500 years of Christianity in the Philippines:A Gift and a Responsibility

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            Fr. Elias L. Ayuban, Jr., CMF, the present Provincial Superior of the Claretian Missionaries - Philippine Province, graced the first day of Manresa School faculty and staff in-service training last June 17, 2021, held simultaneously in the Main AVR and online via Zoom meeting. With his rich experience as a missionary and canon lawyer, he shared profound reflections on the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. 

 

       For over 500 hundred years, Christianity has been the foundation of the cultural beliefs and national identity of the Filipino Catholics. However, as the Church celebrates the quincentennial of Christianity in the Philippines, some questions popped out, “For ordinary Filipino lay Catholics, what is the relevance of this celebration? For lay educators, what is the connection of the celebration to their lives and vocation as teachers? What is the message of this celebration amid the many crises that the Filipinos currently experience? How could the lay put into practice the essence of this celebration?” These were some of the questions that Fr. Elias tried to tackle during his talk.

            Celebrating his 25th sacerdotal anniversary this year, Fr. Elias highlighted that this celebration of 500 years of Christianity is not just a celebration of the Church (as an institution), apart from the lives of the people. The Church is the People of God; therefore, he reiterated that the commemoration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines is a celebration of the Filipino people, making it very relevant to the lives of all believers, including churchgoers and ordinary lay educators.

            For Fr. Elias, the essence of this celebration is the gift of faith, which is both an inheritance and a task. It is a gift from the parents who passed on the faith to their children, baptizing them in their innocence. But as individuals advance in age, it is their task to nourish this faith. As for the Catholic educators, it is their task to guarantee that these children will be raised in the Christian community. In the end, everyone who received the Good News must proclaim the same Good News to others. It is the mission of the Filipino faithful to make their faith known to all. To proclaim the Good News is an inherited right and obligation of every baptized person. With this, Fr. Elias challenged the audience to spread the divine message of salvation more and more so that it would reach more people. 

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           As I listened to Fr. Elias’ talk, I realized how generous our forefathers are in sharing their faith despite the situations in our country back then,” Ms. Joanna Marie Santelices, JHS Araling Panlipunan Coordinator, remarked in reaction to the talk.Let us reflect on what Fr. Eli said that ‘faith is not just a gift but a task’. Catholicism will not thrive if not for the people who willingly and bravely ‘share’ the Good News – the Word of God. Ito ay hindi lamang limandaang taon ng kasaysayan ng Kristiyanismo sa Pilipinas, ito ay pagkilala sa limandaang taon ng pagpupunyagi, ng pagbibigay ng sarili sa kapwa, ng pag-aalay ng sarili sa Panginoon, at higit sa lahat, ang pag-aalay ng oras, resources, talino at talento para ibahagi sa kapwa ang mabuting balita ng Panginoon,” she added.

 

            Mr. Edizon Zamora, SHS Social Sciences Coordinator, found the discussion a challenge, igniting a spark of inspiration in his vocation as a Social Science teacher. He quipped that “As educators and lay collaborators, it is a challenge for us to become more faithful and committed in our mission despite the challenges we face now and then. We are also called to be an instrument of knowledge, peace, and love. There may be a lot of uncertainties that we face along the way, but as one family, we move forward keeping our faith and holding our common goal because I am gifted, you are gifted, we are all gifted!”

            The two-part session did not only offer additional knowledge to the teachers and staff but more importantly, motivated them to deeper reflection and stirred them to put these reflections into action. The open forum was very enriching as the audience presented several questions to Fr. Elias, which he generously addressed. He concluded by encouraging the audience to continue the missionary works of the Church saying, “Church people should find the lost and the last. We have to engage in the lives of the people and get involved in temporal matters because our vocation is to speak the truth with humility. Catholic schools have to produce good Christians, who are martyrs of their vocation.” He added that as Manresan educators, the community must have the solidarity to get involved in the temporal concerns of the country, making the faith alive in the present day.

            Indeed, it is a challenge for all Manresan educators and lay collaborators to become more faithful and committed in their mission despite the challenges they face due to the pandemic. They are all called to be instruments of knowledge, peace, and love. There may be lots of uncertainties that they may encounter along the way, but as one family they move forward in keeping their faith and holding their common goal, exclaiming, “We are all gifted! We have to give!”

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