St. Gerard Family Life Center of the Shrine

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October 16th is a special day for the shrine as it celebrates the feast of St. Gerard Majella. There is a concelebrated mass at 9:30 AM in honor of the saint. After the mass there is a distribution of free medals of St. Gerard as well as the blessing of children, mothers and expectant mothers.

St. Gerard was an Italian lay brother of the Redemptorists. He was born in Muro Lucano, Basilicata, Italy in April 6, 1726. Despite being always frail in health, Gerard was very passionate in giving all his time and talents to the poor and in prayer to God.

St. Gerard Majella is the patron saint of pregnant mothers and children. He is popularly known as “the saint of mothers.” Many devotee couples who have not conceived for many years have testified that after they asked the intercession of St. Gerard they were blessed with the gift of a child.

The life of St. Gerard is one of the inspirations for the shrine to establish the St. Gerard Family Life Ministry. Another inspiration is the needs and issues that the devotees bring to the shrine regarding their family life. As the shrine has daily confession, many devotees take the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. But there are also times that the devotees share inside the confessional issues and problems in their family like marital infidelity, couple differences, parent-children gap, birth control, abortion, drug addiction, homosexuality, and many others. Because these are serious cases needing more time and attention beyond the confessional, we usually suggest counseling. From this experience, came the need for establishing a counseling center at the shrine. Thus, St. Gerard Family Life Ministry became an extension of Sacrament of Reconciliation thru consultation and counselling.

The shrine formally established St. Gerard Family Life Ministry on Oct 16, 1995, feast of St. Gerard. Through consultation, advisory, and referral services, St. Gerard Family Life Ministry seeks to assist families and individuals in strengthening their family and Christian life. St. Gerard Family Life Ministry offers FREE consultation services: Marriage and Family, Parenting, Human Relationships, Youth, Spirituality, Natural Family Planning, Same Sex Attraction (LGBT) Various Addictions (cyber, gambling, alcoholism, sex, pornography, etc.) Legal Matters, HIV, Migrants and OFWs concerns

Those who avail of the services of the center are church goers, devotees, walk-in clients and referrals from confession, by phone and face to face consultation/counselling. Many devotees who came to the center benefited from the center through the experience of comfort and compassion, healing of broken relationships, healing of broken homes, spiritual nourishment and enhancing of their faith and hope. The ten most common problems devotees bring to the center are:

1) Personal Concerns
2) Marital Problem
3) Family matters
4) Legal matters
5) Man/Woman relationship
6) Job/Financial
7) NFP/Pregnancy
8)Psychological
9) Same Sex Attraction (homosexuality)
10) Spiritual

At the beginning, 5 married couples were selected from volunteers to undergo a series of trainings and seminars to the family life commission archdiocese of manila, Pro-Life Phils, Simbahayan Commission and also which the Diocese of Paranaque. Most of the Mentors are Wounded Healers. Different life experienced stories. In order to enhance their capabilities in counselling, the shrine sponsor their training and study courses about family in UGAT foundation Ateneo de Manila and De la Salle University. There are also practicumers from CEFAM, one priest and one deacon

The  St. Gerard Family Life center also networks closely with the Social Services of the Social Mission of the Shrine, other Family Centers especially those located in Metro Manila, ProLife Phils, of which the center is one of its Pregnancy Crisis Intervention Centers, Government and non-governmental agencies for referral purposes. The center also sponsors from time to time seminars and/or symposia on topics related to family life.

Do you have any problems in the family, marriage, relationships and sexuality? Come to St. Gerard Family Life Center of the shrine and avail of its free services. The schedule of FREE consultation services of the center are from Mon-Tue-Thurs-Fri-Sat: 9am to 12noon / 2pm-5pm, Wed: 9am to 12noon 2pm-7pm, and Sunday: 9am to 12noon. Every 1st Monday of the month there is a novena mass of St.Gerard at 930am. After the mass a there is a blessing for all mothers and children especially for expectant mothers and pregnant woman.

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For more information please visit our website.

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The Shrine During Typhoons and Other Calamities

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As the whole nation braces for the impending arrival of another super typhoon, “Ompong” (international name Mangkhut), I would like to reflect on how the Baclaran shrine witnessed and responded to calamities through the years.

Many typhoons and other calamities, both natural and man-made have ravaged our disaster-prone country. According to the World Risk Index, Philippines is the 3rd most disaster-prone country in the world. The Philippines by virtue of its geographic circumstances is highly prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical cyclones and floods, making it one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. If we add the man-made calamities like fire, landslide due to mining and deforestation, flooding due to the heedless throwing of plastics and clogging of drainage, one can say, indeed, that calamities is a normal order of the day for millions of Filipinos.

