By Mitos Gonzales
“The Holy Eucharist is the base, the center, and the source of all Christian Lives,” these were the pertinent words of Most Rev. Joseph Arshad, D.D., Bishop of Faisalabad, Pakistan that even before the Welcoming Mass during the Parish Encounter at the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue last January 27, 2016 this was made visible by the parish’s endearing preparations.
Amidst the gentle yet constant shower, the parishioners with the directorship of their parish priest, Msgr. Daniel Sanico, patiently waited and warmly welcomed the IEC delegates with beaming smiles while waving their Patron Saint’s colors of yellow and green. The Eucharistic convergence was attended by 47 priests and 6 bishops from Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Philippines, an estimate of 500 IEC delegates, and countless St. Joseph parishioners whose excitement for the IEC experience was insurmountable.
The Mass was presided by Most Rev. Dominic Jala, Archbishop of Shillong, and which centered on the Parable of the Sower of the Gospel of St. Mark. The bible passage was brought to life by the homily of Most Rev. Joseph Arshad, D.D., Bishop of Faisalabad, Pakistan who encouraged the people to reflect on the point,
“What kind of seed that grows into us? Do we have the seed that grows in rich soil and bears fruit?”
“Our faith, which is a gift from God, is challenged in our day to day lives. There are circumstances that test our faith,” continued Fr. Arshad. In our country, Pakistan, only 2% of the people are Christians. With this, our Faith is challenged every day. As we are a minority, expressing our faith in our country may cause us trouble, yet even how small our community is, it is vibrant and alive. Although we face difficulties, God assures us through the scriptures that we are loved,” shared Fr. Arshad.
The Holy Mass was followed by the sharing of enlightening testimonies of the different priests. As these priests serve in countries where Christians are a minority, they share the same sentiment. They continue to persist even with the face of persecution, they seek the Eucharist anywhere and any day, for the Eucharist helped them grow in faith. As with Jesus, they are never left alone.
With the resounding applause after every testimony, it was very evident that the people were deeply touched and inspired.
“I was just amazed. Even if they were being persecuted, they are very brave. They are ready to die for their faith. I realized, in places where there is persecution, it is where faithful people are. Christ is real. I really hope that all Christians will be brave to live in love with God,” shared Rev. Phil Vincent Dumanacal, Parañaque.
The encounter concluded with a barrio fiesta where tasty dishes were served and different cultural presentations were performed. It was truly a night to remember not only for the IEC delegates but also for grateful parishioners of St. Joseph Parish.
“We were truly happy that our parish was chosen to be part of this remarkable event. We thought that the event will only include those in the heart of the city, but we were made part of it, and we cannot be more than grateful. It is really very overwhelming. With this experience, we hope that our parish will continue to give importance to the Eucharist even more,” expressed Stallon Ortiz, PYCC-working committee.
It was truly an overwhelming experience. Everyone was full of joy and was filled gratitude to the Lord, who made everything possible despite struggles and troubles. It was not just a coming together but it was more of becoming one with Christ and His mission.