Allow me to do some confessions. When I was told that I would be deployed to work in some of the chapels of Mayapa parish, I (secretly) resisted the idea. Deep in my heart, I just wanted to stay in the parish every Sunday afternoon for our apostolate. Let me enumerate three reasons why:
1. The parish is a lot closer to Canlubang, compared to Bunggo which is about 30 minute drive from the seminary.
2. I have struck some wholesome meaningful relationships with some of the young people of Mayapa and it’s just so difficult to leave them.
3. I’ll be missing some hours of my precious free time! (I spend only two hours in Mayapa versus almost four hours in the barrios)
But being a good young Salesian I try to become, I shrugged these reasons off my head and followed the instructions. Off to the barrios I went.
The idyllic ambiance of the countryside scene made a deep impression in me. “What a consolation!” I mumbled. When we reached the Busil chapel (I would realize that Busil stands for Bunggo Silangan!)a different environment welcomed me.
The chapel was filled with so much activities. Outside the church, a catechist was teaching a pack of children who were seated on monoblock chairs.
Inside, the legionaries were having an interactive Bible sharing session. The lady in front kept on asking the other participants a barrage of questions about the Gospel passage they have just read. At the side of the chapel, a group of adolescent girls clad in blue silky robes was also busy meeting.
I was told that the chapel in the barrios do not have a regular Mass. It is fortunate if a chapel gets to be visited by a priest in a month. But more often than not, it is the lay ministers who usually preside the celebration. The first time I was able to attend one, the lay minister who led the celebration earned my admiration. Not only was he good in distributing the Sacred Host to the people, his way of dissecting the Word of God to the community was by far above average.
After the liturgical service, I commended him for such feat. He coyly responded that the parish distributes the homily text to the ministers on a weekly basis. But they have to read it first and then internalize it before finally presenting it to the community. He added that it was good that the parish sent the homily some days earlier so that he had much time to prepare himself so that he could deliver it efficiently.
This made me thinking. For a religious like me, I find it arduous to prepare for my catechism lessons, make my class interesting, and whatnot. But I told myself, almost ragingly, “this is my life!” And this lay person before me has chosen a life far different from mine. He has his own family to take care of, and other some ‘secular’ affairs to attend to. But despite these, he still manages to squeeze in his time the ministry of bringing Christ to the people.
No wonder, even in the absence of the priests to celebrate the Mass, the people still flock to the chapels for their weekly obligation. At one point, the lay ministers ganged up on me to go with one of them in doing apostolate in one of the chapels to assist him in distributing the sacred Bread since the loads of Mass-goers makes his arms weary.
I am inspired encountering him and the other lay ministers who religiously attend to their weekly ministry and take the task upon themselves to make Christ known and be received by the townspeople who don’t have the means to go to the parish. The Gospel message lives in their hearts (cf. GDC 105), whence, they find the need to share it with the others.
Not merely by preaching, but by being credible witnesses.