Skip to comments.(Divine) Mercy Blossoms in Asia: American leaders are amazed by growth of Divine Mercy in Far East
Posted on 02/19/2003 11:45:42 AM PST by Pyro7480
Mercy blossoms in Asia
American leaders are amazed by growth of Divine Mercy in Far East.
by Francis P. Bourdon
Picture yourself in a cathedral with an estimated congregation of 5,000 people -- gathered from parishes throughout the area to attend a Divine Mercy conference. And it's not Mercy Sunday!
Welcome to Bombay, India.
Then, again, imagine tuning into your local radio station at three in the afternoon for a broadcast of the Hour of Great Mercy.
Welcome to the Philippines.
That these are facts and not fiction amazed my fellow American travelers and me during our Divine Mercy "crusade" of Asia last October. We started to wonder what we could do to bring the message of Divine Mercy back to America, which certainly seemed like a "mission country" after our experience overseas.
Now let me tell you about the trip. With the permission of resident cardinals and bishops, our team of Divine Mercy leaders embarked on a "crusade" of the Far East, going to Guam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and India. We went with the blessing of the Stockbridge-based Province of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, which is committed to spreading the message of Divine Mercy around the world.
The team included: Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, one of the foremost speakers and writers on Divine Mercy; Dr. Bryan Thatcher, MD, and Gretchen Robens, both leaders of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), a lay outreach ministry of our Province of the Marians; and myself, Francis P. Bourdon, Executive Director of the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, MA -- headquarters of the Association of Marian Helpers.
We went armed with publications from our U.S. branch of the Association of Marian Helpers -- which is internationally known for its materials on Divine Mercy.
During our many flights and stops, two thoughts continued to run through our minds: how we in America take for granted our many blessings and how many Americans suffer from spiritual poverty amidst material prosperity.
Guam: Nearly all Catholics know the message
Our first stop was in this U.S. territory. Archbishop Anthony Apuron and Fr. Joel de los Reyes rolled out the red carpet, along with the Divine Mercy core team led by Mrs. Theresa Cadiz.
The island has a population of about 180,000 with 24 parishes. Nearly all of the Catholics there know of the Divine Mercy message and devotion, and Mercy Sunday is celebrated in many of the parishes.
We visited a newly built chapel in Umatac, where a perpetual adoration chapel has been dedicated to The Divine Mercy. There parishioners from the area pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet hourly during Eucharistic Adoration for the sick and dying.
To everyone's amazement, the spacious Cathedral in the capital city was over half filled with Divine Mercy devotees for the Mass and talks given by Fr. Seraphim, Dr. Thatcher, and myself. Initially, Fr. Joel had expected 150 to 200 people to attend the conference since it was held on a workday. To his surprise, more than 650 people showed up.
At the beginning of his presentation in every city, Fr. Seraphim lit a candle from the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA, symbolizing the spark of mercy which is igniting the "fire of mercy" throughout the world. The candle was lit again during a Mass of Thanksgiving by Fr. Seraphim on December 31. He offered the Mass at the National Shrine for all the intentions collected from conference participants during the crusade.
The Philippines: Signs of Divine Mercy everywhere
Manila: From Guam, we headed for Manila. We were welcomed by Msgr. Josefino Ramirez -- Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Manila and coordinator of its Divine Mercy ministries since the early 1980s. The Divine Mercy devotion is so popular in the Philippines, that the image of The Divine Mercy can be seen throughout the country at airports, on billboards, in stores, even in government offices and private businesses. This past Divine Mercy Sunday, a Divine Mercy image was even solemnly enthroned in the palace of President Gloria Arroyo.
Lay people are instrumental in promoting the message, and the lay outreach ministry of EADM has spread rapidly in every part of the country with the strong support of Cardinal Jaime Sin and Monsignor Ramirez.
The conferees were mostly lay leaders who represented many of the parishes in the archdiocese, but also priests and the Divine Mercy core team attended.
At the time of our visit, the Filipino Congress was deliberating on an abortion bill. So both Fr. Seraphim and Dr. Thatcher explored how this matter was addressed in St. Faustina's Diary.
Marilao: From Manila, we drove north to Marilao, Bulacan, for the conference there, which was held on a magnificently decorated stage in the large gymnasium of a school near the diocesan Shrine of The Divine Mercy. The Shrine had just been designated the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy by the Philippines' Conference of Catholic Bishops and was then proclaimed as such during a solemn celebration on November 30.
