Immigrants gift the world with skills, faith and inspirational stories

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Filipinos in New York celebrate their devotion to the Black Nazarene at Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine in Manhattan (Kris Bayos)

NEW YORK CITY, January 10, 2017–Today’s immigrants are the modern-day magi who bring gifts to the countries they move to after leaving their homeland.

During Sunday’s feast of the Epiphany, Fr. Walter Tonelotto, C.S., told the Filipino-American community based at Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine in Manhattan that like the magi, immigrants bring their talents and skills overseas.

“We immigrants are like the 3 kings, because we bring gifts to the foreign countries we go to. Instead of gold, immigrants bring their talents and skills. In lieu of incense, we bring faith. Instead of myrr, we bring salvation,” he said.

Tonelotto said the devotion to Jesus the Black Nazarene in the US and across the globe is one of the religious traditions that the Filipino immigrants have gifted the world with.

It was a coincidence that the feast of the Epiphany fell on the feast day of Jesus the Black Nazarene, which is a huge religious event in the Philippines observed annually on Jan. 9. Filipino-American devotees clad with maroon shirts gathered at the Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine, but the procession of the religious image was done indoors due to the inclement weather and freezing temperatures across the northeast US.

It was also a coincidence that the US observes the National Migrants Week from Jan. 8 to 14, just before the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump, who has been vocal about his anti-migration stance since his campaign for the White House began.

Tonelotto’s exhortation came as an affirmation to immigrants whose security in the US has been threatened due to rising hate crimes since Trump’s election and to uncertain migration policy shifts.

“We immigrants have great faith stories to tell,” the Scalabrini priest added. “The star was our calling. Following the star is not only about pursuing our ambitions or searching for material things, but also about chasing the face of Jesus,” just like the how devotees flock to the churches when they are overseas.

For her part, Consul General Teresa Dizon-De Vega said Jesus’ journey to Calvary is particularly reminiscent of the immigrants’ painstaking survival overseas, making it an inspiration among migrants.

“The story of Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion is the story of every migrant–wherever you have come from in the Philippines or across the world, you came here to New York to build new lives for yourselves,” she said.

De Vega encouraged devotees to keep the Filipino religious traditions alive even overseas.

“I hope that even if you are far from the Philippines, the journey of the Poong Hesus Nazareno’s and the story of our Lord’s sacrifice will always guide you in your own journey here in the US,” she added. (Kris Bayos / CBCPNews)

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