Anne Griffin describes a visit to the new IEC2016 team in the Philippines
After completing my work as General Manager for the IEC2012 in Dublin I volunteered four weeks work to assist the new IEC2016 team in the Philippines in September.
The theme for IEC2016 is “Christ in you, our hope of Glory”. A very strong focus of the congress will be on how to give hope to people now. The Philippines has many social problems even before the typhoon on November 8, and they plan for the many speakers and workshops to explore what this means for people in the Philippines, in Asia, and in the world.
I visited the different locations in Cebu city being considered for the events of the Congress in January 2016. Each of the planning committees were already formed and it was clear that there is a lot of support for the congress from the various areas of society in Cebu.
I worked with each of the committees and this included planning for the indoor and outdoor venues which will host plenary meetings and workshops for 17,000 people each day, daily liturgies for over 25,000 people, a Eucharistic procession for over 100,000 and a final Mass for over 1.4 million. In Cebu they could achieve these attendances on their own, however a key element of an International Eucharistic Congress is the attendance of the international pilgrims just as it was in Dublin when over 120 countries were represented. Planning for international pilgrims had started and we met with airlines, hotels, religious houses and transport companies to forecast the needs for the congress.
Cebuano people could not have been more welcoming and friendly to me. Just about everyone in Cebu speaks English and their culture is very similar to that of the Irish. Many people invited me to their homes and in speaking with them, there is a very strong sense of family, and a responsibility to support each other. I met many Church and NGO organisations who do considerable work in Cebu and it is hard to see how they can overcome the many economic and social problems they have without outside help. Faith is very strong in the Philippines and the congress is seen as a gift that will help them celebrate and share their faith with others from around the world.
Life after Haiyan
Since I left there have been two calamities in the region, the October 15 earthquake and the super typhoon which lashed the islands of Samar and Leyte on November 8. Cebu city was not affected as badly apart from the northern part of the island. Cebu was the hub for the national and international aid agencies to assist the other islands, and they have also introduced a Donor/Donee parish system. Twenty-two Cebu city parishes were paired to 22 parishes in the north of the island which were gravely devastated for assistance and eventually for the repair and rehabilitation of their destroyed church buildings.
On November 24 there was a solemn Mass and Eucharistic procession in the city for the closing of the Year of Faith, the launching of the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016 and to show solidarity with the victims of the recent calamities. People of Cebu attending donated canned goods and bottled water to help those who were affected by the typhoon in other parishes.
Plans for the congress continue, Archbishop Palma extends an invitation to us all: ìThis early, and even as we strive to bring back our country to normalcy, I invite all of you to come and share our experiences of faith, hope and charity. Our country is not so rich in material resources, but what we have is abundant faith, faith that has kept our spirits alive through these trying times. It is this faith that allows me to say in all humility, that ëChrist in us, is our hope of gloryí.î
Planning for the future
I have been asked to continue to assist the IEC2016 team and we are progressing plans for a return visit next February. I am in regular contact with the IEC2016 committees who are trying to do so much at the moment. Despite the challenges of the typhoon the planning for the congress is still going ahead. Over the next two years there is a lot of work to be done but I know they will succeed in their plans.
I hope to be able to continue to support it over the next two years and will be working with Fr Kevin Doran to organise an Irish group register for IEC2016 to travel in January 2016.
IEC2016 is from January 24 to 31, 2016. See www.iec2016.ph