20th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage ~ June 24, 2017

posted Jun 12, 2017, 8:24 AM by Gaio Gonzalez   [ updated Jun 12, 2017, 8:48 AM by birhen ng Antipolo ]

His Excellency the Most Reverend Bernardito C. Auza    Join us on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. for the 20th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage ~ Birhen ng Antipolo.

    Our main celebrant is His Excellency the Most Rev. Bernardito C. AuzaTitular Archbishop of SuaciaApostolic Nuncio,  Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations &  Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Organization of American States.

Pilgrimage Schedule of Activities 
(unless otherwise specified, all activities will be at the Great Upper Church)

10:00 a.m. : Novena at the Crypt Church with Joy in the Spirit Prayer Group from Severna Park, MD
11:00 a.m.: Sacrament of Reconciliation at the Memorial Hall ~ Confessions will be heard at the lower level chapels:
  • Pope Pius X
  • Our Mother of Good Counsel
  • Our Lady of Brezje & 
  • St. Anthony Mary Claret
12:00 p.m.: Rosary prayers, Serenata, and Image Procession

1:30 p.m.: Reflection on “Forgiveness and Compassion” by Rev. Fr. Eric Dela Peña, Chaplain for Faith & Development, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.

2:00 p.m.: Eucharistic Celebration
    Greetings from Rev. Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, Rector, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
    Principal Celebrant: His Excellency the Most Reverend Bernardito C. Auza, together with Filipino/American priests concelebrating.

Immediately following the mass: Procession & Visitation to the Oratory; All pilgrims are invited to join the procession to the Crypt Church for the blessing of the Oratory

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


Devotional Mass ~ Sat., July 15, 2017

posted May 1, 2017, 7:10 AM by Gaio Gonzalez   [ updated Jun 12, 2017, 8:47 AM by birhen ng Antipolo ]

We invite everyone on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at the Crypt Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. for a Eucharistic celebration in honor of Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage ~ Birhen ng Antipolo starting at 10:00 a.m.

Hotel Information for 2017 Pilgrimage

posted Apr 26, 2017, 6:06 AM by Gaio Gonzalez   [ updated May 1, 2017, 7:21 AM by birhen ng Antipolo ]

Hotel Information

We have made arrangements with the following hotels if you're planning to stay for a couple of days.
  1. Homewood Suites Alexandria/Pentagon South
    4850 Leesburg Pike
    Alexandria, VA 22302

    Name of Group:  Our Lady of Antipolo Pilgrimage
    Code: SANTIPOLO
    1-Bedroom Suite 2 Double beds - $159/night
    2-Bedroom Suite 1 King and 2 Double beds - $179/night

  2. Homewood Suites Springfield
    7010 Old Keene Mill Road
    Springfield, VA  22150

    Name of Event:  Antipolo Pilgrimage
    Code: ANT
    1-Bedroom Suite 2 Queen beds - $130/night
    Studio Suite 1 King - $110/night

Cut-off Date for hotels:  Sunday, May 21, 2017

19th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage

posted Jun 2, 2016, 11:21 AM by birhen ng Antipolo   [ updated Mar 7, 2017, 12:24 PM by Gaio Gonzalez ]

Join us on June 18, 2016, Saturday, for the 19th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage, Birhen ng Antipoloat the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate ConceptionWashington, D.C.

Our main celebrant is His Eminence Orlando Beltran Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.Archbishop of Cotabato


On January 12, 2014, Pope Francis named Quevedo as one of 19 men to be inducted into the College of Cardinals in the consistory of February 22, 2014, with the titular church of Santa Maria "Regina Mundi" a Torre Spaccata.

He is the first cardinal from Mindanao and the second current Filipino cardinal-elector, along with Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.

Pope Francis has appointed Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo to be his special envoy to the 150th anniversary celebration of the discovery of the “Hidden Christians of Japan” in Nagasaki early this year.

Pilgrimage Schedule of Activities

(unless otherwise specified, all activities will be at the Great Upper Church)

10:00 a.m.: Novena
11:00 a.m.: Sacrament of Reconciliation at the Memorial Hall
12:00 p.m.: Rosary prayers, Serenata and Image Procession
  1:30 p.m.: Reflection on God's Mercy by Rev. Fr. Ruiz Diego
  2:00 p.m.: Eucharistic Celebration


What is a Pilgrimage?


