500th Anniversary of the Arrival of Christianity in the Philippines

On Saturday, 23 October 2021, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Middletown, in collaboration with the Fil-Am Catholic Community of the Hudson Valley celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. As part of the 500th Anniversary celebrations, a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag arrived at the Shrine on Friday 15 October. People were encouraged to make a private novena during her stay. The Shrine Church was filled with other Filipino devotions such as San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod, the two canonized Filipino saints and an image of the Santo Nino. Before the beginning of Mass, the rosary was recited in front of the image of Our Lady of Antipolo, led by Fr. Justin Maria Cinnante, O.Carm., Filipino chaplain of the FACCHV.The Mass was celebrated by His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. Bishop Gerardo Colacicco, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York and Very Rev. Mario Esposito, O.Carm., Prior Provincial of the Carmelites, St. Elias Province were the primary concelebrants. Dr. Alex Gapay served as deacon and priests from the Hudson Valley, Connecticut and Queens concelebrated. The San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir of New York under the direction of Mr. Rogelio Jun Penaverde provided the music for the event. Also present were the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm as well as the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. There were about 300 faithful and devout Catholics from the Hudson Valley and tri-state area who flocked to celebrate this momentous occasion.

In his homily, the Papal Nuncio began by talking about faith and the “ability to see and to know where I came from” reflecting on the gospel readings. He talked about how “God made each human being and Jesus is the one who shows us the way to the Father, the essence of our faith.” He noted that the gift of faith, the theme of the 500th Anniversary celebrations that the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines chose, “opens our eyes, to see spiritually, how to live and it is the essence of our Catholic faith.” This year, “Filipinos worldwide celebrate the 500 years of faith, this vision to the Philippines.” In his homily, Archbishop Brown also conveyed the Holy Father Pope Francis’ personal affection to all the Filipinos present, of whom he was with before coming to Middletown.

Archbishop Brown touched upon two points in his homily. The first is inculturation. He noted that when the faith arrived in the Philippines form Europe, it was dressed in foreign clothing. He says that the Catholic faith received the clothing of the Filipino people, which happened in the last five hundred years. He talked about the devotional image of the Infant of Prague, placed in front of the pulpit, which was once European has now been enculturated by the Filipinos, hence becoming the Santo Nino. He talked about his own personal experience in the Philippines of seeing the poor and the rich own a Santo Nino and blessing them. The second is evangelization. He noted that the Filipinos are gifted with the Catholic faith and are now gifted to give this faith. He quoted Pope Francis who speaks to the Filipino people as the “smugglers of the faith” further encouraging the Filipino people to bring the Catholic faith around the world. He also talked about his experiences with the Filipino communities in Ireland and Albania while serving as nuncio.The nuncio also talked about the statistics from his recent meetings in Rome. He noted that the Philippines is the third largest Catholic country in the world. In 2019, the Philippines had more baptism than all of Europe combined. The nuncio noted that this is significant because it represents the Philippines as the “powerhouse of faith!” He encouraged all Filipinos to give the gift of faith and to continue this mission. Lastly, he noted how Cardinal Tagle talked about Europe becoming a mission territory. The Filipinos are now the ones filling the parishes in Europe. The nuncio finished his homily by encouraging the Filipinos to ask Mary to make them evangelizers to the world; to bring Jesus to those who don’t know him yet, not by words but words and actions.

Following communion was a blessing of religious articles. People from all over the Hudson Valley area, as well as those from Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania raised their religious articles to be blessed by the Archbishop.

Following the blessings of religious articles, Very Rev. Mario Esposito, O.Carm. gave his remarks,  welcoming and thanking the Archbishop, the clergy, and those who gathered for the evening. He expressed his gratitude to the Fil-Am Catholic Community of Hudson Valley for hosting the event, the benefactors of the Mass and reception, the choir and those who made this event possible. After the Mass, a formal dinner and cultural night was held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Center in Middletown.

We thank the Archbishop for traveling halfway across the world, for those present at the Mass, and we congratulate the Filipinos of the Hudson Valley on this momentous occasion in the life of their Catholic faith and the Philippines. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

written by Bro. Von Erick Maria Sandoval, O.Carm.

The full Mass can be accessed on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Facebook page or at: https://www.ourladyofmtcarmelshrine.com/live-stream