In celebration of the year of the parish, we feature the experience of Au Cervantes, a BEC member of St. Mark Ville and a member of the Mary Immaculate Parish Ministries of Ushers, Greeters and Collectors in Las Piñas, Metro Manila. She talks about her activities and involvement in the parish and how they live communion very concretely.
I have six children and an understanding and kind husband. Before, I was not as sociable as I am now. I didn’t even know who my neighbors were. I didn’t ﬁnd out their names because I didn’t want to mingle with them, talk with them or be with them. I didn’t know how to share. But, I always attended weekly Mass together with my family, even though sometimes I didn’t fully and consciously participate in them.
But God had his plan for me, because one Sunday while attending mass, I was struck by the homily of the parish priest who urged us to practice Christ’s words, “Love your neighbors as I have loved you.” Hearing these words of Jesus, I had sleepless nights, and asked myself how I could love my neighbors. God answered my prayers through Mama Mary, because of the block rosary that was going on in our place.
I approached the BEC members in our community, who were doing the block rosary every Saturday and told them that I wanted to join their group. They whole-heartedly accepted me. I started to socialize with them and realized that a simple smile and greetings were really enough to gain friends.
They invited me to join the Gospel Word of Life meeting every ﬁrst Tuesday of the month in the parish church. We would read the Word of God and share our experiences about how to live the Word. This served as my guide to become a loving mother to my family, as I tried to do my chores happily, like doing the laundry, cooking their favorite food, cleaning the house, and looking after their daily needs. Consequently, my children also changed. They became good children and not hard-headed. I had showed them the love of God through my actions and not through words alone. I tried to be a living witness of the Word of God, which we had read together and shared experiences during this monthly meeting.
I also learned how to forgive. There was one person who could not accept the way I used to be. Everything I did was wrong for her, so she would speak badly about me behind my back. She did not want to accept the food that I shared with her, because she thought that I might poison her. In spite of that, I did not do anything bad against her, instead I continued to love her. When she got sick, I took good care of her. During that illness, she too told me that she loved me. I forgave her and that was the start of our harmonious relationship.
I felt great joy and because of this experience I longed to learn more about my Christian faith. I started attending the different spiritual formation and seminars held in our Parish, thus becoming an active member of the BEC. Through these, I received tremendous blessings from God.
But being an active member does not guarantee that we are exempted from challenges and sufferings. In March 2007, there was a big ﬁre in our place. Everything was reduced to ashes. We had nowhere to stay, nothing to wear, nothing to eat. But God did not abandon us. Mary Immaculate Parish, with the stewardship of our beloved Parish Priest, provided for all our needs with the help of the parishioners. . They showed their love and unity for us. They saw us as another Jesus who needed help. We were strengthened by their actions, so we did not lose hope even with this tragic event.
Three months after the ﬁre, they helped us to rebuild our houses. The parish launched Project Alay Kalakal with all the recyclable materials of the parishioners like used bottles, old newspaper, cartons, used iron, old appliances and anything that could be sold collected from the houses every Saturday. The proceeds earned after selling these recyclables were used to buy construction materials to build our houses. This continued until 29 houses were rebuilt and we called them Pabahay kay Maria (House for Mary).
All of us in our community are so happy to have beautiful colorful houses without leaking roofs. With the continuous Alay Kalakal Project, we now are ﬁnishing our own chapel.
I am still serving in the Parish as an usherette and mass collector. I also help to clean the surroundings of the church as thanksgiving to God for all the graces and blessings he has bestowed upon me and my family. I pray that he will continue to guide me in my mission as a church worker to build up a communion of communities as envisioned by the Church.