Nearly 1,000 people participated in the daylong conference and Eucharistic celebration in Marilao.
During the conference, several youth groups dressed in native clothing performed choreographed dances, accompanied by musicians and singers. The audience, from pre-teen youngsters to grandparents, joined enthusiastically in the spirited singing and prayers. It was rewarding for us to see how the Filipino youth in attendance exuded a spontaneous fervor for their Catholic faith.
Cebu: In this city, we were the guests of Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal and Msgr. Christopher Garcia. The conference included two days of talks that drew nearly 600 Divine Mercy leaders (clergy, religious, and lay). People flew in from the central and southern islands of the country, especially from Mindanao. It was a joy to see that several EADM prayer cenacles are well established in the Southern Philippines. While in this city in the Southern Philippines, we watched with horror TV coverage of the bombings in Bali that snuffed out hundreds of innocent lives. Many of our prayers during the remainder of the crusade were offered for these victims of terrorism. We also remembered those injured in the subsequent bombings that took place in Manila just one day after our departure from that city.
Kuala Lumpur: Crossroads for spreading mercy
This large city in Malaysia surprised us with its modern and beautiful environment. It is a crossroads of sorts for Southeast Asia, and the standard of living rivals most modern cities elsewhere in the world. Malaysia is moderately Islamic in character. For Christians, this means they must be prudent in the public expression of their faith. Nonetheless, even with these challenges, many Catholic immigrants from Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Thailand are being drawn towards the Divine Mercy message and devotion. A leader in the Australian Divine Mercy Apostolate, John Canavan, joined the team at this juncture of the crusade.
We also had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Molly Limm -- an entrepreneur and Divine Mercy leader -- who spearheads promoting the message in Malaysia.
Singapore: Faith alive in cosmopolitan city-state
The team then took a short one-hour flight to the City-State of Singapore. The island, formerly a part of Malaysia, is also predominately Buddhist. The strong influence of western commercial activity, however, has created a cosmopolitan mix of religions and cultures. Of these, Catholicism represents about 4 percent of the population. The pro-Western form of government allows for greater freedom of religious expression than is true of some other Asian countries.
Divine Mercy is thriving in this climate. At the well-advertised conference, over 300 Divine Mercy leaders and devotees dedicated an entire day to prayer and to hearing inspirational talks from the team. Our host, Fr. Johnson Fernandez, has been a Marian Helpers' representative since 1991, which involves permission to use our materials. At that time, he was appointed to be the Singapore Spiritual Director for Divine Mercy by Archbishop Gregory Yong. Despite the heat being nearly 100 degrees fahrenheit and humidity over 90 percent, the conference participants remained animated.
India: Enormous interest amidst great poverty
Calcutta: From Singapore, we flew via Bangkok to Calcutta, where we were overwhelmed by the squalor and extreme poverty on the city streets. Although primarily Hindu and partly Moslem, the city also has many Catholics. We discovered that the Missionaries of Charity -- Mother Teresa's Congregation -- have a revered place in the culture and government of India. Her sisters are also devotees of the Divine Mercy message -- even praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. every day at Mother's tomb in Calcutta.
The general conference took place in St. Mary's Church. The number of actual attendees was over 1,500 -- filling the church to capacity with the overflow in a basement auditorium, connected by closed circuit television. The day began with Eucharistic Adoration and worship. As the conference progressed, we became aware of the pervading din in the streets. Car horns were honking almost uninterruptedly directly outside of the church.
After Gretchen Robens of EADM talked, nearly 50 local leaders of the lay outreach ministry approached her -- eager to obtain more information on lay formation and Eucharistic Adoration.
Following Fr. Seraphim's explanation of the Chaplet and meditation on the Passion, John Canavan of the Australia Divine Mercy Apostolate gave his stirring witness of a life given over to spreading the message after an earlier period of alienation from God. Archbishop Lucas Sirkar, SDB, and 12 priests offered the evening Mass.
We learned that Fr. Eric Pinto had traveled 22 hours by train from Northern India to attend our seven-hour conference. He thanked Fr. Seraphim profusely for answering his questions and instructing him on steps to bring Divine Mercy to his parish.
