Thousands of Filipinos live and work in Italy. Upon your arrival, the Filipino communities will ask you to celebrate Mass for them regularly.
In Rome alone, we celebrate some 50-60 Masses every Sunday in Tagalog, English, Ilocano and Cebuano, of which around 20 are handled by Collegio priests. Collegio priests are approached by new organizations, created because of a large number of Filipinos in a certain area of the city, or because of splitting after a misunderstanding among their members or officers. In many other cases, Filipino communities approach Collegio priests after the Religious priest taking care of them was given a new assignment, and a non-Filipino replaced him in their congregation here in Rome.
While some Filipino Masses in Rome have hundreds of attendees, some have only 10, 20 or 30, perhaps belonging to the same family. Meanwhile, in many other cities of Italy, the Filipino migrants have no priest taking care of them, to the detriment of their religious life. In contrast, some Masses for Filipinos in Rome are just a few blocks away from each other.
The question could thus be posed, whether perhaps it would be best if Filipino organizations in Rome, while maintaining their identities (Constitution and By-Laws, officers, finances, activities, etc.), could come together for Mass. This is the situation in some Masses, for example, at Santa Pudenciana (Sentro Filipino) and Santo Rosario (Risorgimento area): many organizations come together to the same Masses.
Groups who decide to gather together at Mass actually participate to a great extent in these forms of service:
> More priests could serve Filipinos outside Rome and outside Italy (Switzerland, Greece, France, Spain, Norway, etc.).
> A visible sign of unity among Filipinos as a nation, and as Catholics. In fact, Italian parish priests wonder why there are very many Masses for Filipinos in Rome, with only a few attendees in many of these Masses.
> They could pool resources, and would be less burdened when it comes to contacting and supporting priests.
> Priests could reach out to more people at any given time, with more attendees in Mass, seminars, Confessions, etc.
The best reply to those asking for your priestly services on a regular basis would be to explain that the Collegio priests coordinate closely with the Sentro Filipino, which has a Chaplain designated by the Vicariato di Roma. Likewise, the Collegio is trying to see how to maximize our pastoral services not only to those in Rome, but also in other parts of Italy and Europe. Furthermore, as part of our pastoral formation, it would be ideal if each priest could experience the realities of different Filipino communities, rather than be immediately attached to one.
In this regard, kindly consult the Collegio Rector or the one he delegates first, before you make long-term pastoral commitments.
As for the challenges, we still have to work on other aspects of our pastoral ministry, aside from Masses. For example, we could encourage our communities to allot more time for Confessions. Formation seminars could also be introduced in some communities, especially in those that might view the Mass as a social activity (which besides could easily be cancelled to give way to birthday parties or other social events). While marital conditions are at times complicated, some irregular situations might be remedied. Again, in all this, the Collegio coordinates closely with the designated Filipino Chaplaincies in Rome and in other dioceses.
With more reflection on our pastoral ministry, we could surely serve our Filipinos in diaspora better, without sacrificing our academic formation, which is the main reason why we are in Rome.