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Papal visit a ‘healing balm’ to long-suffering Filipinos, says Canadian

January 9, 2015
Evan Boudreau

TORONTO – Faith is second nature “to most, if not all Filipinos,” especially those who were raised in the Philippines and grew up in a Catholic home, said Faye Arellano.

“When we immigrate to Canada or elsewhere, faith is the one important thing that we bring with us, because we believe that it the one constant realization of the things that we hope for,” she told the Catholic Register, Canada’s national Catholic newspaper.

“Even if the road may be difficult at times, we can be assured that with faith there is nothing that we cannot overcome. The suffering takes on a whole new meaning, and by faith we believe that the journey with God is always good for us. As I always tell my friends, ‘Faith is great,’” she said.

Arellano, a Toronto legal assistant, was among a number of Catholic Filipinos in Canada and elsewhere who spoke about their strong faith, deep devotion to Mary and a focus on family as well as the highly anticipated pastoral visit of Pope Francis to their homeland Jan. 15-19.

Many also are looking beyond the papal trip to the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in the Philippines in 2016.

“The pope will be like a healing balm to a long-suffering people needing just that,” said Arellano, former head of the Live-in Caregiver’s Ministry at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Toronto.

The Philippines is still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed countless homes and buildings in November 2013.

“The pope’s visit is dubbed as a ‘mercy and compassion visit,’ because he is primarily lending support and solidarity with those in the southern region of the Philippines,” said Arellano.

“I couldn’t be more excited for Filipinos, especially for those who have been directly and deeply affected by the ravages of the natural calamities,” she said. “It’s almost that Filipinos are being visited by the light to cast out the darkness of the devastation. ... Viva il papa!”

More than 500,000 Filipinos live in Canada. Of that number, more than 200,000 reside in the greater Toronto area, more than in any other city in Canada. Vancouver, British Columbia, is home to the second-largest Filipino community in Canada, with nearly 94,000 Filipinos residing there.

“My faith is what makes me,” said Arcie Lim, an accountant and comptroller, who belongs to St. Joseph Parish in Vancouver. “It is my central source of strength, inspiration. It’s like a beacon of light for me, makes me want to strive for the best, to love. Without my faith I can’t (do anything). It keeps me grounded, gives me spiritual nourishment.”

His faith is “an ongoing process,” he said, but told Catholic News Service he has “experienced small miracles after prayer.” After turning to God, and Mary especially, in prayer about a seemingly unsolvable problem, “I receive a clear answer... guiding me.”

Lim, 60, is involved with his parish council, teaches Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes, is a lector, belongs to the Knights of Columbus and serves on the Vancouver Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. Most importantly, he said, he is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

Filipinos’ faith is “passed on from one generation to another ... because of strong family,” he said. “It does not disappear even when young people go to college, to other countries – the link is always there.”

As for Filipinos’ devotion to Mary, it “cannot be put in words,” he said.

Norma and Nick Borja, members of St. Paul Parish in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, were accountants before going to work full-time for Couples for Christ Canada. The international Catholic lay ecclesial movement has groups for children, young adults and singles, marriage enrichment programs and outreach to the divorced.

The couple, both in their mid-60s, have traveled as Couples for Christ missionaries to several countries and all over Canada. Nick Borja said wherever they go, local clergy always tell them that Filipinos “are the ones who give life to the church, give vibrancy to the church.”

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