Yesterday, after a full day of work (faculty meeting in the morning then choir rehearsal in the afternoon), I headed off to two important celebrations: the Shrine of Jesus’ 15th Anniversary of its consecration and dedication, and OA’s first death anniversary.
These two events coincided on the same time, so I had to fix my schedule. I sang for the Mass at the Shrine, missed the boodle fight dinner, and went to the dinner gathering albeit super late, where I missed the earlier memorial ceremony and Mass for Ma’am OA.
15: Falling in love…with a church
It is no secret how much I love serving at the Shrine of Jesus. For the past eight years of serving as children’s choir conductor, and eventually, as music ministry coordinator, I was molded into the person I am now. Thanks to my mentor, Monsignor Bobby Canlas, the Shrine Rector, from being a mere choirgirl, I am in the helm of the children’s choir now, and have handled important projects of the Shrine.
The past 15 years have been a true testament of God’s love to this church. With no parishioners living around the area, the Shrine community started with tens, then hundreds, then now, thousands. From that barren land stood only that church where no public transport dared to travel. Lay people from nearby provinces were called to serve. The Shrine eventually became a popular wedding, baptism, and reception venue, and a favourite among churchgoers when important church feast days like Holy Week and Christmas seasons come nearer.
Mons Bobby explained during the Mass how the Shrine of Jesus came to be. In 1995, during the 10th World Youth Day held in Manila, Philippines, then Pope John Paul II proclaimed to build a church in honor of that well attended and successful event. After four years, the church was inaugurated and named Shrine of Jesus, the Way the Truth, and the Life. Quite a mouthful for a church name, I first thought, but it originated in John Paul’s message during that Mass, that Jesus is our way, truth, and life.
What keeps us loyal to the Shrine? It’s the community it built. It’s the welcoming atmosphere among its volunteers. It’s the solemn and meaningful celebrations of the Holy Eucharist. It’s the “pakulo” we tirelessly prepare during special occasions.
Most of all, it’s a church that gives back. In 2008, my wedding year, some music ministry members were starting to plan projects for the benefit of the church. A simple concert will do, we said. Our Rector dreamed bigger for us. And out of that dream, we were able to have the Philippine Madrigal Singers perform at the CCP, and we were able to raise 1 million pesos for the PGH pediatric cancer patients. It was more than what we dreamed of. Of course, we were able to raise more than our target amount, so the rest went to several other institutions, and whatever was left went to the Shrine. We were just humbled and proud of that project.
Apart from it, and Mons Bobby does this all the time, he fervently asks the community to dig deeper into their pockets to give more during calamities. Give until it hurts, that’s what he reminds us always. Whatever is collected, he sends straight to the affected diocese.
The Shrine has been blessed because of its priests, its talented and generous lay people and churchgoers. The church is always misconstrued as strict, or sometimes, snob, especially when kids roam around during Mass. I’d say, disciplined is the proper word for it. And I would not have it any other way.
1: In memoriam
A year ago, Ma’am OA, as we would call the founder of the world-renowned choral group, the Madz, passed on.
The Madz is the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Ma’am OA is Prof. Andrea O. Veneracion, its founder. I wrote about her necrological rites last year here, and another blogpost months prior her passing on as my tribute to her here.
I, along with two more Madz alumni, came almost at the end of the program, but we’re glad to have made it. As OA would say, Just do it. So we braved EDSA traffic (which was unusual at already eight in the evening!), were served dinner, and listened to more singing and more testimonials to our dear Ma’am OA.
And the highlight of the night: this song.
Justice Magdangal de Leon and THE Sal Malaki who originally did the guitar and flute, er, should I say, whistle of the very first Madz song I learned in my church choir in high school. Happiness.
Happy 15th Anniversary to the Shrine of Jesus, and happy first year in heaven’s choral community, Ma’am OA.