Christmas on the Other Side of the World

February 21, 2023
The children's catechism choir

The Catholic Association of Nurses and Doctors (ACIM) sends us this account of Christmas Mass in Cantugas in the Philippines.

Christmas Eve was cold, rainy, windy and dark because the power line had been cut. A few adults and the catechism children made their way to the chapel, soaked and shivering, but they sang Christmas carols with gusto and happily kissed the statue of the Child Jesus brought by Yolly, nurse-catechist of ACIM-Asia.

What fervor when, singing “Ego sum pauper, nihil habeo, cor meum dabo” [I am poor, I have nothing, I give my heart], they offered their hearts to the Child in the manger whom they had just installed for the first time in their lives. After midnight adoration, Yolly invited the children to feast on spaghetti!

The village remained silent. The tribesmen know that Christmas is the time when they can ask for alms. And it was at this same time, three years ago, that some Mamanwa beggars pursued by the police came to take refuge in the St. Joseph church in Davao, where Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer had welcomed them, and promised to come and visit them in their distant village.

The tedious translation of Christmas carols into a dialect they could understand took a lot of work from Yolly, and it was not the least of the apostolic works she has done for these poor villagers. She prioritized their training for the preparation of the altar for Mass, so they could do it themselves in the future.

The distribution of small presents delighted the children who left with colored pencils, coloring books and soft toys that the volunteers of the Rosa Mystica mission in September had brought. Clothes were also distributed.

Yolly sewed all Christmas Eve, in deep, silent meditation by candlelight, mending these worn-out clothes to cut them down into children's sizes so they could wear something “new” for the Christmas Mass. Six children asked her for socks, not to hang them on a nonexistent Christmas tree, but so they could cover their cold feet and look presentable at Mass.

Fr. Cornel Eisenring, a missionary from Switzerland, celebrated Mass on Christmas morning. The faithful listened to his sermon speechless: he spoke their dialect! They surrounded him with effusion at the end of the Mass and fought over the favor of getting a photo with him.

The fire of charity burns in Yolly's heart! After the Christmas Mass in Cantugas, she left for Surigao (one of the three places of the last Rosa Mystica Mission in September) to support the newly created choir. Then, not even taking the time to have dinner, she hopped on a bus to Butuan where she waited for a student from General Santos who had volunteered to assess the possibility of fish production in the chinampas project (floating gardens) in Cantugas.

It is a project that is dear to Yolly’s heart which could give the tribe a certain food autonomy and help its members to acquire a more community and more enterprising spirit. Two students from the Purpan Engineering School in Toulouse will go to Cantugas for three months, from March to May 2023, to help them carry out this project.

To participate in the March 2023 medical mission, contact: [email protected] - If you wish to make a donation, you may use Paypal on the website, or by check or bank transfer payable to: ACIM, 2 route d’Equihen, 62360 Saint-Etienne-au-Mont. Tax receipt on request.