Register here!

Register now your pilgrimage group to provide us a good estimate of the number of pilgrims coming to the celebration.

Hotel Information for 2016 Pilgrimage

posted Apr 11, 2016, 5:40 AM by birhen ng Antipolo

Hotel Information

We have made arrangements with the following hotels if you're planning to stay for a couple of days.

  1. Homewood Suites Springfield by Hilton
    7010 Old Keene Mill Road Springfield, VA 22150 

    Reservation Line:  1800-CALL-HOME
    Group name:  Antipolo Pilgrimage group
    Room rate:     $109/night Studio Suite 1 King NS
                         Includes Breakfast, Free Car/Bus Parking
                         Free Shuttle to Waterford, Metro, Town Center

  2. Hilton Springfield
    6550 Loisdale Road
    Springfield, VA  22150

    Reservation Line 1-703-971-8900
    Group Code:  BN0617
    Group Name:  Birhen ng Antipolo Pilgrimage
    Room rate:  $89/night  2 Queen Beds
                      Free Parking, Free Shuttle to Metro and Town Center

  3. Homewood Suites Washington DC Convention Center
    465 New York Avenue N.W.
    Washington, D.C.  20001

    Reservation Line:  1800-CALL-HOME
    Group name:  Antipolo Pilgrimage
    Room rate:    $139/night Studio Suite 1 King
                        Includes Breakfast  Public Parking is available

Cut-off Date for hotels:   Friday, May 27, 2016

18th Annual Pilgrimage

posted Aug 18, 2015, 1:13 PM by Gaio Gonzalez

“Giving in abundance and in substance”
by Charet Talastas

His Excellency Jose F. Advincula, Jr., Archbishop of Capiz, Philippines was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Eucharistic Celebration that highlighted the 18th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage that was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on June 27, 2015.

Archbishop Advincula was touched by the presence of over a hundred Marian images that portrayed the Blessed Virgin Mary in different costumes and various titles and how she was honored at the Basilica during the pilgrimage.  In his homily, he described Mary according to the title she was known for. To name a few, he described the Virgin Mary as a “Woman of Steel” who navigated the perilous waters of the Pacific when she accompanied the Spanish Galleon Trades; “Practical Ina” who took care of her children; “Robe of Salvation” and “Mantle of Justice” for providing strength in the midst of trials.

His homily overflowed with history and humor. To the delight of the congregation, he recited a verse from a famous song that reminded them of the traditional pilgrimage to Antipolo and a side trip to “Hinulugang Taktak” to enjoy “kasoy”, “suman”, and “balimbing”. On a more serious note, he said, there is more to “suman”, “kasoy”, and  "balimbing”. Archbishop Advincula said the people flock to Antipolo every year to honor our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.

He concluded his homily with a prayer and an appeal to the pilgrims to maintain the Filipino Catholic identity of
«Pueblo Amante de Maria» and emphasized that our love for Mary should end up to our love for Christ.  Indeed, the 18th Annual Pilgrimage in honor of our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage overflowed with faith, patience, love, generosity, and service to the Lord.

The Main BNA Choir, a collaboration of choirs from Maryland and New York conducted by Val Venida, BNA Choir Director, lifted the pilgrims› spirits and reminded everyone of God›s love and faithfulness with their emotional rendition of “The Music of Your Love” and “Tell the World of His Love.”

Msgr. Vito Buonanno, Director of Pilgrimages, welcomed all the Filipino pilgrims to the Basilica with open arms and appreciated their devotion to our Lady of Antipolo.

Rev. Fr. Michael Weston, Director of Liturgy, did not leave any stone unturned to ensure the sequence of events flowed smoothly without any visible disruptions. His eye for detail and patience in directing the liturgy participants assured the solemnity of the Liturgical Celebration.

The concelebrating priests, deacons, lectors, prayer petition leaders, and altar servers, in their own quiet ways, demonstrated their dedication to serve the Lord.

In keeping up with the theme, Rev. Fr. Gary T. Villanueva, Pastor of the St. Columba Church, delivered his reflection on “The Year of Consecrated Life.” He touched on Pope Francis’ encyclical and shared his personal journey from a professional engineer to living a consecrated life as a priest. The Filipino pilgrims were touched by his narratives and inspired them to pray for all good and faithful men and women who dedicate themselves to God and to the people with generosity and personal sacrifices.

