By Robin Gomes
In a letter sent to all the dioceses on April 27, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced that the nation would be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 13.
CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, who sent the letter said that the central event would take place at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela City in the Diocese of Malolos.
However, because of a sweeping lockdown or Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and two other urban centres, the faithful were not be able to come together to celebrate the consecration at the national Marian shrine, which is in ECQ zone.
Hence, in keeping with social distancing norms, all the archbishops and bishops of the country, together with their clergy, religious, and families, were requested to participate in this event from their respective dioceses and homes, via the media.
A people in love with Mary
Father Gener Sta. Rita Garcia, the Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, has been behind the preparation for the central event in Valenzuela City.
The Philippine bishops had earlier consecrated the nation to Mary in 2013. Fr Garcia explained to Vatican News that the consecration 7 years ago was in the Year of Faith, the first year of the 9 years of preparation for the celebration of the 5th centenary of the arrival of the Gospel in the Philippines.
The Filipinos, he said, are a “people in love with Mary”. “We are a nation with great devotion to Our Lady, we call Her Mamma Mary, Our Mother.”
This year, under the Covid-19 pandemic, Fr Garcia explained, the nation is living “in extraordinary times”. “We are again consecrating the country, our family and ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to remind us that Mama Mary is with us in this journey of faith, leading us to His Son.”
Speaking on the eve of the consecration, the priest said, “we are again consecrating the country, our family and ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to reminds us that Mama Mary is with us in this journey of faith, leading us to His Son” “amidst the Covid-19 of fear, helplessness, anxiety and hopelessness.”
Nation linked by social media
Speaking about the preparations for the May 13 consecration at the national shrine, Fr Garcia said it was a big challenge, given the Covid-19 emergency. Amid limited movement and resources, the CBCP initiative, he said is a joint effort of Archbishop Valles, the world Apostolate of Fatima and Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos where the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima belongs.
Fr Garcia said the organizers have also been in contact with the different dioceses across the Philippines in participating in the Rosary prayer and in sharing ideas and capacities for live-streaming and broadcasting events.
In this regard, the rector of the shrine said, the organizers have received help from Radio Veritas 846 for radio broadcasting, TV Maria for cable broadcasting and the Diocese of Cubao for Facebook live-streaming and cross-posting.
The national simultaneous consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary started at around 8.30 am on Wednesday at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.
All the dioceses and churches of the nations were linked up to the event on Facebook, radio and television.
It began with different bishops taking turns in leading the decades of the Rosary from their respective cathedrals and churches along with their communities linked with the national shrine via live-streaming.
Archbishop Valles led the Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and delivered a message.
The event culminated with the Holy Mass by Bishop Villarojo at the National Shrine, as bishops and priests simultaneously preside over Masses in their own respective cathedrals and churches.