APRIL 6, 2019


Happy Easter to All

With a majority of Filipinos identifying themselves as Roman Catholics – 81 percent in the Philippines and 65 percent Filipino-Americans – Catholicism is deeply interwoven as both a religious and cultural part of the Filipino identity,

Catholic religiosity is even more pronounced in the Philippines. According to Pew Research Center’s 2015 Global Attitude survey, 87 percent of Filipinos consider religion to be very important in their lives. Of the 40 countries surveyed, the Philippines ranked 10th in religiosity.

It’s common for newly arrived immigrants from the Philippines – where ever they might settle from Hawaii, to the U.S. mainland, to Canada, to Europe or the Middle East – to seek and find a sense of community at their nearest Catholic church. This is a powerful indicator of what Filipinos value and the “space” they see themselves belonging in the world community. The Church represents spirituality, security, familiarity, and a special kind of “community” that transcends race, politics or socio-economic status. Some Filipino Catholics have described the Church as a place where they feel closest to God -- like a home away from home.


Given Filipinos’ strong connection to their faith and Church, it’s not surprising that many in our community continue to perpetuate long-held traditional practices of the Lenten season such as fasting, praying and attending masses during Holy Week.

Many Hawaii Filipino Catholics talk about fond childhood memories of Lenten practices; and their desire to pass on these traditions to their own children.

Filipinos role in the Church

In Hawaii, Filipinos are a large presence in the local Catholic Church as active parishioners in their multiple Filipino Catholic Clubs and as clergy with an active Office of Filipino Ministry. Filipino priests – many who are recruited from the Philippines -- represent the largest ethnic group of priests in the state.

In the U.S. mainland, Filipino priests are also well represented in the Catholic Church. In the Diocese of San Francisco, there are over 52 priests from the Philippines.

Pope Francis appointed Auxiliary Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Los Angeles to Bishop of Salt Lake City in Utah, making him the first Filipino to made a U.S. Bishop and to lead a U.S. Diocese.

Tapping the Philippines (the third largest Catholic country in the world, behind Brazil and Mexico) for personnel is a suitable fit, especially to serve in communities with large Filipino populations.

Archbishop of Manila and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s consideration as one of the frontrunners in the last conclave (meeting to determine the pope) was also a testament of the significant role Filipinos play in the Church. Cardinal Tagle, besides speaking his native Tagalog, is fluent in Italian, English, and proficient in Spanish, French and Latin (language proficiency is highly regarded in consideration for the papacy). Tagle is rumored to be a possible papal pick of the future and could be Asia’s first ever Pope.

Church in the modern world

Pope Francis and the Vatican itself admits to the challenges the Church faces in the modern world, in particular the glaring lack of leadership role women are allowed to have in the Church or the continued alienation of gay Catholics by conservative hardliners.

The growing secular-humanist movement that sees religion itself historically oppressive is also turning away Catholics born into the faith.

Within Christianity itself, the Church faces competition as Catholics in the U.S. join Evangelical Protestant denominations.

Even within the Filipino community there is a drifting away from Catholicism through the generations, not necessarily because of dogmatic differences or leadership style of the Vatican, but for many other reasons that have nothing to do with the Church.

Among them, a preference for interfaith spirituality; a need for families to overwork (two jobs, multiple part-time jobs) in the modern economy that makes it difficult to be active in the Church; or simply the parent (usually matriarch) who led the family practicing Catholicism had passed on and no one in the next generation has taken on that role to lead religiously.

While the Catholic Church to some is painfully slow to change, there are many exemplary work it does that keep the faithful loyal to the Church. The Catholic Church is a leader in the faith community in helping migrants and immigrants.

Pope Francis has been the leading world figure bringing attention to the plight of migrants around the world at a time when immigrants worldwide face discrimination. The Church has taken upon itself to be the voice of migrants, reminding people that we are first one human race and our brothers and sisters’ keepers independent of political boundaries. The Catholic Church around border cities around the world actively assists migrants with food and shelter; and puts pressure on local governments to act humanly even though migrants are undocumented.