Msgr. Walter Rossi, Director of the Basilica, in his welcome remarks, echoed Pope Francis’ observation that Filipinos are known for their love of God. He expressed his joy in the continued success of the yearly Pilgrimage and commended the organizers, spearheaded by Eddie Caparas, Mila Cortez, and Gaio Gonzalez for their commitment to this yearly mission of propagating faith in Christ and devotion to the Virgin Mary.

In light of the concern with the Ordination of the Deacons that preceded the 18th Annual Pilgrimage, Monsignor Rossi announced to the congregation that there will be a change in the Calendar of Events in 2016. He said that the Ordination of the Priests in 2016 will coincide with the schedule of the 19th Annual Pilgrimage on June 25th. To ensure that the use of the Basilica will be solely dedicated to the Filipino Pilgrimage in 2016, he proposed to move the Pilgrimage date from June 25 to June 18, 2016. This wonderful surprise brought joy and relief to Msgr. Vito Buonanno and the organizers.

It would be noteworthy to mention that this year’s 18th Annual Pilgrimage coincided with the Ordination of Deacons
that took place at the Upper Church of the Basilica in the morning of June 27, 2015. The ceremony completed on time but the attendees lingered for a few minutes that caused minor delays in the preparation for the Serenata, Procession of Marian Images, and the Recitation of the Holy Rosary. In addition to the delay, Filipino pilgrims competed for parking spaces closest to the Basilica to avoid being drenched by the pouring rain. How did the organizers, volunteers, and Filipino pilgrims handle the situation?

The Birhen Ng Antipolo, USA, Inc., the organizer of the annual pilgrimage, and the many volunteers took everything
in stride. Despite the restriction of movement they managed to set up signage, met with the participants at their designated places, and managed to start the proceedings on time. The heavy downpour did not discourage nor dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of Filipino pilgrims who trekked to the Basilica to participate in various
activities leading to the Eucharistic Celebration.

While the Ordination of Deacons was taking place at the Upper Church, the Filipino pilgrims gathered at the Memorial Hall at the Lower level; choir members did their rehearsals at their designated chapels; and image bearers set up their images and waited patiently for their turn to proceed to the Upper Church.  
The quiet confidence and unwavering faith of the team leaders and their volunteers contributed to the smooth flow of the procession of Marian images. 
New floral arches, prepared in advance by dedicated men and women devotees, added festive colors to the procession. The image bearers marched towards the altar to the beautiful music rendered by the choirs from Floral Park, NY, Falls Church, VA, Iselin, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Clinton, NJ, Tidewater, VA. The young boys and girls took center stage and led the pilgrims in the recitation of the Holy Rosary.  Pamela Cindy Felix Manuel sang the heart rending hymn of Birhen ng Antipolo as the last group of Birhen ng Antipolo image bearers made their way to the altar to conclude the Marian procession.

Despite the minor setback, all segments of the pilgrimage started and completed on time. The Novena Prayer
to Our Lady of Antipolo, led by the Choir of St. Anthony from Falls Church, VA, started promptly at 10:00 AM at
the Crypt Church. The pilgrims participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that commenced at 11:00 A.M. As
scheduled, Alma Caparas delivered the opening remarks at the Upper Church followed by Msgr. Vito Buonanno’s
welcome message to signal the start of the procession of Marian images. The procession to the Oratory of Our Lady of Antipolo, led by Archbishop Advincula, and the blessings concluded the pilgrimage.

The day’s activities reflected what Pope Francis said: “We should not only give in abundance; we should also
give in substance.”

In essence, the cooperation, dedication, enthusiasm, and generous contribution of time, talent and treasure from
everyone who supported the 18th Annual Pilgrimage were glowing examples of giving in abundance and in substance.

Generosity filled the Basilica with love and joy.

18th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage

posted May 5, 2015, 8:56 AM by Gaio Gonzalez   [ updated May 5, 2015, 9:03 AM ]

Join us on June 27, 2015, Saturday, for the 18th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage, Birhen ng Antipoloat the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate ConceptionWashington, D.C.

Our main celebrant is His Excellency Jose Fuerte Advincula, D.D.Archbishop of Capiz.

