Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 5, 2010
Fellowship, prayer unite Filipino workers
Wetaskiwin group meets weekly to support their faith and each other
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
WETASKIWIN - With every individual in a group of Filipinos working one or more full-time jobs, they find great benefit in setting aside one evening a week for prayer and Bible study in a supportive atmosphere.
A woman who recognizes the value of the group is Cora Costales, who came to Canada from the Philippines 12 years ago.
She works at a long-term care facility, assisting with seniors and people with mental challenges. In addition, she is active in the Catholic Women's League and the children's ministry at Wetaskiwin's Sacred Heart Parish.
Costales knows firsthand the struggles of moving to a new country and facing a new culture, separated from one's friends, family and faith. Her group, an offshoot of Sacred Heart Parish, helps to provide support to the Filipino contract workers who are far away from friends and family.
"We need to exchange ideas on our beliefs. We could all share what we have to offer," said Costales.
The group started in September 2009 with about 12 members, and now it has get-togethers with 18 or more. For the past six months it has met mostly at the church or in somebody's home.
Among its weekly activities are prayer, Bible study, teachings from Sister Josefina Pollentes, and movies about the saints. Tying in with the Lenten season, on March 30 they watched the 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ.
Most of the group members, said Costales, "grew up very Catholic" but over time many of them might be tempted to abandon the Church, lured away by the pressures of people and other influences. Having a weekly group is one way of bringing them back to their faith.
Overseeing the group with Pollentes is Ellen Goodbody.
"Ellen thought and prayed about this, and thought it would be a good idea to have a prayer group for the Filipinos, so they would have a place to come together and pray and support each other since they are new here," said Pollentes, a member of the Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus.
She is the house superior for her order at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Parish in Hobbema.
With the Filipino workers away from home, she realizes they endure many cultural differences, and miss the day-to-day familiarity of life in their homeland. Apart from the fellowship of being with like-minded people, an aim of group members is to grow deeper in their faith.
Pollentes has handouts and other resources for helping them learn using a structured format. She runs a similar program for inmates at Pê Sâkâstêw Centre, a minimum-security prison in Hobbema.
"We start with prayer, then we have a little bit of teachings. That's what they want is to delve back into the basics of the faith. We have teaching and discussion and sharing where they relate their life experiences. Right now we are studying the sacraments and the liturgical calendar," she said.
After their Tuesday meetings, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., they stay at the church for Eucharistic Adoration to close the meeting.
TIME TO BOND
"I find that there's a lot of bonding. I like listening to people of my own culture because a lot of times I don't have much contact with other Filipinos. So it is good for me in a sense that I go back into recognizing the different regional cultures," she said.
When Pollentes is away or has other commitments, Fernando Sulit often facilitates the group.
"Our intention is to make our faith stronger," Sulit said, hearing stories of Filipino Catholics who converted to other Christian faiths when no support system was available to them.
"We need to have a prayer group for the Filipinos, especially the Catholic ones, or we might lose our brothers and sisters to other denominations. That is our first intention. Our second intention is to have camaraderie."
There are so many lessons that we receive from God, he said, and dedicating one evening a week for learning those lessons is of utmost importance.
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