ROME, Italy, Aug. 18, 2016 – In the city known for iconic structures like the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, and where you can see the Pope up close every Wednesday, in a Filipino community based in Rome called PiCCoLa, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) silently pass on a riveting religious culture and traditional ways of proclaim the faith that many believe is keeping Catholicism alive in Europe and many parts of the Western world.
“[We] want to sustain the traditions, especially going to Church every Sunday,” explained PiCCoLa coordinator Maria Asuncion Bibes Ricasa. According to her, the group was established when several Filipinos felt the need to establish a community that shows and strengthens the distinct religious culture of Filipinos. “There are more and more Filipinos, so we need to organize. Maximize the priests too… This is what we teach the youth. Slowly, we pass unto the youth our traditions and culture,” added Anita Santos Reyes, one of the senior heads in the community.
“We even have block rosary here, ‘pabasa,’ novena, just like our traditions in the Philippines [they’re] so alive here!” said their coordinator.
Unexpected call to serve
The two Filipinas who have been staying in Italy for almost 30 years now, testified that the call to service comes even in the most unexpected places. Both Reyes and Ricasa explained that back in the Philippines they simply went to Mass regularly, but being in Italy, being part of PiCCoLa has changed their lives.
“Sometime I think, look at life. Back in the Philippines, I was a simple Mass-goer. But when I got here in Italy, my perspective got wider and I felt at ease in serving the Lord,” the coordinator for 3 years now shared.
“The impact is big, imagine before I’m a simple Mass-goer, and now I’m the coordinator… Now I do so many things, wholeheartedly I obey and fulfill my duties, in here it feels more.. you just give your whole self into serving,” she added.
Even living just a few minutes from the Vatican, the city-state, which houses the headquarters of the Catholic Church, has had an undeniable impact on them. “When we post photos of us [at the] Vatican, people always comment, you guys are so lucky, you see the Pope! Of course we are happy and we feel blessed because the center of our Catholic faith is within our reach,” said Ricasa.
“Sometimes, even if we just pass by and see the cupola we become happy. There’s that joy when you see it, even if you often see it there’s that gratitude. We are very lucky and blessed,” stressed the Filipina.
‘Small’ Filipino community
The Bambino Gesú-PiCCoLa, which started in 1986, celebrated its 30th anniversary last January. The community is more known as PiCCoLa, Pilipino Christian Community of La Storta. “Piccola” in Italian means “small.’”
The Sentro Pilipino, is the Rome chaplaincy that aims to provide “social and pastoral care for Filipino migrants and their families – serving their spiritual and material needs, protecting their rights.” The center has four major clusters with each cluster comprising many different Filipino communities. PiCCoLa belongs to the Sentro’s north cluster under the spiritual direction of Fr. Henry Escasinas.
“We even have weekly formations, liturgy, choir, officers meeting, youth, visiting of the sick… with the guidance of our parish priest,” she added.
‘Not just your spare time’
“Based on my experience, be more committed, give what you can to the Church, not just your spare time… all efforts and commitment will never be wasted once you offer your life to service,” said Ricasa.
“Maybe if I go back to PH for good, I’ll serve our Church and volunteer so I can continue what I do here in Rome, which I wasn’t able to do in the past.”
“I hope the faith and service of the Filipino continue, especially now that there are issues about moralities and killing and questions about religion, values is very important,” she added. (Chrixy Paguirigan / CBCPNews)