Bishop Jose F. Advincula was born on March 30, 1952 in Dumalag, Capiz. He was ordained a priest: on April 4, 1976. On March 19, 1997, he was made Papal Chaplain of Pope John Paul II. The pope appointed him Bishop of San Carlos on Juli 25, 2001. He was ordained bishop on Sept. 8, 2001. His installation took place on September 11, 2001. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Capiz on Nov. 9, 2011.

On July 9, 2012, he received the ecclesiastical vesment “pallium” from Pope Benedict XVI. The ceremony took place at the St. Peter Basilica’s main altar in Rome.

The archbishop speaks English, Tagalog and Ilonggo. 


Pilgrimage Schedule of Activities
(unless otherwise specified, all activities will be at the Great Upper Church)

10:00 a.m.: Novena
11:00 a.m.: Sacrament of Reconciliation at the Memorial Hall
12:00 p.m.: Rosary prayers, Serenata and Image Procession
  2:00 p.m.: Eucharistic Celebration


There will be a reflection on "The Year of Consecrated Lifeat 1:45 p.m. by 
Rev. Fr. Gary Tamayo Villanueva
Pastor at St. Columba Catholic Church - Archdiocese of Washington.  He studied Master of Divinity Program at Pope St John XXIII National Seminary; was a University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Engineering and hails from Kalibo, Aklan.

Hotel Information

Plan your pilgrimage now. We have made arrangements with:
  • Crystal City Marriott
    1999 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA  22202
    Special rate of $109 per room with two double beds
    Reservation no. 1-800-228-9290 or 703-413-5500
    Group name:  Pilgrimage for Our Lady of Antipolo

  • Arlington Court Suites
    1200 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington, VA  22201
    Special rate of $109/night per suite
    Reservation no. 703-524-4000
    Group name:  Antipolo

Click here for Parking Information

Register here!

Register now your pilgrimage group to provide us a good estimate of the number of pilgrims coming to the celebration.

17th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage

posted Apr 1, 2014, 6:20 AM by birhen ng Antipolo   [ updated Jun 13, 2014, 6:52 AM ]

Join us on June 28, 2014 for the 17th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace & Good Voyage, Birhen ng Antipoloat the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate ConceptionWashington, D.C.

Our main celebrant is His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.

“Be the face of God and be the hope of others.” 

“If others, cannot see the face of God, be the face of God. If others cannot hear the voice of God, be the voice of God. And if others cannot feel the saving power of God, be their arms and help them to stand again,”  This is what Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle said during one of his prayer service in Manila.  He is one of the youngest cardinal in the College of Cardinals and the archbishop of Manila.
He was a seminarian at the San Jose Major Seminary and went on to study theology at the Loyola School of Theology, completing his licentiate and doctorate at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 24.  In 1997 Blessed Pope John Paul II appointed Fr Tagle as a member of the International Theological Commission, where he became a close collaborator of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI , who was president of the commission at the time.

The Holy See appointed Tagle as the 32nd Archbishop of Manila on October 13, 2011 and a year later on October 2012, Archbishop Tagle was appointed into the College of Cardinals.  Recently, Pope Francis named Cardinal Tagle as member of the Council for the Laity.

The Eucharistic mass will be co-celebranted by is His Eminence Theodore E.Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.

Pilgrimage Schedule of Activities

(unless otherwise specified, all activities will be at the Great Upper Church)
10:00 a.m.: Novena
11:00 a.m.: Sacrament of Reconciliation at the Memorial Hall
12:00 p.m.: Rosary prayers, Serenata and Image Procession
  2:00 p.m.: Eucharistic Celebration

There will be a reflection on "The Role of the Laity in the Mission of Evangelizationat 1:45 p.m. by Rev. Efren V. Esmilla, Pastor, Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church, Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

What is a Pilgrimage?

Hotel Information

Plan your pilgrimage now. We have made arrangements with:

Click here for Parking Information

Register here!

Register now your pilgrimage group to provide us a good estimate of the number of pilgrims coming to the celebration.

If you missed His Eminence's homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, May 18, 2014, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. (The audio recording is courtesy of Jeff Bedia.)


