Birthday celebrants in a parish in Madridejos, Bantayan island have a unique and extraordinary way of marking their big day. They share their blessings with less privileged families of the parish.
Under a program launched May 1, 2022, two families selected by representatives of the Immaculate Conception Parish Caritas are fetched from their homes and brought to church for the 10 a.m. Mass. After the Eucharistic Celebration, they are treated to lunch and a Catechism session. They go home with several kilos of rice and canned goods. This pilot run will last for four months and will be evaluated.
Beneficiaries Bernadette Enteveros and her three children are excited to take part in this project. Her only son, who experiences epileptic seizures every now and then, looks forward to going to church to hear Mass. Plus the free meals and grocery packs
“This is both physical and spiritual nourishment for the poor families in our parish,” said Rev. Fr. Jimmy Tolentin, parish priest.
Fr. Tolentin has long been doing feeding programs, even in his previous parish assignments in Yati, Liloan and in Argao.
“I was inspired by Msgr. Eligio Pingkian, our parish priest in Dumanjug, Cebu. I was then in high school and a sacristan. I would accompany him in his weeklong immersions in the barrios. Msgr. Pingkian slept in the kapilya (chapel). He talked and listened to the people. He held Masses there. By winning their hearts, it was easier to convince them to attend Sunday Mass at the parish church,” Fr. Tolentin said.
He makes an effort to explain the process to the churchgoers.
“They reflect on it,” he says. “From a once-a-year Mass in the chapels, we now have monthly Masses,” he said.
Fr. Tolentin said the focus now is on their feeding program, an activity he and the Parish Caritas team devote much time, effort, and resources on. The team identifies birthday celebrants of the month and encourages them to share their blessings to help fund the feeding program.
Piso Kada Buwan
There is also a feeding program for children in the parish’s 49 chapels. Six hundred Parish Caritas youth volunteers handle this.
This activity is funded by the “Piso Kada Buwan” (One-Peso-a-Month) donation drive. On May 21, parish youth volunteers will do the marketing and cooking for children in identified chapels. Catechism sessions follow the feeding.
The Kusina ni Sta. Marta is a feeding activity for children who attend the 3 o’clock in the afternoon Sunday Mass. This has resulted in increased attendance in Sunday Mass.
Limsanay (Death Aid)
Another program of the parish is Limsanay or the Parish Caritas Death Aid, one of the first programs Fr. Tolentin implemented when he assumed the post in August 2019. This involves a voluntary P10 donation to the family of a deceased parishioner. Through the funds raised from this voluntary donation drive, the family of the deceased receives P30,000 in burial assistance.
“Makita ang kalisod kung dunay mamatay nga pobre,” according to Fr. Tolentin. (Hadship is evident, especially when a poor dies.)
Medical assistance and charity fund
Under the Alay Kapwa – Parish Caritas Medical Assistance and Charity Fund, each family is encouraged to donate P1 per week (Alay Kapwa Piso Kada Semana) for the entire year. Twenty percent of the funds raised goes to Cebu Caritas, 40 percent to the Parish Caritas, and 40 percent to the Parish Pastoral Council.
Medical assistance of P1000 pesos for check-up and P2000 as hospitalization assistance is given to qualified beneficiaries. Those with less severe ailments get P500.
This program has since gone a long way in helping parishioners in dire straits.
MeAnn Turtur had to quit her job in the city after she was diagnosed with acute abdomen. The family’s breadwinner, MeAnn didn’t know where to get help to treat her condition. Fortunately, the Parish Caritas came to the rescue and she is grateful for the assistance. When her grandfather passed on, the parish also gave the family death aid.
Pabahay Build and Rehab
Another project of the Parish Caritas in Madridejos is the Pabahay Build and Rehab. Barangay health worker Jhona Fernandez and her family are now the happy recipients of a new house. She said that for the last 16 years, they lived with her in-laws.
Norlie Villacrucis, Parish Pastoral Council president, said each house costs P112,000. It is one project that is still in its infancy and she hopes more deserving parishioners can avail themselves of this and enjoy living in a house they can call their own.
For Fr. Tolentin, generating resources to fund charitable causes is not an impossible mission. Once the donors see that their contributions make the less fortunate happy, the donations just keep on coming. And there’s plenty to go around.
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.