The Nativity of Mary Parish in Canduman, Mandaue City just recently marked its 28th founding anniversary. No big celebration, no fanfare.
Instead, its parish priest, Rev. Fr. Sinfronio Atienza, and parochial vicar, Rev. Fr. Dave Cantillas, took stock of what the parish has done so far to help alleviate the plight of its parishioners, most especially the ANAWIM.
The parish serves the spiritual and pastoral needs of some 50,000 residents, most of them informal settlers — relocated families, factory workers, and construction laborers from other parts of Cebu and neighboring provinces — who have settled in Canduman, Tawason, Casili, and Cubacub,the four barangays within its jurisdiction.
Poverty incidence is high and malnutrition is prevalent among the children.
Some 100 sectoral representatives from 32 out of the parish’s 37 chapels participated in a whole day focus group discussion recently to identify issues and concerns. They drew up programs and projects to help address these pressing needs, which included malnutrition among children, unemployment, food security, poverty, solid waste management,
“We had no problem convening the assembly,” said Genevy Tiu, Parish Caritas coordinator. Despite it being held on a working day, attendance was good.
“The participants were excited. Na feel nila nga na-empowered sila. Ilaha gud ni,” she added. (They felt they were empowered. This is theirs.)
“Dili ni sa pari. Inyo ni,” Fr. Cantillas said. (This is not the priest’s. This is yours.)
ABAG-CANTACACU (Ako Binunyagan, Ako Gasa sa Akong mga Kaigsuonan sa Canduman, Tawason, Casili ug Cubacub) was the name they gave to their Parish Caritas.
Both Fathers Atienza and Cantillas said their Parish Caritas wants to prioritize its feeding program dubbed Cocina de Maria.
Atienza notes that even before the formal establishment of their Parish Caritas on March 2, 2022, the parish’s feeding program already existed. It was initiated by the Parish Youth Coordinating Council. Food packs donated by sponsors were distributed in two chapels monthly. Now, he adds, the youth segment of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) and the chapel leaders or “alagad” handle the feeding program on a weekly basis. They now serve ten chapels.
Parish Caritas assembly
On Easter Sunday, they planned to launch a more expanded feeding program to cater to about 500 children every Saturday. Funds to support this will come from the Alkansiya sa Gugma in chapels and the Bisita sa mga Disipolo, a Lenten tradition where “disciples” do house-to-house evangelization visits.
Father Atienza credits the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) clusters in the parish for the easy mobilization of volunteers. Since the structure was already in place , it was not hard to get things moving. He considers the BEC as part and parcel of his parishioners’ lives.
Who is my neighbor?
He wants to push for programs that will promote “neighborliness” and “kahiusahan” (unity) among the parishioners.
“Who is my neighbor?” Fr. Atienza said, is the question that should motivate people to be actively involved in Parish Caritas programs. He also puts a premium on valuing good leadership to ensure sustainability of the programs.
Aside from their feeding program, Fr. Cantillas and Tiu identified the Klinika sa Parokya (parish clinic) and the Gulayan sa Parokya (parish vegetable garden) as their next priorities. They plan to tap the expertise of parishioners who are connected with the Department of Agriculture to help push this. Also in line is the youth-led plastic bottle recycling project.
Cantillas takes pride in the enthusiasm and active involvement of the young members of the parish in their projects. He said chapel clusters are regularly updated on parish activities through online group chats set up by the youth sector.
“Kon magpabilin ang kakugi, ilabi na sa mga leaders, kay ila man ang programa, hopeful ko nga mapadayon ni,” he said. (I am hopeful that the programs can be sustained for as long as the leaders work on it because this is theirs.)
As Parish Caritas coordinator, Tiu said she derives inspiration from the two priests who she considers her mentors.
“Lahi ra gyud kon ang pari moabag og magsinabtanay. Makita sa mga parokyano ang ilang kadasig,” Tiu said. (It matters that the priests help and can work together. The parishioners can see through their enthusiasm.)
For Fr. Atienza, “ang pagtuo puy-an gyud.” (Faith has to be lived).
Attorney Paredes is a Trustee of Cebu Caritas, Inc. and Member of the Good Governance Committee. Before her retirement, she led the Public Affairs division for Visayas and Mindanao of Smart Communications, Inc. She used to work in media both for print and broadcast.