18th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage

Next year's pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Birhen ng Antipolo) will be on June 27, 2015 and our main celebrant is Archbishop Jose F. Advincula, Jr., DD Archdiocese of Capiz.

2000 attend 16th annual Antipolo pilgrimage

posted Jul 15, 2013, 9:57 AM by birhen ng Antipolo   [ updated Feb 10, 2014, 12:47 PM by Gaio Gonzalez ]

By Jennie L. Ilustre
(from Manila Mail - A fortnightly Filipino newspaper in Washington, D.C.)

WASHINGTON D.C. -Some 2,000 Filipino American Catholics from the East Coast, including this capital city, Virginia, Virginia Beach and Maryland, attended the 16th Annual Filipino National Pilgrimage, held on June 22 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The pilgrimage, organized by the Birhen ng Antipolo Inc. U.S.A., led by Ed Caparas, honors the Blessed Virgin Mary who is known by her different titles, including Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Birhen ng Antipolo.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia and his wife, Mrs. Ma. Victoria Cuisia were among those who attended the mass.


Devotees came from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.  Many brought images of the Blessed Virgin Mary for a procession before the mass. The principal celebrant of the mass was visiting Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc.

“I’m no longer surprised at the big crowd, or the number of images in the procession, usually about 50 of them,” said Caparas.  

He thanked Rev. Msgr.Walter Rossi, Rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Vito Buonnano, Basilica’s director of pilgrimages, for the event’s success, as well as the Fil-American groups and individual participants, volunteers,and donors.

He invited the community to attend next year’s pilgrimage on June 28, 2014. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Archbishop of Manila,will be the main celebrant.

Among the devotees was Mrs. Ligaya Veranga, mother of choir conductor Red Veranga of the San Lorenzo de Manila Choir of Tidewater, Virginia. She brought two icons of Our Lady of Manaoag.  

Pamela Cindy Felix Emmanuel sang the Birhen ng Antipolo Hymn. Mass lectors were Dr. Luth Garda Tolentino of Ohio and Benildo Bautista of New York.

Petition leaders, who rendered the prayers in Philippine dialects, were: Susan Motus, Ellen Carag, Domingo Patawarn, Nina Palangdao, Isidoro Badua, Dina Adams, Sheila Gonzales, Mila Oasan, Linda Mendiola and Susan Gorospe.

The Antipolo Choir is composed of the Voices of St.Columba and St. Ignatius, with Commigos of Bowie, Maryland, Himig Alay of New York and the Joy in the Spirit Choir of Baltimore. Other participating choirscame from New Jersey and Philadelphia.
_______________________________________________


Reflection

posted Jul 12, 2013, 1:19 PM by birhen ng Antipolo   [ updated Jul 12, 2013, 1:21 PM ]


by Fr. Patrick Longalong

The following was delivered by Fr.Patrick Longalong last June 22 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The occasion was the 16th Annual National Filipino Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage also known as the Birhen ng Antipolo.

Fr. Patrick is the Filipino Diocesan Apostolate Coordinator of the Brooklyn and Queens Diocese. He is also parochial vicar at St. Francis de Sales parish in Belle Harbor, New York.
_________________________________________________________________

Magandang Hapon po mga kapatid!

It is with great pleasure and privelege that I stand here before you on this blessed day when we gather here together as one Filipino-American Community from various Dioceses and States to honor the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage also known as Our Lady of Antipolo.

We now find ourselves more than half way in our celebration of the Year of Faith that our Holy Father Pope Benedict the XVI began last October 11, 2012. It is only appropriate that we pause for a while in this spiritual journey so we can give ourselves the chance to collect our bearings and re-orient ourselves in our journey of spiritual renewal and maturity. We have a proverb in our native language, Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa pinaroroonan. We look back at where we came from half-way in our journey to check if we are still on the right road to our intended destination. If not, we can reflect as to how we can improve ourselves and get back to where we are suppose to be. Our celebration today of Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buen Viaje is a perfect time to do this. As pilgrims we find ourselves before her image so that we may ask he for her maternal guidance and wisdom. We take a break just a few hours at her house to recognize our accomplishments and failures while sorting out the things in our lives that we can improve or put aside so that we can strengthen our relationship with God and with each other. We ask the Blessed Mother to share with us her courage to say “Yes” to the will of God as most often the challenge of conversion can be difficult or frightening. The assurance of her presence allows us to find confidence to forge our way to her Son.

