THE CELEBRATION of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy at the Christ the King Parish (CTKP) is not limited to ceremonies inside the church, the most recent being the enthronement of the Image of the Divine Mercy.
Parish priest Rev. Fr. Nonnette Legaspi has set the template on how this extraordinary year will be observed. He cites the importance of creating a culture of encounter which Pope Francis always puts emphasis on in his many Homilies. The Pope has said that “an encounter is the means chosen by Jesus to change lives.”
“It’s very easy to organize programs and reach out to people and serve them, but we forget the most important thing,” Fr. Nonnette begins. “Sometimes we don’t have our heads and hearts in doing service, just our hands.”
With this sentiment, CTKP comes up with a list of ways and means to create such culture, inclusive of everyone–young, old, rich, poor, with or without special abilities and disabilities.
1 MAKE IT PERSONAL
As its name implies, the Greeters Ministry is there to greet parishioners as they come to church. But this is not the usual functional Meet & Greet. This is a very personal way of welcoming them to the House of God. The greeters initiate an exchange that goes beyond hellos or handshakes and making them feel special. Through this, they are encouraged to return or form a bond of friendship with fellow parishioners.
Another activity aimed at personally reaching out to the parishioners is the Agape Mass. It is held every last Sunday of the month after the 11:15am Mass, wherein parishioners are encouraged to bring food, much like potluck, for sharing. In the process, they have more time to get to know each other or share common interests, maybe starting with the recipe of the food somebody brought.
A special feature of the Agape Mass is the ROBE (Reaching Out to the Baptized and Enrolled) in the Parish launched last March. Birthday cards are sent monthly on the first or second week of the month to greet children baptized at CTKP during Fr. Nonnette’s term. They are then invited to attend the Agape Mass where they are to be blessed.
The cards are sent through the BEC community coordinators and Chapel heads. If the child is a non-parishioner, they are sent through their parishes, mostly CTKP’s neighbor parishes, including San Antonio de Padua, Presentation of Our Lord, Kristong Hari, Sagrada Familia, and San Isidro Labrador.
This activity paves the way for both parents and children to reconnect with the parish and the baptizing priest.
“This is to tell the parents that we care about the children baptized in our parish and would like to find out how they are,” Fr. Nonnete explains, “We also would like to give the parents a sense of belonging in our parish.”
Corollary to this, young children with artistic talents are invited to design and make the greeting cards to be given out.
2 DON’T BE ANONYMOUS
“Another important mission is breaking the barrier of anonymity. One should be identifiable as a church servant,” says Fr. Nonnette.
In this light, parish church servants are requested to wear identification cards (IDs), big ones at that, with their photos on it and their nicknames–or exactly the way they want to be called–printed in easily readable letters.Wearing such IDs is an invitation and an indication that the person is approachable and willing to help or to listen.
“When Christ offered His life, He wasn’t anonymous. Don’t be anonymous as a servant of God,” Fr. Nonnette adds.
3 RECONCILE WITH GOD
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, better known as Confession, has been actively revived in the parish since last year. The schedule for Confession is every Saturday from 5pm to 7pm. Parishioners are constantly reminded that availing of this sacrament regularly delivers divine mercy and allows one to be reconciled with the Lord.
4 COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
When going to Sunday Mass, make sure you are not just fulfilling a holy day of obligation. Fr. Nonnette stresses that the Eucharist means thanksgiving.
“We as priests prepare for the Homily but you as parishioners should be ready with your thanksgiving,” he says. “Count your blessings and remember what you are thanking God for the week.”
Aside from the blessing the priest gives at the end of Mass, flyers or lecturettes detailing the salient points discussed during the Homily are made available. This makes for a better understanding of the day’s Gospel and Readings and parishioners have something to reflect on while at home.
5 SPEAK WITH SENSITIVITY
At CTKP, there is such a thing as the language of sensitivity.
“We never use ‘let us …,’ which is more of a command,” Fr. Nonnette says. “Instead, the commentators say, ‘we may’ like ‘we may rise’ or ‘we may stand.’ ”
Such language is in deference to Mass attendees who come in a wheelchair or the elderly or anybody who experience difficulty in standing up or kneeling down.
6 QUEUE UP FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
An important activity in this extraordinary year is to lure back those Catholics who have been away from church too long. Fr. Nonnette laments the fact that other Catholics themselves have caused their fellow believers to leave.
“We have terms like ‘living in sin’ for couples not married in church or in irregular relationships and we judge them. This should stop.” he adds.
He suggests a need to practice a particular tradition in church to invite such Catholics back. He cites from Ecclesia de Eucharistia of April 2003 wherein Pope John Paul II encouraged the practice of spiritual communion. In defining the practice, he quotes St. Thomas Aquinas as saying, “it is an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace him at a time or in circumstances when we cannot receive Him in sacramental Communion.”