In the midst of all these calamities, the shrine has been a source of concrete help and a beacon of hope especially for those mostly affected by calamities. The shrine has brought hope to thousands of calamity victims by bringing immediate aid in the form of food, clothing, emergency shelter and others. The shrine has also facilitated some rehabilitation projects as victims of calamities try to rebuild their lives. The shrine also became temporary sanctuary for those who were stranded at the height of storms and typhoons and thus, cannot further travel to their destinations. Many of them spend the night at the shrine sleeping on the pews.

The shrine has a Solidarity Assistance Committee composed of volunteers from the different ministries of the shrine. The Committee responds to people in need especially during calamities. In the past years, the committee was quick to respond to the different needs of the people through relief and rehabilitation projects in areas hit by man-made and natural calamities like typhoon, floods and fire.

These relief and rehabilitation efforts, however, could not have been possible without the generous support of the thousands of devotees of the shrine. After every calamity, the shrine asked devotees for help to victims of disasters. Many devotees, though they are poor, have generously given help. Thus, this is a case of the poor helping the poor. More importantly, this shows that help becomes perpetual in the shrine. Many of devotees who asked for help from God through Our Mother of Perpetual Help have received the help they needed. In return, they give financial and spiritual help to many especially those most in need.

The shrine has responded to calamities, however, not just after the disaster has struck. The shrine has also responded before the calamity strikes by helping people to prepare for a disaster through prayer and action. There is the perennial issue of the lack of preparation to a disaster in the country. After a calamity, many times different agencies of our government and even the people, chorused: “We didn’t saw it coming!” The shrine has linked up with government and non-government agencies in disaster preparation programs. Through these programs, the shrine has proactively encouraged and educated the people in preparing for an impending disaster.

Paradoxically, the shrine has utilized calamities and typhoons as opportunities for evangelization. In every calamity, we hear people say that these calamities are sent by God out of his wrath and punishment for our sins. The shrine has always proclaimed that this viewpoint offers a convenient way out of our own culpability for our destruction of nature and exploitation of our fellow humans. This also distorts the very nature of God as loving and compassionate. Our Lord Jesus did not come to punish us through the disasters, but came to be one with us, to live amongst us in the midst of the despair and destitution we experience in our daily lives.

The above belief is just one of the many contradictions that the shrine has witnessed during and after calamities. Another contradiction is the great divide between the haves and the have nots. During typhoons, while the Manila elite drove to posh hotels and malls, the poor had nowhere else to go but to protect their scanty houses making sure the roofs and walls are not blown off by the strong winds and rains.

In the aftermath of the typhoon, there is no power, no water, no TV, no cell phones, no refrigerators, etc. These temporary deprivations forced many to go back to the simple, the basic and the natural things in life. These are only temporary deprivations for some but are permanent deprivations for many of our people.

Through the many calamities, the shrine has also witnessed the validity behind the observation that any typhoon brings either the best and the worst in people. One of the best thing that typhoon brought out of people is at the height of the typhoon, some individuals can risk their own lives to save others like the story of security guards who save 100 from floodwater in the midst of ‘Reming’ on December 9, 2006. Philippine Daily Inquirer reported this event:

“With only a piece of cable wire to cling to and his strength stretched to the limit, security guard Rey Jan Borillo, 18, of Barangay Libod, Camalig, Albay, was able to save about 100 residents at the height of Supertyphoon “Reming.” “Hearing the cries of the residents for help, Borrillo, who was six feet and an inch tall, waded through the narrow passageway, carried old and young people on his back and brought them to a three-story building where the pawnshop (he was guarding) was renting space … Helping Borillo was his co-security guard Ricky Legisniana, 21, of Palanog Camalig.”

On the other hand, one of the worst things that a typhoon brings out of people is when some individuals used the typhoon to put forward their agenda and prop up their image. Like many politicians who love to pose for pictures while giving out to evacuees sardines and noodles donated by private individuals and organizations.

As typhoon Ompong continue to move closer to our land, let us make all the necessary preparations. Let us act together and be ready to help each other so that this typhoon bring not the worst but the best in us. We ask the prayers of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, so that God may protect us from any danger and destruction.

