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“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love”

MARONITES on Mission 2024 Missionaries to the Philippines embarked on their mission this January. Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay together with Bishop Richard Umbers extended their prayers and special blessing to the mission group under the spiritual guidance of Father Maroun Kazzi, with the support and leadership of MOM’s Missionary Lead, George Nasr. The Missionaries have landed and begun their journey in Manila on January 8, Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, a blessed day to be reminded of our identity and mission. Encountering Jesus in the Eucharist with the Missionaries of the Poor brothers and the jubilant children that welcomed them with innocence, purity and trust was an experience of God within them and appreciation of the Divine Presence in others.

Early flight to Naga was met with a warm welcome from the MOP brothers with a song. Walk to the Apostolate to meet with the residents evoked so many raw emotions to the Missionaries. In the children section they get to see abandoned, orphaned, indigent, neglected, abused, mentally challenged, sick kids with varied ailments and debility from autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD among others. There is nothing like the innocence of a child, and there is much we can learn from it. After all, we are told by Jesus Himself that we must “become like children” if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. We know from the gospels that Jesus welcomed little children, that He healed little children, and that He sought to draw them close to Himself even when His disciples tried to turn them away. Jesus saw in these little ones images of each human person before God, we are all weak whereas, He is omnipotent, we are all small and finite whereas, He is omnipresent and infinite. Daily mass at the Monastery sanctifies the day and unites the Missionaries with Jesus and the Church as they joyfully anticipate what lies ahead and reminded them that they belong to God and not to the world. Initial apprehensions turned to a life changing experience for the Missionaries as they fed, bathed, shaved, took their vitals and most importantly danced with the residents. Despite the barrier in communication and impairment, they communicated through music, a universal language that connected the Missionaries with the residents, sparking emotions, bridging cultural gaps, fostering shared experiences, transcending language barriers, expressing identity, and providing solace in both parties.

Enjoying recreational time with the brothers by playing volleyball and basketball is a great convening tool. Sports have the uncanny ability to bring people together as very few other things can. It represents the ultimate neutral ground, regardless of their differences or personal beliefs they may have had. When they’re on the field of play, they’re on equal footing. Sharing of sentiments of brothers connotes that behind the masks of everyday life, behind those fleeting smiles and the seemingly mundane routines, lies a story, a story of challenges, of struggles, of battles we might never see or hear. That’s why compassion, kindness, and understanding should be at the forefront of our interactions.

Simultaneous activities for the three groups entail medical mission to the Missionaries of Charity, visit to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Monastery and building of houses to indigent families. Cleaning the playroom and dirty equipment’s at the Apostolate and provision of wheelchair to a stroke patient confined in her home for 5 years are but simple acts of kindness that significantly affected its recipients, bringing tears in their eyes. In the midst of this world’s poverty and pain, Mother Teresa of Calcutta has shone the warm light of God’s love and compassion on us all. She said: “We cannot all do great things in this world but we can do small things with great love.” She urged us to be “faithful in small things because it is in them that our strength lies. Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. What she was saying is that the formula for becoming more fully united with God is to love, beginning with small acts of love which will not exhaust us, and that the easiest way to do this is by concentrating on the small, everyday things of our daily life and being open to manifesting small acts of love with every person and in every situation we encounter. In time, our small acts of love will increase, both in number and size, as love becomes more self-emptying and more inclusive.

