This article is a report from FSSPX NEWS's special correspondent in the Philippines, Fabienne de Geofroy.
The first two days of the mission will take place in the district of Santa Lucia in Butuan, a large city in the north of the island of Mindanao, the southernmost of the Philippine archipelago. Santa Lucia is a wild relocation area for those who have lost everything following the many natural disasters that have affected these regions.
This slum where misery is hidden behind magnificent lush vegetation, located below the Agusan River, is flooded at the slightest rise in water, several times a year. Moral misery meets material misery.
At the request of some local residents, a Mass was celebrated there for the first time in 1997, by Fr. Marc Vernoy, in a fragile cabin on stilts. Today in the same place, there sits a modest but pretty chapel, the fruit of twenty years of regular apostolate.
Yolly, a dedicated Rosa Mystica permanent nurse and catechist, begins to see with the second generation the fruits of hard work, punctuated by joys and disappointments. She thus receives the testimony of the gratitude of a young woman who has founded a family, still living in poverty in the neighborhood but raising her children with dignity.
She renounced the temptation of her youth, which would have given her over to prostitution, in order to earn a better living and founded a family despite a questionable past.
After a trip that lasted up to 72 hours for some volunteers, high Mass was celebrated this morning on Sunday, September 10 by Fr. Jean-Michel Gomis, who came from Singapore to assist the French-speaking volunteers.
At the beginning of the afternoon, the mission began with the traditional procession led by the tireless Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer, from the chapel, under a blazing sun, that’s putting it mildly!
The liturgical calendar this year especially offers us the protection of Our Lady of Sorrows, behind whom we walked while reciting the rosary on dusty, barely passable roads. The umbrellas, in this rainy season, fortunately also sheltered us from the rays of a blazing sun.
The faithful then gave us a touching session of songs and dance to welcome us and express their gratitude. Bernadette, one of the faithful from the very beginning, gave a moving testimony, telling us the story of this chapel from its beginnings.
The commitment of the faithful in preparing for the mission is the visible sign that the sacrifices of this apostolic work are bearing fruit. Just like the material and spiritual aid provided by Yolly since 2019, and particularly during the Covid confinement which caused many poor people to lose their meager means of subsistence. The “consultation cabins” were built by one of Bernadette’s nephews, who until then had been rather resistant to the “good word.”
These poorest of the poor see in the mission a concrete recognition of their existence, and Yolly is certain that an immense spiritual good will come from the efforts, the sacrifices of all, in this “forgotten village.”
The roles of each volunteer were then assigned, followed by the recitation of the rosary and a quick dinner, because the volunteers have to go to bed early. Tomorrow will be a heavy day, and there is a lot of jet lag to recover from.