The Birhen ng Luján Quasi-Parish celebrates its patronal feast every second Sunday of May. This year, it coincided with the traditional date for the celebration of Our Lady of Luján in Argentina which is held every May 8th (but it has to be moved to the 9th since the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension on the same day).
Every parochial feast is given special attention by organizing a Holy Mission. The Holy Mission is one of the missionary activities of the Institute of the Incarnate Word with an objective to preach the Word of God in a popular and simple way. The Holy Mission in Bagong Barrio is adapted according to the needs of the people of the parish, situated in one of the districts of Metro Manila called Bagong Barrio (Tagalog for new village).
The area occupied by the Quasi-Parish in Bagong Barrio is considered as one of the poorest area in the Metro Manila. Most people of the parish work by sewing rags and sandals, mostly living in poor and dire conditions. Having been allotted a small plot, most of the families were cramped in homes unfit for living. Some who were living on the slums contented themselves with rotting woods and rusting tins in order to accommodate their families. Some houses were literally a concrete box, with a small opening that serves as the door as well as the window. Others who were well-to-do resorted in building their house upwards, that is, having three to five floors connected with a narrow stair case in order to fit themselves into it.
Last April 30, Fr. Luis Eduardo Zapata gave the missionary mandate to more than 70 missionaries from Caloocan and the IVE and SSVM Houses of Formation in Lipá. A full week of mission awaited them. Each day of the Holy Mission, which were also days of novena, were dedicated to each of the Spiritual Works of Mercy heeding the invitation of Pope Francis during this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
In the morning, the missionaries pray the Rosary while making procession around the different streets of the parish. After the Holy Hour and breakfast, they spread out, visiting different houses amidst a high summer temperature of 35º C. The house visitations aimed to get in touch with the parishioners, inviting them for the activities of the Holy Mission and make them take advantage of the opportunity of receiving the sacraments.
In the afternoon, some missionaries continued the home visitations with a special team dedicated to visit the sick, while some were in the children and youth missions. More than 100 children and 30 young people came for the whole week of the missions. The mission included games, snacks and catechism. In a way, this served as a wholesome recreation for them, especially this time of summer break.
In the evening, the doctrinal and controversial points were briefly given every before the Holy Mass. During the Holy Mass, a moment was allotted for the children to offer fresh flowers to the Virgin Mary. Confessions were also available during the Mass. Afterwards, a festive fogón in front of the church was held. A fogón consists of cultural acts and comedy skits.
People were also invited to take part with the Kasalang Bayan, or the mass celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony this June 25. During this Holy Mission, we discovered many couples living without the Sacrament of Matrimony and were only hindered by some financial difficulties, mostly from unnecessary expenses. For the Kasalang Bayan, they are only to pay for the registration with the civil government.
As the week of the Holy Mission is about to end, the sacraments were given on those people who signed up during this Holy Mission. On May 7, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of the Diocese of Caloocan conferred the sacrament of confirmation on 62 people. During the fiesta, 20 children and infants were baptized. There were also cases of adult baptism. Later in the evening, 10 children received the Holy Communion for the first time. Bishop David also celebrated the fiesta Mass on the May 8. During his homily, he encouraged the people on the virtues of humility and detachment which the mystery of the Ascension teaches us. More couples signed up for the upcoming kasalang bayan.
The Joy of the Gospel
The conclusion of the Holy Mission turned out to be a moment of special joy. The fiesta games for the youth and children went so festive and fun. Joy was also the atmosphere for the missionaries during the final dinner, for joy comes whenever the Gospel of Christ is preached, when His grace begin to conquer every man for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary bless all our efforts and bring to its completion. May She always bless the Philippines and grant us all the necessary graces in order to combat the forces of lawlessness and immorality which threatens this pueblo amante de Maria in the times past and in the future to come.
For more photos, visit Birhen ng Lujan QuasiParish Facebook Page.