A family of 13 was one of the fortunate beneficiaries of house building by the Missionaries. A heart wrenching sight for the volunteers to see a baby lying on a bare half concrete floor without mattress, bedroom, nor privacy with water leaking everywhere. Seeing poverty stricken families up close where many Filipinos are currently suffering due to lack of financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living without proper housing, clean water, healthy food, and medical attention is a hard pill to swallow for the Missionaries. God repeatedly affirms though His care for the poor :Isaiah promised Divine comfort to mourners, the Psalms promise that that the meek will inherit, that those who hunger and thirst will be satisfied and that the pure of heart will ascend to the Lord. Jesus reached deep into His tradition to find words of comfort that were meaningful to the people He served. Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God of the Missionaries can be seen and felt as they serve in high spirits, full of enthusiasm and humility of heart. As they continue building houses and packing foods, another team went to the Joseph Gualandi School for Hearing Impaired Inc. managed by the Sisters of the Little Mission for the Deaf. There were 60 deaf kids mostly indigent, some orphaned and abandoned , 55 indigent adults and 10 teachers who benefited from the medical and dental mission. Check up, dispensing of medicines, fluoride application and vital signs taking were some of the activities. Missionaries taught duck games, played basketball and danced with the deaf kids. They were given art works made by the kids to show their gratitude for the service and love shown to them. No language barrier, disability, or impairment can get in the way of connecting with and loving people. Inspired by the words of Helen Keller an awe-inspiring woman, who despite her inability to see, hear or even speak, felt the beauty of the world and lived on to make this world a better place to live says “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched but must be felt with the heart”.

The most anticipated day of the trip, the medical and dental mission, the big day that had been months in the making was held on the 13th of January at Nazareth school. Classrooms were turned into makeshift clinics. MOP brothers, volunteers and staff, volunteer doctors headed by Dr Amith Shetty, dentists, nursing students from Naga College Foundation, Inc with the supervision of 5 Clinical Instructors, CSPC Nursing students and CIs, USI social work students, pharmacists headed by John Youssef, Cararayan BHW, parents of Nazareth students, Nurses from Mother Seton Hospital, Bicol Access, RHU- Calabanga and Bicol Medical Center generously gave their time, expertise and resources to treat 242 dental patients, 682 medical patients for a total of 924 adults and children received the appropriate pharmaceutical, medical and dental care that they had been anticipating. There were meals, snacks and drinks distributed to volunteers and waiting patients. Missionaries still had fun though, those outside provided food and entertainment and introduced dabke, literally meaning “to stomp the feet” in Arabic, a popular folklore line dance native to Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, widely performed on joyous occasions.

Feeding and gift giving to 3 sites of Brgy Cararayan sponsored by Maria Crescenta M. Manlagñit, M.D. and family ensued immediately together with the brothers and Missionaries to help those in need. Jesus links feeding the hungry to ministering to Himself, I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. Caring for vulnerable, hungry people is not only following Jesus’ lead, it’s akin to caring for Jesus. Mass with Fr Richard Ho Lung,MOP and Fr Noel, MOP on the second Sunday after the Epiphany where Jesus invites His first disciples to come and stay with Him, inorder to prepare themselves for a lifetime of discipleship inspired the Missionaries. His followers must first pass through an intensive period of spiritual formation for the disciples to learn a new way of radical dependency upon God. which is what grounds the work of the Maronites on Mission.

Distribution of rice bags to poor families, hospital bed, milk and wheelchair to a kid with TB meningitis, crib for the apostolate center, visit to the asylum in Cadlan Pili, CS, clean up of delapidated chapel located at the slums of Looban 2, Zone 5, Balatas NC and celebration of the Mass therein with Fr Maroun El-Kazzi as the main celebrant inspire hope among the poor whose future seems to be bleak. Amidst their poverty, they know how to celebrate life. Here, hope is very much alive where Jesus is present in the form of the Word, the bread and wine when It’s changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, by the action of the Holy Spirit; through the Priest and through us, the community, which has gathered together in the humble chapel in the slums.Today, as never before, the Church has the opportunity of bringing the Gospel, by witness and word, to all people and nations as exemplified by the Maronites on Mission .Like the apostles after Christ’s Ascension, the Church must gather in the Upper Room “together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14), in order to pray for the Spirit and to gain strength and courage to carry out the missionary mandate. We too, like the apostles, need to be transformed and guided by the Spirit.

O Lord Jesus, you inspired the Saint, Monk and Hermit Charbel to live and die in your path and you gave him the strength to detach himself from the world in order to make triumph, in his hermitage, the monastic virtues. We implore Thee to bestow upon us the grace to love Thee and serve Thee following his example.God Almighty, who has manifested the power of Saint Charbel’s intercession, by the numerous miracles and favours, grant us our petition(s) by his intercession. Amen


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