MANILA, Oct. 19, 2013—His tears have once again moved the Catholic faithful.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle once again became emotional brought by the “overwhelming experience” that filled the recently-concluded Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE).
Not only Tagle was brought to tears as a number of delegates also became emotional at the closing of the convention held at the University of Santo Tomas from Oct. 16 to 18.
During the candle-lighting ceremony that marked the mission sending part of the conference, the university’s Quadricentennial Pavilion was filled with flickering lights—made stronger by the overflowing devotion of all those present—as they waved their candles while singing “Tell the World of His Love” in unison.
In his homily for the convention’s closing Eucharist, Tagle called on the faithful to continue fulfilling the church’s call for new evangelization through manifesting humility and vulnerability in their day-to-day lives.
“We are sent as humble and poor servants of the kingdom and its message. We are not sent in order to prove something to God or to ourselves. We are not here for conquest.
We are here simply to share the riches that we have heard, seen, and touched,” Tagle said.
“We go with what really matters—the message of the kingdom of God. With our vulnerability, hopefully, we rely to the one who sent us,” he added.
Tagle was also moved to tears at a news conference last August as he spoke about the multibillion-peso pork barrel scandal hounding the country. He urged government leaders to witness the plight of poor Filipinos by going to the slums to witness their suffering.
Veronica Antonio, 56, who was very emotional as the cardinal led the faithful to the candle-lighting ceremony, said she was touched with how the convention changed her perspective about mission.
“The way I perceive my mission became clearer…I have learned that I should not mind whatever position it is that I hold. What I should focus on is the mission that I have to fulfill in my parish,” she said.
“I was very touched with what happened. The Holy Spirit has changed me,” Antonio added.
Coming from the Diocese of San Pablo, 18-year-old Gladys Tagle was also in tears when she said she was overwhelmed with the turn out of the celebration. She was in tears as the convention was formally closed by the cardinal.
“Being a part of this celebration feels so good. I often ask myself if I am really meant to serve, but now that question has been answered. It became clear to me that I will do everything the Lord asks of me, all in high hopes that he will never leave me in this journey,” she said.
Flying all the way from Hong Kong, Giovanni Pang from the Diocese of Hong Kong said that the PCNE lifted and strengthened the Filipino faith to greater heights.
“It gave me the feeling that the Filipino church is very powerful. It is very graceful and filled with a lot of hopefuls as every Filipino says they love God,” he said.
Pang noted that the cardinal’s message reminding people to seek mission instead of running after position struck him.
“Everybody in society is finding position, thinking that I have to go up, grab power, and get some money. But as Tagle said, trust God for you have a mission. No need to find your position,” he said.
Former priest Alexander Viaje, 48, said that his love for the church and the ministry was rekindled brought by the experience he acquired from PCNE. He left the priesthood to build a family of his own.
“This conference made me alive. I really love the church and being a Catholic. When we leave this place, we have this vibrant message within us to bring and announce to our respective places,” Viaje said.
Start of renewal
PCNE Organizing Committee Vice Chairperson Msgr. Gerardo Santos, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education, said the experience brought by the convention must be continuously shared to fulfill the mission of new evangelization.
“The greatest challenge for PCNE now is for those who attended to bring the light of the gospel to where they are. Fruitfulness is very important, new evangelization is not just for three days. The challenge is bringing Christ to the people,” he said.
Henrietta De Villa, PCNE Organizing Committee Executive Secretary, said that the three-day conference marks the “start of a renewal movement” that must be sustained by the faithful.
“It gave a good experience of the church, especially now that many people are turning away from it. Through this gathering, the realization that we are the church, that we move the mission of the church forward has been revived,” De Villa, who is also the former Ambassador of the Philippines to the Holy See, said.
“What happened was we saw the different faces of the people, which is also the different faces of Christ in the world. When you enter their situation, it is also as if you are seeking Christ,” she added.
With the church facing greater challenges brought by modernistic influences, Santos said a different kind of approach must be used for the church to better connect with the people.
“The church now needs to connect with the young people, to get involved with the poor. We need to live integrity in the church. We need to practice what we preach and that is a big challenge,” he said, noting that leadership by example is needed to solve the controversies currently faced by the country. (Jennifer Orillaza)