God’s Grace is Greater than the Pandemic
“This is a hopeless situation for many, but despite everything and in isolation, our tenacity to continue with the mission remains.” This is how Fr. Mars Andres, O.M.I. perceives the pandemic crisis that has severely affected the Oblate missions and community life in the Philippines.
Father Mars then added that it is apparent that everybody is disappointed with the unprecedented conditions the country is facing because of the pandemic. But the need to be cautious, to continue with the mission and to look at things positively is very important so that Oblates may help people to rise above the situation. Oblates must not sulk in an attitude of desperation but to bask in hope, prayer and offering of the people’s needs to the Lord Whose grace is greater than the curse of the pandemic.
Restricted by the pandemic, the Oblate community in Cotabato was not able to hold gatherings and recollections. “No Sunday Movement” has been implemented in most parts of the region affecting the missions, the capacity of the Oblates to immerse and actively help the people, and to gather as an Oblate community.
Every Oblate in their own way is trying to cope with the changing mission landscape in the district. Here are some of the updates:
Despite his age and daring the risks of exposure to the virus, Fr. Ben Gomez, O.M.I. continues with his ministry as Hospital Chaplain in Cotabato. He visits the hospital regularly and provides aid to patients and inspiration to the front liners with his presence and grace.
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
The grotto was seriously affected by the quarantine restrictions imposed by the government. Father Mars, its Director, considered closing it. But closing the grotto would have meant the people losing their jobs and would economically affect their already suffering families.
An opportunity to call for assistance was given by the local television channel for the grotto which greatly helped in gathering funds and other material goods. The donations gathered were enough to keep the grotto open.
OMI Spiritual Center
With the schools implementing a non-face-to-face mode of learning, the Spiritual Center lost all retreat and recollection schedules from Notre Dame University and other schools in the Cotabato and nearby areas. The center has been self-sustaining the past years but the zero-income situation this time would greatly affect its sustenance and direction in the coming months and years. Currently, Fr. James Mallo, Director of the center, is using the savings from the previous years for the salaries of the staff, day-to-day utilities and needs of the place. What is being done now to somehow augment expenses is planting of vegetables and ornamental plants which they sell to generate very minimal income.
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