In a Eucharistic Celebration held on Caritas Sunday, November 7, 2021, Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma called for the establishment of Parish Caritas centers in all parishes of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
“We would like to imagine or to think that because of 500 Years of Christianity, we would have established Caritas centers in every parish to coordinate the many Caritas, the many charitable works, the many acts of charity that we already do,” Archbishop Palma said in his homily during the Mass.
The Cebu Archbishop cited the three-fold functions of the ministry of Jesus Christ — worship, education, and service.
He emphasized the role of Cebu Caritas as the social action arm of the Archdiocese and recognized its many works of charity.
“In the ministry of Jesus, we find the three-fold function — worship, education, and service. When our faith is translated into good works, that’s service,” Archbishop Palma said.
He enumerated the many charitable programs and activities of Cebu Caritas, especially during and after calamities such as typhoons, floods, fires, and the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19.
Cebu Caritas’ crucial role
“Very obvious — Caritas helps typhoon victims, victims of the flood, victims of fires. When we do medical missions, that’s the work of Caritas. When we do hospital ministry, that’s the ministry of Caritas. Feeding the poor, health care programs, that’s Caritas’ work. Helping the farmers. These are all works of Caritas. Housing projects. Caritas coordinates all of these things. Ecology ministry. These are all in the umbrella of Caritas,” Archbishop Palma said.
“And that’s why, we would like to make it official that because of 500 Years of Christianity, every parish would have a Caritas center so that in all of these many wonderful works — expressions of our faith — there is an umbrella association or ministry that coordinates all of our works,” he said.
Palma also recognized the vital role that Cebu Caritas played at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Take the case of what happened during COVID, it is most helpful, efficient, and effective when a coordinating body tries to keep in touch and encourage and make the many other associations and movements work together to do or to perform a certain action,” he added.
For Fr. Alden John Baran, Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Service vice chairman, the establishment of Parish Caritas provides a venue for many opportunities to help the poor.
“Caritas is our concrete manifestation of our Faith which is an-chored in the threefold ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Parish Caritas, the Anawim will be heard and taken care of by the different programs and activities. If all parishes have Parish Caritas cen-ters, we both have a venue for manifold opportunities of helping the poor and creating a great impact on the lives of the Christian community,” Fr. Baran said.
Parish Caritas in Cebu
Parish Caritas decree
On the occasion of the 108th birth anniversary of the Servant of God Archbishop Teofilo Camomot on March 3, 2022, a decree institu-tionalizing the creation and establishment of Parish Caritas in all parish-es of the Archdiocese of Cebu was promulgated.
The decree states that “Cebu Caritas journeys with the Anawim (the lost, the last, and the least) in carrying out the three-fold functions of the ministry of Jesus Christ by serving the community of missionary dis-ciples toward total human development and integrity of creation.”
These functions are carried out through Cebu Caritas’ Humanitari-an, Developmental, and Justice and Peace programs — the same framework adapted by the various Parish Caritas after a synodal process of identifying and assessing the needs and concerns of the parishioners, accompanied by their parish priest or team of pastors. Also through this process, the parishioners are able to craft programs, projects and activities that can address their needs and concerns.
The establishment of the Parish Caritas draws its mandate from the Fourth Diocesan Synod, which states “that the Archdiocese shall restructure its organizational machinery to include mechanism that would involve the entire local church in the ministry among the poor. It shall be adopted for the district, vicarial, and parish levels.”
The decree also recognizes that “Parish Caritas facilitates the crea-tion and implementation of programs and services that are based on the true aspirations and actual needs of the lay in the parish and are ac-commodated to the varying welfare, developmental, and liberation needs of the different sectors of the parish.”
This is because, as the decree states, “the lay faithful in each par-ish are in the best position to identify which programs can truly address their concerns.” And that “through this process, the lay in the parish can be truly empowered to formulate concrete and doable solutions that are relevant and responsive to their needs.”
