89 year-old Basilan parishioner shares her secret

89 year-old Basilan parishioner shares her secret
The faithful of Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Parish celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the parish’s canonical establishment, June 23, 2017. FR. NEIL BADILLO, OFM

LAMITAN City, Basilan – Living the faith in a locale that is no stranger to conflict and violence, 89-year old Teresita S. Cruz of the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Parish shared that prayer is still the believer’s greatest weapon.

“Our prayer is our strongest defense against evil,” said the old-timer, who was the first Parish Pastoral Council president of the parish, which celebrated the 22nd anniversary of its canonical establishment on June 23.

Cruz, who turned 89 March of this year, is one of the “viejas” (or old women) who visit the Blessed Sacrament at the Franciscan-run church three times a day, praying for worldwide peace, particularly in Basilan.

After more than twenty years, the commitment of the Order of Friars Minor to pastorally serve in Lo-ok continues. With the assignment of several friars, the parish developed. According to parish priest Fr. Raymond Osok, OFM, the faithful’s spiritual life is nurtured through a formative program, BEC clusters continue to grow, and active church participation of lay leaders and the youth is visible.

“This community is pulsating with spirit, energy and enthusiasm. It is inspiring to witness that despite the constant threats that come now and then and the real dangers lurking around, the faith of the people, both the young and old is flourishing,” he added.

Joyous celebration

Nine-day novena Masses sponsored by different clusters were completed before the main fiesta celebration a few weeks ago, which is also celebrated in the Catholic Church as the “Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart”.

Fr. Neil Badillo OFM, assistant parish priest, said, “The people’s sense of celebration has remained part of the community’s cultural significance.”

Youth from the barangays gathered every weekend to play or watch basketball and volleyball tournaments. Cluster members decorated the streets of Lo-ok with bunting. The procession of the icon, the coronation of King and Queen of Sagrado Corazon de Jesus 2017, colorful dances, all signaled the start of the parish fiesta, which went on despite reported threats of violence.

Center of many barangays

Franciscan presence began in 1982 with the assignment of Fr. Gabriel Bertos, OFM and Br. Augustine Frasczak OFM to Campo-Uno.

In 1993, Basilan Bishop Romulo Dela Cruz planned to expand the presence of the friars and offered Brgy. Lo-ok as the center for the many sitio chapels in the barangays. Then a newly-ordained priest, Fr. Allan R. Castillo, together with Fr. Rolando Marikit, OFM, arrived in the area on Nov. 24, 1994 as the first Franciscans assigned to administer the place.

On June 23, 1995, Bishop Dela Cruz presided over the canonical establishment of the parish and the installation of its first parish priest.

“It was one of the most memorable celebrations of this parish,” recalled Ivy Daclan, this year’s fiesta ‘hermana mayor’.

“It showcased the religiosity and generosity of this community and all people in the barangays through an organized grand festival that reflected the great potential of the parish,” she added. CBCPNews