Fr. Nonnette says they can queue up for Communion and when it’s their turn, they should cross their arms in their chest, bow their heads, and the priest will bless them. Young children who haven’t received their first Holy Communion may also queue up for this.
7 SHARE YOUR STORY
There is something about sharing stories that connects people and promotes better interaction. Fr. Nonnette encourages everyone to tell their stories, specifically about receiving God’s mercy. There are already such stories–“Encounters of Mercy”–published in the website of the Diocese of Novaliches but more are called on to share theirs through email@example.com.
He also recommends the setting up of small sharing rooms in the Diocese’s parishes for storytelling. This live venue would be conducive for truly connecting with fellow Catholics. Initial talks have been made among the parish priests and a possible place at the top floor of The Rock, a building in Don Antonio Village, is being eyed for the initial room. It is intended to become a once-a-month gathering.
8 DO CORPORAL WORKS
BEAM is Burial and Emergency Assistance Money, a fund created to help families experiencing financial difficulties in burying their dead. The parish also has Memorial Walls where names of the parishioners’ dearly departed are printed on tarpaulin panels and attached to a designated part at the side of the church. This is a way of remembering and praying for them all year round.
9 ENHANCE YOUR FAITH
KATALK is Katolikong Talakayan Kwentuhan aimed at encouraging a healthy discussion about matters of the faith. Fr. Nonnette thinks this is one way of fighting off today’s Free Thinkers who have become very active and are blatantly attacking the Catholic’s belief system.
“Let’s have conversations about our faith to enlighten us, and deepen our love for God,” he adds. KATALK is scheduled at least once a week or once in two weeks.
10 PROVIDE COUNSELLING
Rick Warren, in an interview, has mentioned that Catholics lack something that his Saddleback Church can offer and that is counselling. Fr. Nonnette knows this is a sad reality and so he has also made it his mission to establish a counselling service or committee that would compose people who are willing to listen to Catholics’ doubts, fears and anxieties and probably refer them for professional help.
“We could start with a hotline,” he says. This will be a good start because more often than not, most problematic people merely need someone to listen to them.
11 BE ACCESSIBLE
CTKP has long opened its doors not just to persons with disabilities (PWDs) but also to the sick and the elderly. They make sure the church is accessible to them with appropriate walkways and ramps and that they are comfortable while hearing Mass or doing their prayers. A new church is currently being constructed and same amenities will likewise be built for them.
12 INTERPRET & COMMUNICATE
CTKP has a Sign Language Ministry that assists the deaf-mute attending Mass at the parish. They are trained to not just interpret the prayers and songs during Mass but to fully communicate the Word of God. Fr. Nonnette has revealed some disappointment over some priests who find the interpreters distracting during Mass. He is hoping that they would reconsider or reach a compromise so that there will be more parishes that welcome the deaf.
13 WEAR YOUR FAITH ON YOUR SLEEVE
Aside from enhancing our internal faith, CTKP has come up with external markers for Catholics to become readily recognizable. In January, it launched the WHITE Band which means With Him In The Eucharist. Wearing the band or baller identifies you as a Catholic who actively adheres to P.E.A.C.E. or Prayer, Education, Affirmation, Commitment and Evangelization.
In a nutshell, this White band is not just a Catholic accessory but a commitment for the wearer to make true the virtues and resolutions it stands for. You should pray at least 10 minutes every day, promote God’s Mercy through confession, and promote Sunday church service attendance and punctuality.You must educate yourself in the faith; affirm a person each day; commit yourself to selfless service; and enlarge your circle of friends and bringing them to know and love Jesus Christ.
These markers are like shout-outs declaring “Catholic & proud” or “proud to be a follower of Christ.” In fact, parishioners are encouraged to post photos of their WHITE bands in the parish’s Facebook page “to encourage others to become agents of P.E.A.C.E. during this Jubilee of Mercy.”
Even homes and places of work of Catholics are now easily identifiable. A sticker for the Vicariate of Ina ng Lupang Pangako of which the CTKP is a part, was likewise introduced.
14 GET INFORMED, BE INFORMED
A necessary tool towards translating the external markers into a devoted internal life is http://www.formed.org, a website that gives access to a Catholic library 24/7.
“With formed.org, you get to be informed of the Catholic faith, you get to be formed with love and mercy,” Fr. Nonnette declares, “just as the WHITE band ask us for P.E.A.C.E., formed.org will allow us to fulfill all those — Prayer, Education, Affirmation, Commitment and Evangelization.” [~Lulu Reclusado-Nario]