Parish Ministry for PWDs attracts volunteers

By Myrna Bermudo

From 10 to 100 volunteers, the ministry for the differently-abled persons in the parish of St. Joseph at San Jose, Camarines Sur, is growing in numbers and in spirituality.

For Fr. Wilfred Almoneda, the Gilean Ministry in the parish is a source of enthusiasm for the Church’s mission. Fr. Almoneda is the parish priest of the Parish of St. Joseph in San Jose, Camarines Sur. Gilean Ministry in the parish started five years ago. It is a ministry that reaches out to the differently-abled or persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, DD introduced the Gilean Ministry to the Archdiocese of Caceres to emphasize the Church’s mission to the most vulnerable and in need.

Fr. Almoneda started the Gilean ministry in the parish with a group of parishioners who are friends and devotees to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The group would come to the church every Wednesday to pray the novena. Fr. Almoneda introduced to them the idea of Gilean ministry. Later, the Knights of Columbus, whose members are mostly young, were recruited.

An elderly listens intently as Fr. Wilfred Almoneda leads the prayer during home visitation of the sick, elderly and PWDs in his parish. Fr. Almoneda is the Parish Priest of St. Joseph in San Jose, Camarines Sur. (photo from the FB page of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph)

The ministry started by inviting parishioners who are differently-abled to gather at the parish church. To their amazement, more than a hundred came. They observed during the gathering that it was difficult for the PWDs, the sick and elderly to travel. Thus, the birth of home visitation of Gilean ministry volunteers. With the help of Barangay Pastoral Council, they came up with a list of the PWDs per barangay.

Each of the 16 barangays and sitio under the parish, has a Gilean ministry coordinator and he/she has a list of all PWDs and sick persons. They then decided to go on home visitation per barangay instead of inviting them to the parish church.

The group went to each of the barangays and sitios, bringing relief goods like pancit, rice and canned goods. At first they thought that the gifts they were bringing will not be appreciated especially by the rich families. To their surprise, their visits gave delight and were well-appreciated. Many were touched and moved, even tearful. For the elderly, sick and bedridden who felt neglected and unappreciated, the visits were sources of comfort and joy. Home visitation has given the sick, the elderly and the PWDs the much needed attention and loving care that they are longing for. Most of them are in tears during the home visitation because of the attention given to them.

Barangays Calalahan, Pugay Mampirao, Danlog, Tambangan, San juan, San Antonio, San Vicente, Del Carmen, Tuminawog, Palale Buklod, Bahai, Bilog and Sitio Ligao belong to the Parish of St. Joseph in San Jose, Partido.

Barangay Calalahan was first visited. From there, they visited the neighboring barangays until all have been visited. Fr. Almoneda was able to visit all PWDs, sick and elderly in all the barangays in the parish.

“This is the great thing that happened,” Fr. Almoneda joyfully shares: “due to home visitation, the family visited was delighted, the sick were comforted, the PWDs were uplifted. The volunteers who accompany the visitations were inspired and filled with much joy! They are so moved and touched by the experience that they share it to family and friends. As a consequence, more parishioners volunteered to witness and experience the touching moments of the ministry to the sick. Even the youth are now attracted to join,” says Fr. Almoneda.

During home visitation, Fr. Almoneda would invite the family to pray. He would bless the house, pray for the healing of the sick, bless the elderly and all the family members. Many are thankful because for most of them, it was the first time that they are honored with the visit of the parish priest and the parish community praying for the family’s intention.

Fr. Almoneda also said that they made a census by asking them if they are already baptized, confirmed, and has received the sacrament of marriage. Upon learning their status, the parish now facilitates the reception of the sacraments and other spiritual needs.

For the second round of home visitation, the Gilean ministry now visits on the day of the birthdays of the PWDs, sick and elderly bringing cake and spaghetti. These gestures attracted donors for the birthday cake and other food items to be given to the family they are visiting.

Indeed, the Gilean ministry has grown not only in numbers but in discovering and experiencing a new way of being church: caring for the most vulnerable through home visitation.

During this pandemic, after the typhoon, they have distributed food packs and most of the home visitations have come to a halt.

For Fr. Almoneda, as a priest, it is an honor to encounter and serve parishioners who have polio, children with autism, with down syndrome, parishioners who are visually and hearing impaired and deaf and mute couples. During visit to the hearing impaired couple that he witnessed happiness expressed not in words but in facial expression and body gestures. “Indeed, joy will always find ways how to express itself outwardly. Love has its own language and it can be express in many ways,” shares Fr. Almoneda.

Gilean ministry now organizes yearly vicarial gathering of PWDs with musical concerts where visually impaired persons would sing, displaying their musical talent, where the deaf and mute can share their dance number, children with autism and down syndrome can go up the stage to sing and dance without inhibitions. This, they do also with regular medical mission.

After this pandemic, Fr. Almoneda said that the Gilean ministry volunteers which include a doctor, a nurse, a physical therapist, a teacher, and youth and prayer warrior volunteers will be continuing the home visitation.

When asked if the sick, the elderly and PWDs need visitation in time of pandemic, Fr. Almoneda says “Health protocols would hinder us, but this is a golden moment that gently calls us to visit the sick and the elderly because they are lonely. I believe that I have to schedule home visitations. I do not only bring Christ’s presence to them, in return, they, the sick, the elderly and the PWDs manifest God’s visitation to me, His priest and His people.”