Quezon City, Philippines. The opening of the year 2020 had been most challenging for the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines. Last January, a volcano erupted and challenged them to gather resources and workforce to help the survivors and their communities, the best way they can. And while the volcano was still billowing with smoke and ashes, news of gloom started to churn and alarm the world of an impending pandemic—the coronavirus or COVID-19.
National Capital Region (Metro Manila) and the entire island of Luzon were placed in quarantine by the state in March to stop the spread of the pandemic. The two Claretian Parishes within Metro Manila (the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish [IHMP] under the Diocese of Cubao and St. Anthony Mary Claret Parish [SAMCP] under the Diocese of Novaliches) turned out to be the immediate concern of the Congregation. Both became centers of relief operations and temporary shelter for frontliners.
The elderly, the children, persons with disabilities, daily-wage earners within the parish territory – all affected by the mandatory quarantine and lockdown in became the principal concern of the Province.
“With the onset of the pandemic, we immediately identified the most vulnerable sectors needing help, especially those residing among informal settlers in an urban setting,” says Fr. Larry Miranda, CMF, Provincial Prefect of Apostolate.
Although Metro Manila was the epicenter, other mission areas, and institutions where Claretians are present, either in the Philippines or overseas, responded equally to the disaster, given the spillage of cases, from the center to the peripheries. These are the Ako ang Saklay Foundation in Nueva Ecija, Ormoc Mission and Novitiate community, Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Sibugay communities, Basilan communities, Datal Anggas community, and Claret Samal-Bajau Foundation among our indigenous people, ZABIDA with its four alliance NGOs, all Claret Schools, the Institute of Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA), the seminaries, Radio Veritas Asia, the Claret Solidarity Group, Vietnam and Myanmar missions.
“Reaching out to thousands of beneficiaries,” Fr. Larry continues, “we got themselves involved in relief operations, preparing meals and lodging for frontliners, sewing face masks and PPEs (personal protective equipment), distributing food vouchers, and conducting psychological first-aid. Some of our mission areas had been closely working hand-in-hand with local government units and other civil society organizations to deliver and respond to the most urgent needs of the people. In the entire ecosystem of charity in these trying times, we have reached out to Christians, Muslims, and the indigenous peoples, mostly those in the society’s hemline.”
“Our resources are scarce, but this scarcity was never a deterrence to the spirit, which calls us to make a qualitative missionary response to what is ‘timely, effective, and urgent.’ We recognize the help coming from some government offices, other private sectors and organizations, private persons, benefactors, sponsors, friends, and parishioners – and to them, we are grateful. We likewise doff our hats to our local religious communities. They, in the spirit of shared mission and solidarity, shared whatever resources they have to help our missions in the peripheries,” he further said.
There are two essential things always placed to the fore as Claretian missionaries every time we are in a crisis just like this pandemic: First, our mandate to help the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged (Cf. MS 9). Second, acting and responding to the needs of our people, with the grace of being a missionary community (Cf. MS 27).
We go forth as Claretian Missionaries.