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Minding One’s Own Business

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Spaces of Hope


AFTER the Sinulog procession I found myself walking outside the fence of the Sto. Niño Basilica. I was trying to mind my own business as I was limping with the onset of gout. The four-hour walk had not helped. The spirit was willing but the flesh was agonizing.

I was waiting for my ride when someone said, “Can you bless me Padre?”, apparently attracted by the sutana I was wearing. I turned around to bless an unfamiliar but beaming face. It was the start an unexpected stream of pilgrims, lasting about 20 minutes, who wanted to receive a blessing from a priest as he stood on a street corner.

This unexpected turn of events had nothing to do with personal charisma as the sutana was the source of attraction. It did show me a real hunger in many Filipinos for a concrete assurance of God’s mercy in the midst of life. Popular religious practices–to which the hand blessing belongs–provides this vital contact with God.

This same phenomenon is at work when children ask for the priest’s blessing at the end of Mass, or when Sto. Niño devotees gently wave their hands in the air, or when devotees of the Black Nazarene wipe the statue of the latter, or when the faithful rush to the flowers on the carosa after a procession.


I finally found some comfort for the gout but I remain unsettled by the hunger of our people. A priest cannot just mind his own business.


 The 51st IEC has forced the Archdiocese of Cebu to go out of its usual self. Delegates from Cebu, all over the Philippines, and those outside the country numbering around 12,000 strong, various individuals, offices, and groups in Cebu have pitched in for this historic occasion.

Expectedly, there have been challenges. While I have personally received feedback from delegates that their registration went well, there have also been less joyful moments. One individual even said, “Registration is purgatory but once inside the pavilion it is heaven.”

There are edifying examples of people going the extra mile. Two elderly Catholics from the US, who are involved in the right to life movement, sent 60 simple yet dignified, hand-made monstrances for distribution for poor parishes.

Silently, a group of individuals have been assisting in the final preparations for the first communion of street children and other very poor children, even a few adults. This has not been easy. Coming out with the final list of communicants has been touch and go. A 35-year old man could not complete his catechesis due to conflict of schedule with work. Only nine parishes managed to prepare communicants. Apathy is real.

But responses to help the poor are edifying. A lady gathered donations for t-shirts with IEC patches as well as coloring books and pencils. Another lady donated copies of artistic doodles. Some business establishments donated food for the rehearsal of communicants and for the big day itself. Each child will go home with a goody bag with half a kilogram of the world famous Cebu lechon, among other goods.

A text from a partner from Digos says, “One-legged Marvin…moved me to tears with his story. This experience (is) grace I will forever be thankful for, and will eternally inspire me…” This man did not just mind his own business and is helping to send two street children for first Communion.


Unknown to many, a small group of pilgrims from Hungary, Chicago, and Cebu made a day-long trip to Bohol. This is part of the Break Bread initiative of the Solidarity and Communion Committee (SCC) of the IEC. This was in the spirit of experiencing the joyful and resilient faith of Boholanos whose many beautiful, centuries-old parish churches were reduced to rubble by the 7.2 earthquake in October 2013.

Easily, the highlight of the day was celebrating Mass at the temporary parish church of Loon. There, alongside a heritage building that will take perhaps 20 years to rebuild, the Loboc Children’s Choir rendered songs that would melt even hardened hearts. Fr. Val Pinlac, who organized the pilgrimage, commented how those visited felt very happy. “Thank you for visiting us and for sharing a piece of bread with us who are not privileged to be with you during the IEC,” he said.

As a Hungarian priest Fr. Laszlo, noted in his homily, “Filipinos laugh a lot and always offers a bottle of water. It was Europe that brought the face of Jesus to the Philippines…Now please pray for Europe to remind us of the face of Jesus.”

When we arrived in Cebu, we were met by an impressive firework display. Perhaps the Lord is happy when we do not just mind our own business.

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