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Members of the Filipino Catholic community who lost a loved one during the past year placed candles and flowers on the altar at a Todos Los Santos Mass at St. Jude Church in Overland Nov. 7.
Members of the Filipino Catholic community who lost a loved one during the past year placed candles and flowers on the altar at a Todos Los Santos Mass at St. Jude Church in Overland Nov. 7.
Photo Credit: Sid Hastings for the St. Louis Review

EDITORIAL | Filipino Catholics celebrate 500 years of Christianity and remain witnesses to the faith

Filipino Catholics celebrating 500 years of Christianity are examples of true witnesses to the faith

Christianity arrived at the shores of the Philippine Islands 500 years ago, when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe from Spain to India, landed on tiny island of Limasawain the central Philippines and began converting the natives to Christianity. More than 2,200 people were converted.

It was the beginning of something new for the Filipino people. Deeply rooted in their relationship with Christ, they began celebrating their faith in new ways, which became treasured traditions handed on down through the generations.

At the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, Filipino Catholics in St. Louis carry on those traditions, celebrating a culture that is rich in the Catholic faith.

“We make sure our culture is not lost, and that we continue to give it to our children,” said Nancy Abarca at a Todos Los Santos Mass Nov. 7, held at St. Jude Church in Overland and marking the feast of All Saints.

“Faithfulness and devotion is deeply in our hearts, and our faith in Christ is deeply bound,” said Deacon Noli Rivera.

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we have many cultural expressions of faith for which we are grateful. Other examples include Hispanic, Vietnamese, African and African-American, Korean, Polish and Hungarian communities and more.

Through baptism, Pope Francis said that Christians obtain the freedom that “enables us to acquire the full dignity of children of God,” opening them to the “universalism of faith” while remaining “firmly anchored in our cultural roots.”

Christians have “the duty to respect the cultural origin of every person, placing them in a space of freedom that is not restricted by any imposition dictated by a single predominant culture,” the Holy Father said during a weekly audience Oct. 13.

“This is the meaning of calling ourselves Catholics, of speaking of the Catholic Church. It is not a sociological denomination to distinguish us from other Christians; Catholic is an adjective that means universal,”

“A Treasured Presence: Filipino American Catholics,” published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, states that Filipinos are not only a diverse and vibrant part of the Church in the United States today, but an important part of its future. “At a time when secularization is increasingly impacting Church involvement, Filipino Americans remain faithfully Catholic and actively involved in parish life” as “key evangelizers of the Catholic faith.”

The Filipino Catholic community, both locally and around the world, is an example of a culture that was evangelized and through centuries of history, has gone on to evangelize others.

Their witnesses to the faith are to be admired and celebrated.

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