Street Kids Given Opportunity to Choose their own Birthday

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Last September 8, we celebrated the birthday of Mary in the shrine. In that blog, I mentioned that despite the yearly celebration of Mary in Catholic churches around the world, Mary probably never celebrated her own birthday during her lifetime.  The reason being that during the time of Mary, as in any other Mediterranean societies of ancient times, the birth of a girl is a non-event inasmuch as the birth of a boy is a call for a big feast and celebration. Moreover, there was no such thing as a yearly celebration of one’s birthday during Mary’s time.

But how about not knowing your own birthday. Do you know that there are people who even do not know their own birthday?

In the Sarnelli Center, the shrine’s center for street children, it is not uncommon to encounter kids whom we pluck out from the streets who did not even know their own birthday.  Being thrown out of their homes voluntarily or involuntarily at a tender age when others are still enjoying their lives as toddlers, they did not know the basic facts about their own lives let alone knowing the day of their birth.

Now, it has always been a tradition in the center to have a monthly celebration for all birthday kids celebrants. Just like a typical children’s birthday party, there is a birthday cake, an ice cream and spaghetti. There are balloons and all the kids sing a hearty happy birthday before they dive into the food.

For those street kids who did not know their birthday, they were given the opportunity to choose a date for their birthday. Some chose Christmas day, other chose September 8, birthday of Mother Mary or any other day they may like. This, I guess, is the advantage of not knowing your birthday; you can choose whatever day you like as your birthday.

Despite not knowing their birthday, these kids were given the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays, only God knows, when it is. In this way, they experience the same joy of celebrating their birthday and having the same sense of dignity like any other normal kid.

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For more information about Sarnelli Center for Street Children please visit our website.  If you want to volunteer at  Sarnelli Center for Street Children please go to our volunteers’ page. If you want to donate to Sarnelli Center for Street Children please go to our donate page.

Joey Echano, CSsR

Sinirangan Coffee Shop: Brewing Hope, Sowing Dreams

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Sinirangan Coffee Shop is not your ordinary coffee shop. Certainly, it serves wonderful coffee like the ordinary commercial coffee shop such as Starbucks, Gloria Jean’s, and Figaro. Like an ordinary commercial coffee shops, it also aims to earn money and profits. The difference, however, is that all the profit from Sinirangan goes to the poor. All profits from Sinirangan coffee shop do not go to the shrine nor to the Redemptorist community but to the survivors of the super typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Samar.

Sinirangan Coffee Shop is the shrine’s coffee shop located at the ground floor of the Carillon Bell Tower near the shrine’s main gate at Roxas Boulevard. Aside from coffee, the shop also serves a wide range of items including pasta and pastries.  The space inside is cozy and relaxing and provides a passage to the top of the Carillon Tower. The exterior garden is spacious and has plenty of hard wood trees and plants. This provides a relaxing and nature-friendly ambiance, an excellent environment while you are drinking coffee.

Through the concerted efforts of the Redemptorists’ Permanent Commission on Social Mission Apostolate (PCSMA) and Tabang Sinirangan Visayas, a multi-sectoral and inter-regional group whose main organizers include the victims themselves, the idea of building a coffee shop that caters products directly transported from Visayas was born. Amidst the devastation, a new hope was born, thus, the coffee shop was named “Sinirangan” which in Eastern Samar’s Waray language means dawn, a new day.

Sinirangan Coffee Shop is basically a livelihood support program benefitting the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Municipalities of Llorente, Gen.MacArthur, Quinapondan and Giporlos, Eastern Samar, Philippines. It involves the whole process of “soil to cup”—from planting and cultivating, to brewing and selling coffee. The soil-to-cup approach is the empowering of the small farmers in the process of production. This means that the farmers will have control from planting to marketing by providing them the necessary tools, conditions and structures.

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Sinirangan coffee plantation is located in the towns of Llorente, Gen.MacArthur, Quinapondan and Giporlos, Eastern Samar, Philippines.  The coffee farmers belong to rural poor families and communities that were affected by the Super typhoon Yolanda. The total number of direct beneficiaries is 3200 households. The total number of indirect beneficiaries such as communities is 19,200 individuals. The types of beneficiaries are household families. The reason for their selection is because they are poor and have no means to take care of themselves.

Another interesting feature of Sinirangan Coffee Shop is that it provides job for graduates of the shrine’s skills and livelihood center. Also, many of the staff of Sinirangan are girls from the women’s center.

By patronizing the coffee shop you can enjoy beautiful coffee while helping the poor beneficiaries.  You may also get the chance to climb the Carillon tower which will give you a magnificent view of the surroundings of the Baclaran National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Come taste our Sinirangan Coffee and enjoy the beautiful panoramic view of Manila Bay Reclamation Area.

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