The nature of the world economy, that it is transnational, is a built-in system that fosters world migration. The Catholic Church is more than relevant in dealing with this modern crisis of migration that will continue as long as global-markets exist. The “universality” of the Church remains arguably the most compelling attraction to the Church.

During the Lenten Season, Catholics come together and put matters of the world aside. Catholics reflect on the life, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They reflect on God’s presence.

Happy Easter to all; and Catholic Filipinos would like to remind the faithful that Christ is risen.


Teenagers Should Have a Say in Addressing the Urgency of Climate Change

"Stop denying the earth is dying.” This was the message youths around the world wanted to send lawmakers on March 15, as they skipped school to participate in one of the biggest environmental protests in history. Tens of thousands of youths in over 100 countries, including hundreds of high schoolers in Hawaii, took to the streets, beat their protest drums, and demanded action on climate policy.

Students expressed feelings of betrayal by older generations who they believe left the state of the world environment as fragile as it is today. They’ve chanted: “Denial is not climate policy.”

Besides U.S. cities, students rallied in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, most of Europe – basically in countries in every continent.

To get an idea of how big it was, in Brussels alone, over 100,000 people protested; in France, more than 80,000.

What do students want?

The U.S. Youth Climate Strike, a coalition of kids and teens throughout the nation, urges legislators to enact pro-climate legislation from moving away from fossil fuels and pushing for renewable, clean energy such as solar and wind energy-alternatives.

U.S. youth protestors are specifically calling on Congress to support the “Green New Deal” that aims to bolster jobs in a new eco-friendly economy.

In other parts of the world there were slightly varying demands. Students in India demanded their government tackle the problem of air pollution levels, which according to the World Health Organization, far exceeds safe levels.

In coastal cities along Europe, student protestors raised concerned over rising sea levels due to climate change triggered largely by greenhouse gas emissions.

United Nation’s Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said of the massive worldwide protests: “These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders. We are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing – we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.

“My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”

How it all started

College student activism has always been a long-standing tradition; but high school student activism is a unique sign of the times that has really taken off when students from Parkland High School in Florida passionately protested gun violence.

The response students had from the Parkland shootings, one of taking power into their own hands, inspired 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden to hold her government more accountable to climate change. She organized and lit a fire among high school youths around the world to become climate activists.

Three girls – Alexandria Villasensor, Haven Coleman, and Isra Hirsi – are largely responsible for the organized movement in the U.S.

Scientists Warn

The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community is that climate change is real. There is no denial debate there. Where gridlock remains is political, mainly one of jobs loss from industries that harm the environment and replacing them with environmentally- friendly sources of energy.

While politicians and industries weigh in on the cost-benefits, scientists warn that there isn’t enough time, many projecting the world has about 12 years to limit global warming or face irreparable damage. The burning of fossil fuels which emit carbon dioxide that traps heat in the atmosphere is the primary concern.

The earth is warming by 1.8 degree Celsius since 2015 and is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius that experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

High School Activism, a Mixed Bag

While some governments and adults have been supportive of high school students taking action of their future and a better environment (teenager Greta Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize), others have been dismissive, even reject them taking time off from school to protest. High school student activists have been accused of being brainwashed, even used by environmental groups, as if high school youths couldn’t arrive at informed opinions of their own.

Supporters say high school students are more than capable of understanding the consequences of environmental damage. Some governments like in Scotland, even allow 16-year-olds to vote in some elections, and there is consideration for them to vote in all elections throughout the United Kingdom.

While there is no talk of lowing the voting age to 16 years old in the U.S., soon enough they will be voting – and it’s clear that climate change is high among their priorities of issues, as well as for the entire Millennial generation.

Since Parkland, high schoolers are more invested in their future and taking a stand. Their age shouldn’t be a distraction from the importance of the issues they raise --- in this case, that climate change policies must be adopted.

It makes logical sense that teenagers, more than any other generation, ought to be concerned for the environment since they are the very ones who will be most effected by climate change in the future.

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