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One with the Church and Society in Caring for Migrants and Itinerants
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BAGONG BAYANI…  a  new breed of heroes… this is how the overseas Filipino workers have been described over the  years. They sacrifice  so much—their families,  the comforts  of  home,  the security  of  having loved  ones around  when  the  going gets tough—just to be able to eke out a living for the future of their families.  At  what cost, though? Estrangement  from the very people they work so hard  for?  Abuse  by employers? The loneliness that gnaws at their very core?

And  for  the  families—spouses,  children,  parents—the  absence of the  migrant workers especially in important milestones in their lives has  taken  a  toll  not  just  on them but on the absentee.

These are just some of the realities which propelled the CFC Migrants Program  to stage  its  first  CFC  Migrants Program Convention  for CALABARZON. The convention, with more than 200 participants from Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon, plus a few from Metro Manila and a contingent from Cebu, was held last April 29, 2017 at the 8 Anchors Cultural Center inside Seaman’s Village, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

The theme of the convention, Kaisa  ng  Simbahan  sa Apostolado Migrante conveys that  the  CFC  Migrants  Program is one with the Catholic  Church  and  many  other institutions  in  addressing concerns related to OFWs.

The  program  kicked  off with  the  celebration  of  the Mass presided by  Fr.  Reuel Castañeda,  Episcopal  Vicar of the Episcopal District of St. Matthew - North Cavite, concelebrated with Fr. Junie and Fr. Mike, both from the Diocese of Imus and serving in the Migrants apostolate. 

In  his  homily,  Fr.  Reuel exhorted,  “Ang  simbahang walang ebanghelisasyon  ay parang  ilaw  na walang liwanag, o asin na walang lasa. Ang nagbibigay liwanag o nagbibigay lasa sa ating mga Kristyano ay  ang  ating  gampanin  na  magpahayag ng Magandang Balita. Gamitin natin ang pagtitipong ito upang ang ating bawat gagawin ay maging  kasangkapan  ng  ebanghelisasyon.” (The Church  without evangelization  is  like  a lamp that does not give out light, or flavorless salt that doesn’t enhance flavor. What gives light or adds flavor to us Christians is our mandate to proclaim the Good News. Let us use this gathering to ensure that everything we do would be an instrument of evangelization.)

Jess Ferrer, Program Head for CFC MP, reiterated in his welcome remarks the role of migrant workers. He said, “Our OFWs are the missionaries of the New Millennium.”  Ferrer  added,  “The  CFC Migrants Program  mission  of  ‘Empowering  migrants  and their families through Moral Values Reorientation resulting in active consciousness of their missionary role’ is what fuels the passion of the program volunteers to minister to the OFWs.”

CFC Chairman Joe Tale reminded the delegates that the basic charism of Couples for Christ of family renewal is what should continue to fuel those serving  in  the  Migrants  Program.  Tale likewise shared the community's major future directions regarding caring for migrants and their families, not only for departing OFWs and their families left behind, but also those returning through reintegration. Reintegration was among the provisions indicated  in the  MOA  with  the Department  of Labor and Employment and CFC in 2008.

Ric Casco of the International Organization for Migration shared about "Managing Migration for the Benefit of All". Casco explained, “Why do we need to manage migration? Because migration is a human choice and there are many forces and factors that influence it.”

On  behalf  of  Hans  Leo  Cacdac,  Administrator  of  the  Overseas Workers  Welfare Office (OWWA),  Julia  Fabian  presented  the  roles of government in migration. 

Fr. Resty Ogsimer, Executive Secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples (CBCP-ECMI) revisited the agreement between CFC and ECMI in caring for migrants and itinerants and their families.  In  the agreement,  ECMI  is expected to  invite  CFC  to  its  Diocesan Migrants  Desks, Commissions in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for better cooperation and coordination on the Migrants  Ministry Formation  in  the  diocesan level down to the parish level. The CBCP-ECMI ensures that wherever there are migrant workers, there must be a pastoral worker, whether clergy, religious or lay missionary. The Commission also links with Churches abroad and sends missionaries if there is a need.

In turn, CFC will inform its chapters about the ECMI Diocesan Desks to closely coordinate and abide by the protocol, processes and mechanisms for  migrants  and  complement  the  Diocesan Migrants Desks’ efforts based on the needs and dynamics at their areas of jurisdiction.

Together, ECMI and CFC work to complement each other on the values formation of migrant families through sharing and exchange of existing modules. ECMI will likewise coordinate with CFC regarding the formation program of the sons and daughters of OFWs, especially in the schools.

In line with this, Fr. Ogsimer mentioned the search for the 10 Outstanding Sons and Daughters of OFWs, which was launched three years ago,  to  counter  the  seemingly  popular  notion that children of migrant workers behave badly or become unmanageable in school.

ECMI likewise invited CFC to participate in the inter-agency council that takes care of migrants’ concerns. Fr. Resty was happy to report the positive feedback regarding this. Lastly, both entities are also expected to partner with one another in special  projects and activities  for  the migrant sector as needed.

Arnel Santos, Head of the Social Development Programs, rallied the delegates on the social development thrusts of CFC, highlighting an item in the community’s Statutes which states, “CFC, in raising up holy Christian men and women, likewise raises up responsible members of societies and patriotic citizens of countries.”

During the integration, Fr. Resty summed up the  day’s  proceedings by reading  the message of Most Rev. Ruperto Santos, Bishop of Balanga and Chairman of CBCP-ECMI. 

Overall, the volunteers from CALABARZON, Metro Manila and Cebu came out of the convention with a stronger conviction to serve not only migrant  workers  and  their  families,  but also  those  who have  fallen into  human  trafficking and itinerant and displaced people. The social costs of migration may be taking a toll on God’s plan for the family, but with the Church, government  agencies  and prayer  communities like CFC working together, ministering to OFWs and their families will be much easier to address. As Bishop Santos mentioned in his message, “We are their strength, we speak for them.” (Alma M. Alvarez)


(Related article: We Are Their Strength, We Speak for Them)


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