, accompanied by sumptuous Filipino cuisine and delicacies. Amazingly, entrance, dance and food are free of charge, all the time! Thanks to the ever-vibrant potluck spirit.
Everything was running well and smoothly, until the FPM suffered a serious setback. In 2003, Fr. Bobby Sison died after a lingering illness. His death, a terrible loss indeed, nevertheless signaled the advent of a new phase in the life of the FPM. The seed which he has planted has by now become a large and fruitful tree. What started as a vision has indeed become a reality.
With the committed support of the Scalabrinians, particularly the pastor of Our Lady of Pompei Church at that time, Fr. Joseph Cogo, c.s., the FPM weathered the passing storm. Soon enough Bishop Jose Palma of the Diocese of Calbayog pulled out Msgr. Romulo Montero and sent him to New York. Since then, Msgr. Romy has taken up the cudgels left behind by Fr. Bobby, and has pursued with equal determination and zeal the attainment of the mission of the FPM.
This year the FPM marks its 20th anniversary. Twenty long years of struggle, sacrifice and shared joys and hopes. After twenty years, it is time to look back. We have a lot of things to be grateful for. God has been so gracious as to have given us Fr. Bobby Sison, the heart and soul of the FPM. God has also given us the Scalabrinian Fathers: the pastors of Our Lady of Pompei Parish, namely, Fr. Zanoni, Fr. Terry J. Bagatin, c.s., Fr. Ralph Bove,c.s., Fr. Joseph Cogo, c.s. and Fr. John Massari, c.s.; and the Provincial Superiors, namely, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, c.s., Fr. Isaia Birollo,c.s., Fr. Sergio Dall’ Agnesse, c.s.,Fr. Joseph Fugolo, c.s. and now Fr. Matthew Didone, c.s.
Finally, words are never enough to express our endless gratitude to all the unsung heroes of the FPM: the men and women and families who have been with us all through these years, come rain or shine, and have shown to all and sundry the true meaning of Filipino hospitality, generosity and spirituality. Many of them are still very visible in Pompei, but some have already gone off to other communities, not to abandon us but to continue spreading the Good News that they have experienced in the FPM.
Twenty years have gone by. Yet the task is far from over. While there are still Filipinos in New York, the FPM continues to extend its welcoming arms, embracing each and every “kababayan” with that distinctive warmth and winsome smile. The FPM is not without its share of blemishes and weaknesses. But as long as we remain committed to serve each other, the Lord will always be with us: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” To God be the glory, now and forever!
The Filipino Catholic – Happenings