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Pray the Rosary!

Angelyn Tugado-Marzanby Angelyn Tugado-Marzan

It won’t be mind boggling if the following would ask Filipino American Catholics to pray the Rosary: Father Pete Literal (retired Chaplain of Services, U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons and now Associate Pastor, Mary Our Queen Cathedral, Baltimore, Maryland); Father Gary T. Villanueva (first Filipino pastor of 50-year-old St. Columba Church, Oxon Hill, Maryland); Reverend Monsignor Edward Joseph Filardi (erstwhile priest-secretary of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick who visited the Philippines in the 1990s); Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl; or especially, Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic Church leader, a position many Catholics believe was first held by Saint Peter, the Apostle of Jesus Christ when He literally walked the earth.

But for an accredited diplomat and a Philippine government representative to invite the whole Filipino-American Community to pray the Rosary? Well, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. did just that. In a memo addressed to “The Filipino-American Community in the United States,” Ambassador Cuisia invited Fil-Ams to offer their Holy Rosary on February 1, 2012  “for the intentions of the United States.” Said ambassadorial move seemed unprecedented in the years I’ve covered the Philippine Embassy since 1994. For a moment, I thought I was reading a memo from the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the U.S. (or the Vatican Embassy).

The devout Catholic envoy who attends Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, near the Philippine Embassy in downtown Washington, D.C., explained that he and his wife, Maria Victoria, “have committed to join ‘A Million Roses for the World’ prayer campaign that aims to offer one million rosaries each day (from October 10, 2011 to May 30, 2012) for the intention of all countries in the world.” Rosary offered on February 1, 2012 is for the intentions of the United States. The Family Rosary Crusade (FRC) Philippines started the said campagin. FRC is a Roman Catholic movement founded by the late Irish-born Reverend Patrick Peyton, CSC (dubbed as the ‘the Rosary priest’).

Ambassador Cuisia hoped that Filipino Americans would offer their “family rosary” on February 1st so that “institutions (in the U.S.) may strive to guarantee respect for human life;” that the United States “may recover from the weak economy and create more jobs for its people and may progress in suppressing its carbon emissions,” that in the “land of plenty, the poor may have affordable housing, adequate food and health care,” and lastly, “that its democracy be spared from further acts of terrorism.”

“That’s an unusual move coming from an Ambassador,” mused Helen Sadorra, President of Katipunan in Baltimore, Maryland. “That’s nice (of your Ambassador),” smiled Rosary-devotee American Monsignor Filardi who has savored his favorite Filipino ‘pancit’ with members of El Shaddai, a Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement that originated in the Philippines. “Courageous!” said Father Jose M. Marcelo of Ambassador Cuisia. “May paniniwala siya sa Diyos, sa Rosario, even though he knows he’ll come under fire in case people criticize him!” continued Fr. Marcelo (Parochial Vicar, Saint Joseph’s Church,Bound Brook, New Jersey) shortly after the Liturgical Service he conducted following the wake for Estrella “Auntie Laleng” Librojo in Bridgewater, New Jersey.Imagine the blessings we can all benefit from this massive powerful prayer . We should do this more often!” suggested Amy Pascual Quinto, Filipino American art designer of Washington Post.

“Ambassador & Mrs. Cuisia are faithful and pious Catholics who do not shrink away from their Catholic Filipino identity.  We are very proud of them and their courageous efforts to speak up and lead the way for a peaceful and prayerful response to the assault on religious freedom and life here in the United States,” said Virginia residents JC & Lisa Orosa of Bukas Loob sa Diyos (BLD), a Catholic Charismatic Covenant Community that started in the Philippines more than 26 years ago.

“I’ll pray,” agreed Helen Viray, Mother Butler Guild’s Assistant Coordinator and member of the Misang Pilipino Choir at St. Mary’s Church, Rockville, MD. “That’s no problem as we do the 2000 Hail Marys the whole day every 1st Saturday of the month,” said Jimmy and Liza Almendrala and Jun and Shirley “She” Raymundo. The Rosary (also called the ‘Crown of Roses’) is a powerful weapon against evil, according to Reverend Father Hyacinth Marie Cordell, O.P. (Associate Pastor, St. Pius V Church, Providence, Rhode Island). “It’s a perfect prayer because it speaks of the story of our salvation as we meditate on the mysteries of joy, of sorrow, and the glory of Jesus and Mary,” continued Fr. Cordell of the Dominican Order of Preachers (O.P.) whose founder, Saint Dominic, was said to have been given the Rosary by the Blessed Virgin Mary in an apparition during the 13th century.

Father  Gary Villanueva (call him “Father GaryV,” namesake of famous Filipino singer Gary Valenciano) was surprised when I told him of the Ambassador’s letter. “Nobody from the Philippine Embassy contacted me or the parish, knowing that St. Columba Parish in Oxon Hill, Maryland, is the bastion of Filipino-American Catholicism in the Metro D.C. area!” said this bubbly electronics and communications engineering graduate from my alma mater, the 400-year-old University to Sto. Tomas in Manila, Philippines. He nevertheless praised Ambassador Cuisia “for reminding Filipino American Catholics that by praying the rosary, we can petition the Virgin Mary to listen to the needs of her children. At Church, we always pray the rosary everyday before the Mass. I believe that our Lady always intercedes for us to her Son. The rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a meditation prayer of the life and mysteries of her Incarnate Son.  It is even now urgent to pray the rosary for peace around the world, to spare us from natural calamities and to protect the family from demoralization.”

Angie Coloma of Buklod Kaibigan Choir who’ll sing at the 10 am Mass for our Lady of Antipolo on February 18, 2012 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington, D.C. said “Walang mawawala if we pray the Rosary but the Ambassador’s request is directed to one sector of society as the Rosary caters only to the Catholics and not all Filipino Americans are Catholics. He should not impose his faith as he is the Ambassador. It would have been better had he requested Filipino Americans to ‘pray’ or have a ‘moment of silence for the intentions of the United States.’”“Hindi ako nagrorosaryo!” exclaimed Ofelia Phelps, an Adventist and formerly of Sta. Mesa, Manila.

Another woman, who just wanted to be identified as “Ate” said, “Katoliko ako pero hindi ako nagrorosaryo! Nagpapasalamat na lang ako sa mga biyayang binigay ng Diyos.” While waiting for the metro bus to take her back to work in Bethesda, Maryland, Ate explained further her blessings in crisp Tagalog, “Kelan lang, eh, sinama ako ng amo ko sa laro ng Giants at  Patriots at nakaupo pa kami sa isang maliit na kuwarto na may salamin na bintana na kitang-kita ang buong laro at nakilala ko pa si Madonna! Ang bait talaga ng amo ko!”

Her friend, Nora (who also declined to give her full name) adamantly voiced out her disgust over the embassy’s consular service. “Dapat mag-Rosario si Ambassador kasama ng mga staff niya! Itong January lang, tumawag ako sa embassy para tanungin ang requirements para sa pagkuha ng anak ko sa Pilipinas. Sabi nila isang copya ng mga documents, etc.

Pagdating namin sa consular office, dalawang copya daw ang kailangan at wala raw silang copy machine! So paglabas namin sa consular office, naghanap-hanap pa kami ng copy machine!

Reklamo ng asawa ko na kagaya ko na pagod na pagod na: ‘What kind of embassy service is that?’

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