While in Calcutta, we observed a family of four riding on one motor scooter in heavy traffic, man-powered rickshaws weaving amongst motor traffic, and children bathing in dirty water. It is in this context that members of the Calcutta Divine Mercy core team, Clare and Marjorie Fernandez, have been working for the last decade to bring the message and devotion to the world's poorest people.
The Missionaries of Charity were very supportive of us and interested in EADM's mission. We were privileged to celebrate Holy Mass at two of their houses. Then, in the Mother House, we prayed at Mother Teresa's tomb, asking her intercession on behalf of our efforts.
Bombay: Our final stop, Bombay -- now called Mumbai -- was possibly the most extraordinary stop of the tour. At the Church of St. Michael, we addressed a gathering of over 5,000 people. As we were entering the church, a man greeted Fr. Seraphim and said that he watched the Marian priest daily on EWTN at 3 p.m. saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet from the National Shrine in Stockbridge -- an amazing witness to EWTN's global reach.
The Divine Mercy core team made the preparations, led by Mr. Paul George. He reports to Bishop Bosco Penha, who advises Cardinal Ivan Diaz on Divine Mercy.
Over 300 Divine Mercy lay leaders attended the leaders' conference from nearly every church in the Archdiocese of Bombay. More surprising is that nearly 300 religious (priests, brothers, and sisters) attended a separate conference to learn more of their particular roles in living and spreading Divine Mercy.
At every talk, Fr. Seraphim and our team would reflect on the words of Our Lord to St. Faustina: "Mankind will have no peace until it turns with trust to My Mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 300).
As we returned to the United States, we were more committed than ever to trust in Jesus, The Divine Mercy, as the only way to lasting peace for our troubled world. We were also more thankful than ever for God's blessings and filled with zeal to share the spiritual riches of Divine Mercy back home.
Won't you join us in this task?
After 18 days of travel, 14 plane flights, and meetings in 8 cities, our unprecedented Divine Mercy "crusade" of the Far East came to a close.
Quite an amazing, exhausting, yet exhilarating time? That's for sure, especially since, before this, I could not possibly have imagined what God had in store for us.
What struck me most was how widely the Divine Mercy message and devotion are known, accepted, and appreciated in the far flung corners of the world. Yet, not only that! Closely connected to this awareness is the sense one gets of a very great hunger for The Divine Mercy, manifested by untold numbers of souls. So many want to enter more deeply into God's mercy.
We are witnessing the assurance in country after country that Divine Mercy is truly at the very heart of the Gospel. Divine Mercy is a shining example in the Church of what we theologians call the sensus fidelium. This means the mind, the understanding of the faithful, as authentic witnesses to genuine Catholic Faith and Tradition.
This sense of the faithful embracing Divine Mercy was so apparent on our crusade. The organizers were so dedicated with their carefully prepared venues and conference programs. The liturgies were dignified, reverent, and joyful. And everywhere we went, the participants were extremely devout with the numbers of attendees at the venues exceeding our expectations.
After our experience in the Far East, I concur with recent appraisals of the religious scene in the world, that Christianity will leave its deepest mark on the 21st century. The critical centers of the Christian world have moved decisively from Europe and North America to Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
The growing numbers of Christians are reported as jaw-dropping in these parts of the world! Consider, for example, that in the Philippines, there are more baptisms per year than in France, Spain, Italy, and Poland combined.
With the Divine Mercy message and devotion having become so widespread there, the Philippines are bound to become the source of abundant laborers for the New Evangelization of Asia. A sign of this was the establishment of a National Shrine of The Divine Mercy last November by the Catholic Bishops' Conference there. Its founder and rector took his inspiration from our National Shrine in Stockbridge, MA, 11 years earlier.
With similar developments elsewhere, the following words recorded by St. Faustina in her Diary can truly be considered prophetic: "I saw the glory of God which flows from the image. Many souls are receiving graces, although they do not speak of it openly. Even though it has met up with all sorts of vicissitudes, God is receiving glory because of it ... . The Divine Mercy will triumph over the whole world and will be worshiped by all souls" (1789).
This is what I try to tell our priests. It is so clear that we in the US often take God for granted because of our prosperity.
I love nuns. I wish I was one (of the Passionist or Dominican variety). :)
Thanks for a lovely thread. Isn't it interesting that as Christianity is dying in the West it has gained new life in Aisa. It gives me chills thinking about it. I wish I were there to celebrate with them.
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