Easter in Rome and Collegio Filipino
This year, I was given the grace of celebrating Easter in Rome, joining the Saturdu Easter Vigil at the Collegio Filipino and the Sunday morning Mass celebrated by the Pope himself at Saint Peter’s Square. I was also able to listen to Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message to the citizens of Rome and to all peoples of the world.
As described in its website, the Pontificio Collegio Filipino was inaugurated by Saint Pope John XXIII in 1961 as the “Home in Rome” of Filipino secular diocesan priests, sent by their respective bishops to study in the different ecclesiastical centers in Rome. They study Theology, Philosophy, Canon Law, Sacred Scriptures, Liturgy, History, Communications, Patristics, and other fields. There are currently around 30 Filipino priests staying in the Collegio, joined by a few guest priests from other countries.
A Rector, a Vice-Rector/Procurator and a Spiritual Director form the Collegio‘s group of Administrators. Being a Pontifical institution, they report to the Holy Father, through the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy. They also report directly to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which has an Episcopal Commission on the Collegio. Currently, the Rector is Fr. Gregory Ramon D. Gaston, STD, the Vice-Rector and Procurator is Msgr. Wilfredo E. Andrey, SSL, and the spiritual director is Fr. Domingo M. Salonga, STL. I directly interacted with Fr. Rector Gaston and Msgr. Andrey, and both impressed me very much with their pastoral leadership and simple holiness.
When our Bishops are in Rome, they usually stay in the Collegio. In fact, when I was there, Cardinals Chito Tagle and Orlando Quevedo were also in the Collegio while attending meetings in nearby Vatican (a few Metro stops away). Incidentally, many of our Bishops are alumni and some have served as rectors and administrators of Collegio.
When there is space and on a referral basis, the Collegio opens itself to pilgrims who can have meals there and even stay, for an affordable fee, in its newly renovated premises.
The food is definitely good, a combination of Filipino and Italian cuisine. The consultant for the Collegio’s kitchen is no less than the famous Chef Babes Austria. Rome-based overseas Filipino workers, some of whom I have taught years ago in the Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program of the Ateneo School of Government, help out in the kitchen as well as with other chores, while being also able to take a break from their regular employment as domestic workers, caregivers, etc.
Chef Babes also helps in landscaping the garden, collaborating with Mr. DG Ascalon, of Sacramento, California. The latter owned the largest flower shop in Bacolod, worked 38 years in a nursery in California, and is an expert on trees and flowers among others.
Other volunteers and support, including donations, are welcome. For the latter, the various ways of doing this is provided in http://pcfroma.org/help/.
Most of all, Collegio Filipino is a sacred place. Its chapels are wonderful reminders of both the universality and Filipino-ness of the Catholic Church; with murals in the basement chapel of the martyrdom of Saints Pedro Calungsod and Lorenzo Ruiz, and statues of the Virgins of Antipolo in both its chapels. The daily mass and morning prayer are solemn; our Easter vigil, while simple, was meaningful.
In blessing the Collegio in 1961, Saint Pope John XXIII said: “these buildings destined for the formation of your students in sacred sciences will be like channels by which Catholic life will be promoted among you, and the bond by which the Philippines, a Nation very dear to us, will more intensely be linked with the supreme Magisterium of the Church.” 46 years later, we can for sure say that the Collegio is fulfilling this mission.
Celebrating Easter in Rome is of course not complete without joining the multitudes that gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday morning to hear mass celebrated by the Pope and to listen at noon to his message to Rome and the world.
I was able to hear these reassuring words from Pope Francis, as he delivered an off-the-cuff homily during the mass:
“The meaning of looking at the other, the meaning of saying: “Look, there isn’t a wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross with this ambivalence. Look ahead; don’t ‘close’ yourself. You, pebble, have a meaning in life because you are a pebble next to that stone, that rock that the evil of sin has discarded.” What does the Church say to us today in face of so many tragedies? Simply this. The discarded rock is not really discarded. The pebbles that believe and attach themselves to that rock aren’t discarded, they have meaning and with this sentiment the Church repeats from the depth of her heart: “Christ is risen.”
Let’s think a bit, let each one of us think, of the daily problems, of the sicknesses we have lived through or that one of our relatives has; let’s think of the wars, the human tragedies and, simply, with a humble voice, without flowers, alone, before God, before ourselves we say: “I don’t know how this is so, but I’m sure that Christ is risen and I bet on this.” Brothers and sisters, this is what I wanted to say to you. Return home today, repeating in your heart: “Christ is risen.”
For his Urbi at Orbi message, these words struck me most:
“In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion—the wounds of his merciful love— he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today, too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.
The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.
He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.
The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.
In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”
Strong words from the Vicar of Christ. One hopes that Catholics, Christians, and all persons of good listened and will now act accordingly.
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