A Germany-based group of Filipinos seek to engage themselves in renewed evangelization and the strengthening of the Catholic faith in Europe.
By Amy Abitong-Huetwohl (in collaboration with Liberty Tanangco)
With the landing of the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines in 1521, the Europeans introduced Christianity to the country. Now, almost -85- percent of the population are Christians, the Roman Catholics being the majority with 78.8 percent. (Philippine Statistics Authority, 2020).
Barely 500 years later, the situation turned around. Filipinos and other Asian Christian groups are now in Europe and their presence are providing new life into the struggling faith life of the continent as a whole.
Although there are no reliable sources about the number of Filipinos residing and working in Europe, it is estimated to be around 890,000. In Germany, the estimate is about 65,000, both workers and naturalized citizens.
These Filipinos who left their country and came to settle and start new lives here brought with them their deep Christian faith and way of life. This puts them in a position to touch the lives of Europeans, being in the service sectors, such as the medical professions and caring for the sick and elderly. Filipinos are now playing a very important role in the life of the Church here and its plans for renewed evangelization. To the point that on one occasion, Pope Francis was quoted as saying” Wherever the Filipinos are, the faith is alive.”
With the continuous arrival of migrants in Europe to ease labor problems and the increase of asylum seekers and refugees, drastic demographic changes are expected in the coming years. Consequently, changes in culture and beliefs are expected to follow. These, plus materialism and secularism, have negatively impacted Christianity. And passive and inactive participation by Christians in their faith life are caused by the lack of understanding of their faith and their role in the Church.
These are precisely what the members of the LAYCORE (Lay Community for Renewed Evangelization) had in mind when they took part in the lay theology certificate program of the Graduate School of Theology of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary (ICMAS) of Bulacan, Philippines. The programme is called MAFAMCO (Meaningful Appreciation of the Faith towards Ministerial Collaboration) and its aim is to deepen the students’ understanding of the Catholic faith so that they can actively collaborate and support the Filipino Chaplaincy in the Archdiocese of Cologne and in other parts of Germany.
This was launched in Germany in 2011 by the then Chaplain of the Filipinos in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Fr. Tranquilino “Jun” de Ocampo, SVD and Fr. Emmanuel Cruz, now the Rector of the ICMAS Graduate School of Theology. The project is continuously supported by the present Chaplain of the Filipinos in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Fr. Rodel Liguid, SVD.
LAYCORE has included in its programme the following.
MAFAMCO Cerficate Programme wherein Catholic lay leaders undergo a comprehensive academic programme in theology to prepare them for pastoral work in their communities, especially in the field of doctrinal formation and education in the faith. In particular, they will be equipped with intellectual competence and confidence in articulating, explaining and teaching the Catholic faith.
FAITH EDUCATION PROGRAMME : This provides continuing faith education to equip lay leaders with knowledge, skills and attitude to be able to serve their communities effectively. This include training for commentators and lectors and training for catechists.
OUTREACH : While the founding organization is based in Bonn, Germany, LAYCORE is reaching out to Filipino chaplaincies in Germany and eventually in Europe in order to establish a network of community lay leaders who can participate and collaborate in the life and ministry of the Church and empower them to become agents of the new evangelization.
LAYCORE is an autonomous lay organization, registered as non-profit under German laws to allow it to raise resources to support its activities. where it hopes to realize its great vision of strengthening Christian communities in the region and spreading the Good News of Christ.
HOPES AND DREAMS
Pope Francis, in a letter to the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Nov. 2015, said that lay people “are disciples of Christ called to “enliven every environment, every activity and every human relationship according to the Gospel,”
Lay people, he states, bring “the light, hope, [and] love received from Christ in those places that, otherwise, might remain unknown to the action of God and abandoned to the misery of the human condition.”
On the occasion of the 500th celebration of Christianity in the Philippines, the Pope sent the following message to all Filipinos: “You are generous. You are bountiful. You know how to celebrate the feast of faith. Don’t lose that even in the midst of difficulties,”
“In those highly participated meetings, you showed us that this gift of faith you have received… You say that you want to continue sharing it and proclaiming it to all. “And I am a witness that you know how to transmit the faith, and you do it well, be it in your own country or abroad,” he said.
Very inspiring words, indeed., for LAYCORE and all Filipinos. We are now the new missionaries and the new bearers of the Gospel to Europe where different peoples, cultures, traditions and ideologies converge.
AMY ABITONG-HUITWOHL, has been living in Germany for 46 years but all her life her heart remained Filipino. She goes back to her Marlboro Country hometown (Ilocos) as often as she can; In- between she undertakes adventurous and exploratory travels to many unknown places. About to turn 74, she plans to adopt a new lifestyle, one replete with quietness and simplicity.