by GLADYS T. BADLON [The writer is formerly a Jesuit Volunteer (B40/41). She was missioned at the Jesuit Mission Station for two years, from June 2019 - June 2021. She is currently the Community Organizer at the Jesuit Mission Station in Kaunlaran Village, Brgy. 12, Dagat-dagatan Ave., Kalookan City.]
“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (Jn 6:5-12)
One of the biggest challenges during this time of pandemic is how we can best support each other to cope up with this situation. Many lives are greatly affected, especially the poor, the children and the elders. Many of us would ask ourselves, “What can we do? What can we offer?” It is during this most difficult time that the spirit of service and mission is most needed and felt. In the gospel mentioned above, a boy offered what he had at the moment, his five small barley loaves and two small fish to feed the crowd. This has been an invitation to look into ourselves of what we can do and offer at the moment.
Here in the Jesuit Mission Station, it is our hope to reach the poorest of the poor and help them in whatever way we can. That is why, when the pandemic started last year, our team has thought of many possible and doable ways to at least ease the difficulty that this pandemic has brought us.
Through God’s grace, and the help of the many generous people, various programs were established in the Mission Stations to help the needs of the people. We are happy and grateful that these programs are still running and have reached many people. Here’s to name a few of the programs we are providing to ease the difficulty brought by this pandemic:
1. RELIEF OPERATIONS / COMMUNITY PANTRY
The Relief Operations began at the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last March 2020. We started by giving them rice and canned goods to at least 100 families targeting most especially the poor families who are daily wage earners. It’s not much, but they were able to put food on their table. Then we started to look for more families who are mostly affected. We started from 100 families, we made it to 300 then 500 and 1000 until we reached 1,300 families as of now. It is truly amazing how the Lord has moved many generous hearts that we are able to support these 1,300 families. Our small chapel became our main source of graces. We received from our donors rice, canned goods, noodles, hygiene kits, milk, biscuits many more. All these things are found in our small chapel. How good our Lord is! It’s not just a place of worship but a place of food for the poor as well. Siksik, liglig at umaapaw na biyaya.
Not just that we are blessed by these donated items, but more blessed to have many volunteers who started helping us out in this program. I believe God has moved them to offer themselves to help others. As they have said, “kung mahirap kami, may mas mahirap at nangangailangan pa kaysa sa amin. Kahit mahirap kami, pwede rin kaming tumulong.” And until now, these volunteers are still helping us in our programs. Truly, God will provide you with necessary things and people to do His will.
2. BUSOG-PUSO FEEDING PROGRAM
The goal of this program is to help feed the young children in the community. We started this program last June 2020, and now, we are on the 3rd cycle. Each cycle runs for 6 months. For 2,000.00, we get to feed 150-200 kids twice a week. Thankful for all the benefactors and volunteers who continue to help us feed the children. The program itself is named Busog-Puso because we believe that we are not just feeding the tummies of these children, but most especially making them feel they are loved and valued, filling their hearts with love. How precious it is to see them smiling getting their share. Some of the food that we give them are: champorado, sopas, bihon, ginataan, lomi, spaghetti, lugaw, or hotdog/egg with rice with additional powdered milk, bread or biscuits and other donated items. This program is not only happening here in our mission station, we also support and help the other 14 Mission Stations and other areas and communities in the Diocese of Kalookan. Another God’s work! We thank our dear Nanays and volunteers who help us in doing this mission for the children. Our hearts are also full with these young children!
3. LAPTOP FOR WORK
This is a program for our youth in the mission station. We call them Sidhay Scholars. [Sisidlan ng Buhay: Sid-hay]. To help the students in the community ease with online learning, this program came into place. Its goal is to support deserving poor students in the community struggling with their online learning. The condition is for them to do service work in the community in return for having this laptop. They help in the distribution, feeding programs, tutorial classes and other works in the community. This program allowed us to form these young people through our various programs where they get to experience it firsthand. One good thing about this program is that it helped the scholars build friendship among themselves. Through this program, they are able to discover their passion in serving. They are one of our active volunteers in the mission station helping us carry out the mission. We have 29 Sidhay Scholars coming from Senior High School and College students.
