WASHINGTON D.C. - Filipino expatriates can recapture a sense of the old country by rekindling their Catholic roots and fulfilling a missionary role in their adopted homes.
“When you move to another culture, you experience necessarily some sort of disconnect,” said Archbishop Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle, shepherd to about 3 million Catholics in the Archdiocese of Manila.
He officiated masses here last month on his first pastoral visit to the United States, including one at the historic St. Matthews Cathedral that was followed by a dialogue organized by the Couples for Christ Foundation for Family & Life (CFCFFL).
“The Catholic faith is not confined to only one culture. It can take shape in different cultures, taking into itself the beauty and even weaknesses of the different cultures,” he explained.
“The Filipino Catholic way is just one expression. Parents grew up as Catholics with our values, sentiments, mind-sets very much intertwined with the Catholic Church,” the prelate said.
|Archbishop Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle
Tagle said it was “normal” for Filipinos, especially the estimated 13 million-strong Filipino Diaspora, to feel alienated in their new environment. And yet the overseas Filipino has become the “face of globalization”.
“They are everywhere. Filipinos find it easy compared to other people to blend and harmonize with their receiving culture,” Tagle averred.
He recounted the words of Jesuit priest Horacio dela Costa who said “the true wealth of Filipinos are music and faith.”
“Filipinos may be poor but somehow in their poverty comes some kind of musicality. When we are sad, we hum a tune; when we are happy, we sing. We don’t need to rehearse, we just sing and there is harmony,” Tagle declared, drawing laughter from his audience.
He dismissed the notion that Filipinos remain poor because they are lazy or lack initiative. “We have seen so many difficult times as a people. Filipinos have suffered untold disasters even up to now. They plant and a typhoon comes to wipe out their crops. They have to start over and over again – but instead of despairing, they plant with a smile and hope the sun will rise again.”
Tagle suggested this trait is ingrained in all Filipinos. He pointed to the Vatican II that emphasized the importance of the nuclear family. “The family is a domestic church, meaning the family is the church in the home. Family is the first experience of church for all of us,” he explained.
Filipino-Americans, Tagle said, could intensify the feeling of church primarily in the homes. “When your children attend the masses, they can get a taste of the Filipino,” he expounded.
But Filipino Catholics also have the opportunity to carry out another mandate from the church.
“I know American parishes are very open to inter cultural realities so if Filipinos could be actively involved in the parishes then you could share the gift of the Filipino culture and Filipino faith expressions,” the Manila prelate said.
“Share with the US Church,” he appealed to Fil-Ams, reminding them about their strengths. Like the resolute farmer after a storm, Filipino Catholics can share their unbounded belief that “We are not alone and God will lead us to a brighter tomorrow.”