2 April 2021
ROMBLON, Philippines – In a newly inaugurated religious complex in the Diocese of Romblon, a 500-step stairway from an eco-garden ascending to the world’s fourth Living Chapel, is blessed on the 30th of March, 2021, on the hills of Bagsik village in the municipality of Alcantara in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the first Mass in the Philippines.
In his homily during an early morning Eucharistic celebration, Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish priest Fr. Ethelbert Magbata highlighted the importance of Christian faith in the lives of Filipinos. “500 years of Faith that formed us as Filipinos and Asians.” He said, “Is a great blessing to be grateful to God,” he added.
This faith according to the priest makes Filipinos to keep holding on to God through “the Church, God’s words and the sacrament,” adding that it strengthens the Filipino identity.
Named Romblon ad Gentes, Latin for “Romblon to the Nations”, this complex will serve as a place of prayer, reflection and faith in action where the faithful can gather to learn from the lives of their parish patron saints, know the history of the diocese through time, commune with nature and live by the teachings of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.
Meanwhile, Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SDB, Coordinator of Ecology and Creation of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development sent his greetings on the inauguration of Romblon ad Gentes.
In an official letter, Fr. Kureethadam expressed his joy “on the beautiful occasion of the blessing and inauguration of Romblon ad Gentes religious complex with the Laudato Si’ Garden, Living Chapel and the 500 steps to commemorate the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.”
With seven pillars made of bamboos, the Living Chapel symbolizes the seven Laudato Si’ Goals: Response to the Cry of the Earth, Response to the Cry of the Poor, Ecological Economics, Adoption of Simple Lifestyles, Ecological Education, Ecological Spirituality and Emphasis on Community involvement and participatory action.
A Living Chapel is a work of art constructed with plants, recycled materials and other sustainably sourced elements. Indigenous flora species are to be used for landscaping while rainwater collector facility, endemic tree nursery and solar panels will be integrated and installed soon.
“In partnership with LLS, parish ecology ministers will undergo values formation and environmental sustainability training programs to efficiently and effectively assist in maintaining and managing the Laudato Si’ Garden, Living Chapel, and Romblon ad Gentes complex as a whole,” Galicha added.
Romblon ad Gentes highlights Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” and the long history of the Diocese of Romblon. A short 500-step pilgrimage will start at a Monument of Respect to the three indigenous cultural communities, namely Sibuyan Mangyan Tagabukid, Bantoanon and Ati at the Laudato Si’ Garden with the shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi passing through various prayer stations ending up to the world’s fourth Living Chapel. This serves as a gift of the Parish of Santo Tomas de Villanueva (Alcantara, Romblon) to the Church as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2023.
The first Living Chapel is in Rome, the second in Venice, and the third in another parish in the Diocese of Romblon.
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