Photo: Fran Bourdon
By Dan Valenti (Sep 22, 2008)
The new mission of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in the Philippines has gotten off to a big start — big and tall — climaxed by the "Triple Grand Celebration" at Divine Mercy Hills in the city El Salvador, Mindanao.
From Sept. 5-7, several hundred people attended the triduum. The celebration culminated on Sept. 8, when more than 20,000 pilgrims journeyed to Divine Mercy Hills before dawn for (1) the dedication and blessing of a 50-foot Divine Mercy statue, (2) the formal turnover of the statue to the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, and (3) to celebrate the Blessed Mother's birthday.
VIEW A PHOTO GALLERY THAT DOCUMENTS THE EVENT AND THE MARIANS' LATEST MISSIONARY EFFORTS IN THE PHILIPPINES.
Recognizing that the Marians have been official promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message since 1941, Church officials in the Philippines have invited the Congregation to have a physical presence in this southeast Asian nation. The Marians' mission began in June. The Marians will have a key role in the building and administration of the proposed interdiocesan Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador.
Heavy Marian Participation
Participating in the dedication on Sept. 8 were Fr. Jan Rokosz, MIC, general of the Congregation, and Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, second counsel to the general, both from Rome; Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, Marian vocation director based in Steubenville, Ohio; and the Marians' three missionaries to the Philippines, Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC, Fr. Walerian Pozniak, MIC, and Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC. Fran Bourdon, executive director of the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Mass., also attended.
The four-day celebration included talks on Divine Mercy, Adoration, testimony, daily Rosary and Mass, and prayer. On day four, the culmination of the festival took place on the field altar in front of the statue of The Divine Mercy.
In its coverage of the final day, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said of Divine Mercy Hills:
The faithful come by the thousands every day in this quiet city west of Cagayan de Oro to pray and marvel at the 75-foot Shrine of the Divine Mercy, said to be the tallest of its kind in the world. Sitting on a hill 500 feet above sea level, the shrine looks out to Macalajar Bay and a view of the embattled villages in the mountains of Lanao. The location is not deliberate, the priests, who take care of the shrine, say, adding that God chose the place to be a center for dialogue and healing for the people of Mindanao.
The newspaper went on to quote Fr. Joseph Roesch, who said the future Shrine will serve as a venue where dialogues between Christians and Muslims could be held. "This can be a place of dialogue and mercy," he told the Inquirer. "There's such a need for a place like this, and rightly so because we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God."
Main celebrant for the dedication celebration was the Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. The Most Rev. Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, gave the homily. Concelebrants included Archbishop Emeritus Jesus B. Tuquib, other bishops, and all priests present, including the Marians.
"The generosity of the Filipinos was unbelievable," said Bourdon. "The local Divine Mercy Foundation did a tremendous job organizing the celebration and developing the property, which they are continuing to do."
Bourdon said plans include a Divine Mercy shrine, a Rosary walk, Stations of the Cross, an amphitheater, and a Marian residence. He said the Marians would be assisting the foundation in turning Divine Mercy Hills "into a center of healing, where the focus will be on bringing the Lord's Divine Mercy to as many people as possible."
The message of The Divine Mercy has spread like wildfire throughout the Philippines, and Divine Mercy Hills is being developed to meet the growing spiritual needs of the local populace.
"Divine Mercy has brought about renewed faith through the devotion," says Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Manila and director of the Divine Mercy Apostolate of the Philippines (DMAP.) "The message has also given the people a deepened sense of God in His mercy, a sense of hope through the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy, a new dimension of stewardship and loving service, and greater trust in God, particularly in dark moments with the present ills of society."
Fathers Walerian, Mariusz and Jan will continue to work on developing efforts to increase awareness of Divine Mercy in the island nation. Fathers Walerian and Jan are stationed at Divine Mercy Hills. Father Mariusz is attached to the vicar general's office at the Archdiocese of the Philippines office in Manila.
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Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of The Marians of The Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" for thedivinemercy.org.