Right now, through God’s blessing, we have a Youth Center for them to use in our various programs, formation sessions and where they can have their online classes. Grateful to Jesuit Volunteer Philippines (JVP) and its member Ms. Cecile Ruiz-Batalla, JVP-B10, for sponsoring the internet connection of the youth center for a year.
4. CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS
One of our programs for the children is the free Tutorial Classes for students Grades 3 to 6. The goal of this program is to help the children, as well as the parents, cope up with this new mode of learning. Our Sidhay Scholars serve as the tutors teaching them Math, Science, English, Filipino and Araling Panlipunan. Recently, we had the First Communion for 39 children where the Jesuit Scholastics prepared them through the catechism seminar. We have also been giving them various online activities where they can fully showcase their talents and skills, and continue the learning in their respective houses. Such online activities are “At Home with Mary and Jesus”, in celebration of “St. Ignatius of Loyola” and “Kids’ Happy Pantry”.
One of the reasons why Mission Stations are established is to bring the church to the people. Even before the pandemic, Fr. Willy has been actively giving the people these sacraments. Celebrating the Eucharist, hearing confessions, Baptism, funeral masses, blessings and other sacraments. It became more challenging when pandemic started. Every week, countless funeral blessing has been requested by the people in the community. Long and long names are being mentioned during his online masses asking for prayers. Many are thirsty to receive Christ physically. The presence of the Church brings consolation to the people.
6. ABOT-BIGAS PROJECT
This program is our latest project for the poor families in the different mission stations in the Diocese of Kalookan. It aims to support one family with 5kg of rice. This project came to place because of the hunger brought by the pandemic. Many families have been greatly affected in the recent community quarantine status. This program aims to help 15,000 families in 15 mission stations. We are still in the process of completing the target number of packs of rice. Beyond grateful to all the people who supported us in this project.
And there’s many more programs given to the community by the different groups who partnered with us in this mission. Many stories have been heard and shared and rooted from, to continue the call of mission and service. Many hearts have been touched and inspired.
These are our five small barley loaves and two small fish. It continues to multiply because of the many people, like the boy in the Gospel, who have offered what he has. All these things have happened because of the generous souls whose hope is to help the people in the peripheries. Just like what Fr. Willy always says, “Alam kong tama ang ginagawa natin dahil binibigay sa atin ang mga kailangan natin para magawa ito. Dumarating ang tamang grasya.” This is an assurance that we are doing God’s works and He wills it.
Jesuit Volunteer Philippines (JVP) started partnering with Jesuit Mission Station last 2019 to assist in our programs and youth formation. In July this year, we had a special project with JVP and 9th Grade students of KEYS School Manila where they came up with the idea of “Balik Biyaya”. Olivia Torres, Hao Tay and Julie Lahoz helped children from the mission station by providing school supplies to better their learning experience. The distribution was facilitated by the volunteers of the mission station with Mr. Blas Descallar, JVP Executive Director. They distributed 100 kits of school supplies at the Sacred Heart Chapel, Jesuit Mission Station, Kalookan City. The children who received the school supplies are part of the feeding and tutorial programs. These kits are so helpful in their studies.
Thank you JVP for sharing the mission with the people in the Jesuit Mission Station, Diocese of Kalookan. Thank you for reaching out the peripheries and listening to the call of the mission found in it. In living out the faith rooted in God’s eternal love and grace.
Reflecting on these life-giving experiences, I am so humbled to see and witness and live in the community. Carrying the mission is never easy, but it becomes worthy and more meaningful when living and doing it with others who share the same journey. The many programs in the mission stations only prove that God works and lives with the poor. Truly, these experiences are “busog-puso”. Busog-puso sa grasya. Busog-puso sa mga tao. Busog-puso sa mga karanasan. Busog-puso sa pag-ibig.