In December 2011 Fr. John Sullivan discovered what Christmas means in the Philippines.

Published in Faith

I have left the Church many times, but now I can say with certainty that I will remain with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church for the rest of my life.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

MANILA, Philippines - Dozens of Filipino Catholics are joining a global Lenten fast to call on world leaders to act on climate change.

Published in International

TORONTO - Adrian Durlej, 17, was handing out toys, toiletries and food to underprivileged children in the Philippines over the Christmas holidays when one child’s choice fuelled Durlej’s passion for helping others.

Published in Youth Speak News

BEIRUT - She wakes up before the rest of the family, prepares their breakfast and begins a long day of cleaning the house, washing clothes, cooking and taking care of the children.

Yet she's always thinking of her own family some 8,000 kilometres away.

Published in International

TACLOBAN, Philippines - In the past year since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines, small personal conflicts were ironed out as people pulled together to rebuild their lives.

Published in International

MANILA, Philippines - An emergency advisor for Catholic Relief Services said many Filipinos learned from Typhoon Haiyan and willingly went to shelters before Typhoon Rammasun struck.

Published in International

People say age is just a number, but the number 18 screams “stepping into adulthood.” In the Filipino tradition, the tradition of my family, when a young lady turns 18, it’s a huge celebration, which is popularly known as a “debut.” 

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

TORONTO - In the six months since Typhoon Haiyan stripped thousands of Filipinos of everything they have, there is one thing that it couldn’t destroy: the people’s hope and faith in God. 

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - Toronto's Filipino Catholics gathered Nov. 18 to honour one of their own who was last month elevated to sainthood.

About 1,300 people celebrated a Tagalog-language Mass at Our Lady of Assumption Church in honour of St. Pedro Calungsod of Cebu, a saint who shares many similarities with the people who sat in the pews thousands of kilometres from their homeland.

"We can identify with this young man because he came from a poor family and he became a migrant like all of us," said pastor Fr. Ben Ebcas. "The challenges during the time of St. Pedro are similar but different as well because the challenge is now in terms of the work opportunities, the job opportunities and the loneliness."

Ebcas continued by saying that financial stress, religious resistance in popular culture and Toronto's increasing diversity are challenges for the community.

"These are the challenges that sometimes rock our faith but if we have a person who we can draw inspiration from then we can say if (St. Pedro) was able to do it as a young man why not us because we were baptized in the same faith," he said. "It's very challenging to stand up for your faith in times of trials and tribulations and he's a great example for the young people."

Pope Benedict XVI canonized St. Pedro along with six others Oct. 21, including St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Born in the Philippines in 1654, St. Pedro was chosen at age 14 as an exemplary young catechist to accompany the Spanish Jesuits in their mission to the Ladrones Islands, Philippines, later renamed the Mariana Islands. Inconsistent deliveries of provisions, harsh terrain and devastating typhoons made missionary life on the islands difficult to say the least — not to mention the loneliness from an absence of family which the immigrant parishioners can relate to.

But nature was not the only thing working against St. Pedro and the other missionaries. Influenced by rumours that missionaries had been using poisoned holy water for baptisms, local islanders resisted the Catholic influence. When word spread that the missionaries had performed a baptism on a village chief's child, he rose up against the missionaries and killed Calungsod. He was but 17 years old when he was martyred.

On March 5, 2000 Pope John Paul II beatified Calungsod who became the patron of Filipino youth, overseas Filipino workers and the archdiocese of Cebu, Philippines.

"The values that are worth emulating in the live of St. Pedro, as well the other saints, are still important values of today," said Ebcas. "The virtue of faith and hope and charity, they go beyond the bounds of time constraints."

While Ebcas said St. Pedro is a role model for all Catholics, it is seeing the youth engage with the new saint which really has him excited. Zanaida Yu, secretary for the archdiocese of Toronto's Filipino Catholic Mission, feels likewise. Yu, who organized the post-Mass reception at the parish hall, said the presence of the youth choir, who were organized just for the Mass, really touched her.

"It's a great feeling and very uplifting to see the young boys and girls, the youth, rendering a hymn for St. Pedro. That is very, very inspiring and a gift of God," she said. "We have been praying so hard for his canonization over the last 10 years. Now that he is a saint we have to propagate the devotion especially among the youth."

The parish plans to hold more events to celebrate St. Pedro's canonization.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA
August 16, 2012

Flood calls forth aid

Half-a-million people stuck in evacuation centres while their Manila-area homes are underwater are getting a helping hand from Development and Peace.

The development arm of Canadian Catholics is sending $100,000 to help its Filipino partners – Caritas Philippines, Urban Poor Associates and the Centre for Environmental Concern – deal with Manila-area flooding. A month of unrelenting rain has displaced close to three million Filipinos. Caritas estimates 1.1 million flood refugees are staying with family or friends, but another 500,000 are in schools, government buildings and community centres.

Typhoon Saola began dumping heavy rain in the Philippines July 28. The typhoon was followed by seasonal monsoon rains. The government claims illegal settlements along creek beds have made the situation worse.

The flood crisis has sparked another round of debate about relocating slum dwellers in Manila. But for Caritas-Philippines and its National Secretariat for Social Action, the question is what to do right now.

As of Aug. 10 the Caritas emergency fund known as Alay Kapwa Fund stood at just 2.4 million pesos, or $56,000.

"Aside from launching local appeal to the dioceses, NASSA Caritas-Philippines is also tapping international partners to join us in conducting the emergency response," said a NASSA Caritas-Philippines report.

Toronto's sizable Filipino community is also coming together to help with a fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 17 at Our Lady of the Assumption, 2565 Bathurst St. 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The parish is using its patronal feast to collect non-perishable food, over-the-counter medicine and money. Contributions will go directly to Caritas Philippines.

Published in International