61 and counting
To date and four months after that call by Archbishop Palma, 58 out of the 170 parishes in the Archdiocese of Cebu have established their own Parish Caritas. These are:
- Alliance of Two Hearts Parish Caritas (Banawa, Cebu City)
- Our Lady of Fatima Parish Caritas (Pusok, Lapu-lapu City)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Caritas (Guadalupe, Cebu City)
- Sacred Heart Parish Caritas (D. Jakosalem)
- San Roque Parish Caritas (Cordova, Cebu)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish Caritas (Lahug, Cebu City)
- St. Joseph Parish Caritas (San Francisco, Camotes)
- St. Francis Xavier Parish Caritas (Pilar, Camotes)
- Sto. Niño Parish Caritas (Poro, Camotes)
- San Roque Parish Caritas (Consuelo, Camotes)
- Mary Help of Christian Parish Caritas (Buhisan, Cebu City)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi Parish Caritas (City of Naga, Cebu)
- Virgen de los Remedios Parish Caritas (Labangon, Cebu City)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Caritas (Punta Princesa, Cebu City)
- San Roque Parish Caritas (Lipata, Minglanilla)
- Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Caritas (Pardo, Cebu City)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish Caritas (Carcar City, Cebu)
- Our Lady of the Divine Grace Parish Caritas (Simala, Sibonga)
- San Isidro Labrador Parish Caritas (San Fernando, Cebu)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel Parish Caritas (Ar-gao, Cebu)
- San Roque Parish Caritas (Valladolid, Carcar City)
- St. Michael the Archangel Parish Caritas (Samboan, Cebu)
- St. Gregory the Great Parish Caritas (Ginatilan, Cebu)
- St. John the Baptist Parish Caritas (Giloctog, Barili, Cebu)
- Our Lady of Consolation Parish Caritas (Bato, Samboan, Cebu)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of Sta. Ana Parish Caritas (Barili, Cebu)
- Sta. Lucia Parish Caritas (Sta. Lucia, Asturias)
- St. John of Sahagun Parish Caritas (Toledo City, Cebu)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua Parish Caritas (Tubu-ran, Cebu)
- St. John the Baptist Parish Caritas (Tabuelan, Cebu)
- San Vicente Ferrer Parish Caritas (Bato, Toledo City)
- St. Joseph the Worker Parish Caritas (Magdugo, Toledo City)
- Sta. Monica Parish Caritas (Pinamungajan, Cebu)
- Sta. Cruz Parish Caritas (Talavera, Toledo City)
- Saint Vincent Ferrer Parish Caritas (Buanoy, Balamban, Cebu)
- St. Francis of Assisi Parish Caritas (Balamban, Cebu)
- San Pedro Calungsod Parish Caritas (Cantabaco, Toledo City)
- Parroquia de San Francisco de Asis (Balamban, Cebu)
- Immaculate Conception Parish Caritas (Madridejos, Bantayan Island)
- Sto. Niño Parish Caritas (Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Vincent Parish Caritas (Bogo, City)
- Holy Family of Nazareth Parish Caritas (La Paz, Bogo City)
- Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish Caritas (Ibo, Danao City)
- Christ of the Agony Gethsemane Parish Caritas (Casuntingan, Man-daue City)
- Christ the King Parish Caritas (Alang-alang, Mandaue City)
- Nativity of Mary Parish Caritas (Canduman, Mandaue City)
- San Roque Parish Caritas (Subangdaku, Mandaue City)
- San Guillermo Parish Caritas (Catmon, Cebu)
- St. John Bosco Parish Caritas (Cotcot, Liloan, Cebu)
- San Pedro Calungsod Parish Caritas (Manghilao, Masaba, Danao City)
- San Roque Parish Caritas (Yati. Liloan, Cebu)
- St. Joseph the Worker Parish Caritas (Panalipan, Catmon, Cebu)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of the Our Lady of Fatima Parish Caritas (Basak, Mandaue City)
- St. Francis of Assisi Parish Caritas (Maslog, Danao City)
WORK IN PROGRESS:
- Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish (Danao City, Cebu)
- Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish (Matutinao, Badian)
- Archdiocesan Shrine of Immaculate Heart of Mary (Minglanilla, Cebu)
- Immaculate Conception Parish (Tudela, Camotes)
- St. Joseph the Worker Parish (Tabunok, Talisay City)
- San Isidro Labrador Parish (Magsico, San Fernando)
- Our Lady of the Pillar Parish (Sibonga, Cebu)
The various Parish Caritas have drawn up and began rolling out their programs and projects under the Humanitarian, Developmental, and Justice and Peace pillars of Cebu Caritas. These include feeding, kindness stations, medical and mental wellness, farming, housing, finan-cial and hospitalization assistance, burial assistance, and disaster relief and recovery, among others.
To sustain these programs, each Parish Caritas is encouraged to draw up its own resource mobilization fund which, under the guidelines, are kept separate from the parish funds for accountability and monitoring purposes.
Parish Caritas also provides a branding identity to the Service Committee of the Parish Pastoral Council-Worship, Education, Service, Temporalities and Youth (PPC-WESTY) structure in each parish. It sets forth a more expanded and more meaningful role for the Service commit-tee — a role that goes beyond cleaning or taking care of physical ar-rangements.
Two Parish Caritas general assemblies have been conducted since November 2021, with parishes sending as delegates their chosen Service lay in-charge. In these gatherings, participants were given orien-tations on the structure of Cebu Caritas, Parish Caritas, Financial Man-agement procedures, and Good Governance.
With the establishment and operationalization of Parish Caritas, the continuity of service programs is assured even if there is a reshuffling in assignments of parish priests or the team of pastors.
Parish Caritas is faith in action at the ground level.
Fr. Alex K. Cola, Jr., Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Service chairman and Cebu Caritas, Inc. president, echoed the call of Pope Benedict XVI for everyone to practice charity.
“Pope Benedict writes in Deus Caritas Est that the service of chari-ty is an “indispensable expression of her very being.” He said that all the faithful have the duty to devote themselves to a charitable life. As Pope Francis said to a meeting of Caritas leadership this year in Rome, “there’s no Church without charity.”
As Archbishop Palma, quoting St. James, put it, “Because we have faith, we praise God. But faith without good works is dead.”
“And so as people gifted with the faith, we know our faith should be seen in the good works that we do. This is the ministry of Caritas — to coordinate all these expressions of faith, the good works that we’ve been doing and that we plan to do as a way of thanksgiving because we have received the faith,” he added.
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.