By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Filipino Catholics living in the U.S. say the pope’s upcoming visit to the Philippines will be a big boost for their homeland that has experienced so much suffering.
“After all the travesties” the country has faced, the visit will provide a “flicker of light and a glimmer of hope,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, head of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, whose parents were born in the Philippines.
He also said the Jan. 15-19 visit, for many, will be an answer to prayers.
Deacon Andy Espinosa, a Filipino from St. Columba parish, Oxon Hill, Md., said Pope Francis will give Filipinos “a reassurance of God’s love and the love of the Church for them.”
He also said it will likely draw a huge crowd since more than four million gathered for St. John Paul II’s visit to Manila in 1995 for World Youth Day.
Jayne Mondoy, director of religious education, Diocese of Honolulu, likewise anticipates a huge turnout.
“He will be mobbed,” she said, of Pope Francis.
Mondoy, whose father was born in the Philippines, said the pope is loved by Filipinos “because of his commitment to the poor and his ability to identify with their plight.”
“He acknowledges their suffering. He is committed to helping lift their burdens,” she said.
That goes right along with the theme of the visit: “Mercy and Compassion.” It is described as a chance for the pope to comfort
Filipinos devastated by recent earthquakes and last year’s deadly typhoon. Filipino Catholics who spoke with Catholic News Service about the visit emphasized the strong faith, devotion to Mary, humility, hospitality and family focus of the Filipino people even amid their suffering. The country is still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan which killed more than 6,000 people and destroying countless homes and buildings in November, 2013.
Lydia Astorga, a parishioner at St. Columba who was born in the Philippines and came to Maryland in 1976, said a family member’s home was destroyed in the storm and many family members have been looking for work since the typhoon hit.
“They still need help,” she said, referring to the population as a whole. “But the faith they have is getting stronger.”
Cecile Mantecon, director of education services in the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., similarly agreed that the Filipinos’ faith is strong, adding that it “gives us the resilience we have.”