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2017 HOLD North America Conference:A Fitting Birthday Gift for Our Blessed Mother
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What better gift to give our Blessed Mother on her birthday than to hold a prayer-filled gathering of women? The Handmaids of the Lord from both the USA and Canada did just that – they celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with a prayer-filled conference anchored on the theme My Heart In Your Hands. 

The celebration began with a creative rendition of Heart in My Hands by homegrown artist Terry Mance. His Jesus Christ on the Cross was widely admired because of its realism. The main conference started with the recitation of the Holy Rosary, followed by a Mass officiated by a Tagalog-speaking priest, Fr. Jim Corrigan. Fr. Corrigan af-firmed CFC HOLD’s calling by citing the wonderful work the ministry has been doing in the community. Praise and worship followed, with Didi Galsim, HOLD Coordinator for the Americas, leading. 

As a ministry of Couples for Christ, HOLD shares the community’s mission to go out into the world to proclaim God’s Word. The ladies from Edmonton provided the audience with a record of where HOLD is at this stage of their mission through a three-minute song and dance presentation called Nations of the World that identified all 5 continents and 150 countries where HOLD is present. Each continent was introduced via the "Handmaids on Tour" segment, where Riza Brana, wife of CFC Edmonton Family Ministry Head acted as tour guide. 

The HOLD delegates were treated to a whirlwind review of the major continents, starting with a tour of the Americas. In this segment, Galsim gave a rundown of HOLD members and introduced presentations from North, Central and South America with a special representation of some Micronesia appendage territories of the US. 

The whole delegation was shown beautiful Africa with Sally Doromal, HOLD National Coordinator for Canada as tour guide. Who would have thought that this continent had the most number of countries? What was even more amazing was that in all of its 54 countries, there are 2,300 HOLD members! The rhythmic beat of Congo drums and chants accompanied great dancing from its representatives.

Marissa Kagahastian, HOLD National Coordinator for USA, led the group into Europe and introduced its 51 countries, 16 of them home to about 1,500 HOLD members. From the soundtrack of Abba from Sweden, El Bimbo from France, Volare from Italy and the Sound of Music from Austria, talented HOLD sisters led the entire auditorium into joyful dancing. Oceania was next introduced by Pie Cadena, HOLD Coordinator for North America. 

Apart from Australia and New Zealand, some 1,200 HOLD members call Polynesian and Micronesian countries home. Finally, the congregation travelled to Asia with Weng Alfonso. The largest continent has 43 countries. With about 3,700 HOLD members, Asia has the most number of HOLD members outside of the Philippines. Indeed, HOLD has gone beyond the shores of the Philippines, planting the seeds of the ministry in 73 countries. 

On day one of the conference proper, Sally Doromal encapsulated the purpose of the HOLD on Tour: to bring the love of God to the ends of the earth. Day 2 of the conference started with the praying of the Rosary and Mass officiated by CFC Greater Edmonton's Spiritual Director, Fr. Nilo Macapinlac. 


Five sessions were conducted on the second day.Four paintings by Thomas Cole titled Voyage of Life became the anchor on which Pie Cadena started Session 1 titled Journey of Faith. Session 2, on the other hand, described the world’s Crisis In Faith. Canyl Bustos described the current challenges that undermine one’s practice of the faith. Marissa Kagahastian taught the delegates in Session 3 that one needs to Stay the Course, as the evil one will use any or all tactics to defeat believers.

Sally Doromal came back on stage to encourage everyone to be courageous and to be strong in Session 4. How? By being Warriors on our Knees. With the enemies lurking all around, it seems easier to give in to fear, laziness, fatigue or loneliness. HOLD needs courage and the strength of mind and heart in order to do God's will. Didi Galsim ended the day with Session 5 titled My Heart In Your Hands, summarizing the five lessons of CFC’s theme for 2017: to Be on Guard, Stand Firm, Be Courageous, Be Strong and finally Do every Act in Love. 

Every session had sharers who brought the participants into a roller coaster of emotions, through their personal testimonies about living in sin, same sex union, and loving a friend in the medical practice of abortion. It was the love and prayers of their friends that brought their hearts back into the hands of the Lord. A non-Filipino HOLD member from New Brunswick, Kaye Minnie, shared her life and her deep love for Filipinos, proudly announcing that she has become a Filipino at heart.

After the five sessions, it was time for fun! Saturday night was a blast as everyone dressed up for the Masquerade Ball. The ballroom was decked with silver, gold and white flowers as revelers came in their long sequined gowns and equally stunning masks. Marizza Diaz emceed the HOLD Got Talent Show, with 12 entries from different areas. It was a celebration of God's gift of talent in song and dance. In the end, Mayen Hernandez from Toronto won first place with her powerful rendition of We Could Have It All. 

On the last day of the conference, the Holy Mass was presided by His Excellency Bishop Gregory Bittman. It was a reunion of sorts, as he was the same priest, though not yet a bishop then, who officiated the Mass at the HOLD Conference in Edmonton 10 years before. After the Mass, the awarding ceremonies were held, every delegation awarded a trophy in recognition for their various roles in the conference. 

To loud cheers, it was also announced that the 2018 HOLD USA Conference will be in Chicago, while the HOLD Canada Conference will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Malou Padua Clarito)


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