It is such a grace that our Church had given us in this Year of Faith new companions in our spiritual journey. Last October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict canonized seven new saints. Numbered among them is a young Filipino Martyr by the name of Pedro Calungsod. He was a catechist that manifested love, compassion and courage in witnessing the Gospel of Jesus to a community of people that is very different from his own. This great honor of a new saint borne out of the Filipino community should inspire in us a greater vigilance to learn and understand more our Catholic faith. Maybe, brothers and sisters, the more we understand and take to heart what we believe, the more we also understand the reason why the saints are willing to give up everything including their lives to impart the Gospel message. Being a Filipino-American, it is also particularly edifying that alongside Pedro Calungsod, we are joined with another holy saint who also lived exactly at the same time but in a different part of the world. She was a young Native American Indian by the name of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. Both Pedro and Kateri, at different places but during the same time left the security of their own homes, their own people to bravely share the revelation of Jesus Christ in a hostile world and thus becoming instruments that will plant the seed of faith by their blood.

Holy Mother Church had not stopped there in her outpouring of support to us during this Year of Faith. In the following months we encounter the exciting events of the elevation of two men to Cardinal and Pope. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and Pope Francis became to many Filipinos great examples of hope and faith put into actions of love, compassion and charity. Many of us have not seen them in person but the many stories we have heard and inspiring wisdom that they had shared to the world passed around through social media were enough to allow us to identify with their teachings and connect us to them as well as to the merciful and loving God that they introduce to us.
This year had not been an easy time for many of us living in the United States. We have been hit very hard with various issues that demand our serious attention and action. Issues that had been around for a while but due to recent developments require immediate and firmer response. For the past few months until now, we have been praying for an end to violence, recognition of the dignity of life, and respect for Religious Freedom. These issues are important but had been eclipsed by the challenging state of our economy and the recent negative impact of Hurricane Sandy in many areas of the East Coast. Until today, many are still struggling to get back on their feet and restore their life to normalcy. Many still have not moved back to their homes and neighborhoods as they are still being repaired. I know many of us here in the Basilica give thanks to God that we have been spared. But I also know that there are many Filipinos in our midst who are going through a difficult time because they have not been as fortunate.

Last December, two months after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, I went to celebrate Simbang Gabi Mass with one of our Filipino Communities in Brooklyn, NY. It was in an area that had received a tremendous amount of devastation. I knew that many of the residence in the area had been displaced and didn’t expect anyone to show up. I was told that the church cancelled regular Mass schedule because the pastor had also been displaced to a safer place. When I arrived at the church I was met with a group of people at the door of the church. Their leaders were apologetic that there was no electricity since the basement was flooded but they assured me that there will be ample lighting. I smiled noticing that they had lit some candles and held flashlights inside the cold church. They were determined to complete their nine evenings of Simbang Gabi. With nearly frozen fingers, a man strummed his guitar while we sing hymns and prayed together as a community. Each night was the same routine. no electricity. no heat. However, each night our friendship grew stronger and our faith rooted deeper becoming more resilient to the terrible conditions we have to experience.

My brothers and sisters, It is in many experiences like this that I am convinced we are truly blessed. We have been given a great gift of our Christian faith but alongside that gift we have been given another that is unique to the Filipino people. This other gift is a character that many of us Filipinos possess and might not be consciously aware. We have this innate ability to connect right away with each other. We have the ability to immediately come together for support and encouragement even if we have just met each other just a few minutes ago. Let us harness this gift in the next remaining months of the Year of Faith to lead others to an intimate relationship with Jesus. May the courage that Pedro Calungsod and Kateri Tekakwitha manifested in their witness to the Gospel impassioned us to go out into the world and not be afraid to plant the seed of the love of God in our society that will bring about the gift of peace and a deeper appreciation for the gift of life. Let the example and teachings of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and Pope Francis inspire us to put the Gospel message of charity and compassion into action without hesitation nor fear of criticism. And may our Blessed Mother, Our Dear Lady of Antipolo protect us from temptation and lead us safely to her beloved Son.

Maligaya at Makubuluhang Kapistahan ng Mahal na Birhen ng Antipolo at mabuhay tayong lahat sa kanyang anak na si Hesus!

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