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3. Notes on Ministry to Migrants

Collegio Filipino’s Collaboration with the Local Churches

Out of deference, Collegio Priests should coordinate with the local Churches’ office for Migrants, and if present, the designated Filipino Chaplain, who is responsible in coordinating with the parish priests.

This means that the Filipino Community we celebrate Masses for should be recognized by the said offices, who in general require the following:

  • An official letter requesting for recognition
  • Constitution and By-Laws
  • Elected Officers
  • Financial Report
  • A minimum number of members (or at least a core group to coordinate activities)
  • That the Masses are not exclusive for a specific group, but open to all Filipinos who wish to join
  • A permission (or Mandatum) from the local Diocese

The Collegio Priests help the Communities complete the needed documents, and keep a copy for reference. If applicable, the Collegio Rector will also request for a blanket Mandatum for Collegio Priests from the different Dioceses, so that the Priests could more be easily assigned whenever most needed.

Collegio Ministry in Italy (and the Rest of Europe)

Around 15-20 Italian Dioceses with many Filipinos have their own Filipino Chaplaincies, either served by Filipino Religious Priests with a house in the area, a Filipino Diocesan Priest sent by his home Bishop, or by a volunteer Italian Priest, especially if he knows English or Tagalog.

  • Roughly 1/3 of Filipinos are in Rome, 1/3 in Milan (a bit more than in Rome), and 1/3 in the rest of Italy.
  • Some Chaplains do not need the help of Collegio Priests, for example in Turin, Bergamo, Padova, Vicenza
  • Collegio Priests assist Chaplaincies as needed, for example, in Rome, Milan, Florence, Brescia.
  • Collegio Priests also celebrate in Italian cities with no Filipino Chaplaincies yet, for example, in Modena, Parma, Pisa, Terni, Cisterna di Latina, Caserta, Lecce, Bari.
  • Farther still, Collegio Priests also celebrate in the rest of Europe, for example almost weekly in Swtizerland (Zurich, Basel, Geneve), and especially in feasts, in France (one Chaplain for Nice, Cannes and Antibes), Greece (Athens), Germany, Norway (Oslo, Bergen), Malta.
  • On the other hand, when a Religious Priest returns home, and his replacement is not a Filipino, the Filipino Community leaders tend to approach the Collegio to ask for a celebrant.

In areas without a Filipino Mass yet, lay organizations, such as El Shaddai and Couples for Christ, often look for a Filipino Priest to celebrate the Mass. We always emphasize to them that such Masses should be considered as Masses for Filipinos in the area, rather than special Masses for their organization. While this has been understood by most groups, some continue to hold on to their idea of having the Mass only for their members, or those who wish to join their organization; at times when the Filipino Community enters into a misunderstanding, members of this original group, or the other side, would try to organize another regular Sunday Mass in a nearby chapel.

At times regular or sporadic Masses are organized by civic rather than religious organizations, for example, those from Calaca, Mabini, Pampanga, Bicolanos, Ilocanos, etc. Some end up with having a religious character.

In the Vicariate (Diocese) of Rome

The Vicariate (Diocese) of Rome has designated Santa Pudenciana in 1991 as the Pastoral Center for Filipinos in Rome, also called the “Sentro Filippino”.

  • Prior to that year, the Collegio served as the de facto Filipino Chaplaincy, with an office at one corner of the Collegio building, coordinating perhaps 20 or 30 Filippino Communities. Even earlier, in the 1970’s, when more Filipinos started migrating into Italy, three Religious Congregations initiated Masses for the Filipinos: the Salesians of Don Bosco in Sacro Coure beside Termini, the SVD near Pyramide, and the Irish Pallotine Fathers in San Silvestro, right in Rome City center.
  • Today, some 50-60 Masses in Filipino, English, Ilocano, Cebuano and Bicolano are coordinated by the Sentro Filippino every Sunday in different parishes, convents and chapels, with Collegio Priests assisting the Sentro in around 15-20 Masses.
  • Some Filipino Masses in Rome have hundreds of attendees, while others only 10, 20 or 30, who often belong to the same family.
  • Some Filipino Masses in Rome are just a few blocks from each other.
  • Those who attend a Filipino Mass do not always live in the vicinity of the celebration, but may travel up to half an hour or more. (Rome has a relatively reliable subway system, though the bus system is not so, especially on Sundays.)

The Collegio invites Filipino Communities to the Collegio in different occasions during the year:

  • Collegio Day, during the first Sunday of May
  • Sentro Filippino’s Family Day (October) and Barrio Fiesta (April) since 2016, but were combined and held only in October starting 2018.
  • Lenten Recollection for Filipino Communities (since 2018)
  • Academic or Pastoral Conferences, especially when we host a Bishop or some other expert
  • Some Communities request the use of the Collegio’s Main Chapel and Lobby as venue on a Sunday (outside examination periods) for their religious activities, such as recollections, anniversaries or Christmas parties


The number of Communities tends to increase, for example, because of a large number of Filipinos in a certain area of the city, or because of splitting caused by misunderstandings among their members or officers.

It also has to be noted that “Pastoral Care” at present in many cases is limited to Sunday Mass, and perhaps some meetings for organizational purposes. Rather seldom are Confessions, recollections, catechesis and other inputs, perhaps once or twice a year. Also, while marital conditions are at times complicated, many irregular situations could actually be remedied, with the proper guidance.

At times there is an impression that Masses are seen at the level of social activities. For example, some skip Mass (or Communities cancel their Sunday Mass) if there is a birthday celebration or debut, or even a volleyball game.

On the other hand, in many other cities of Italy and Europe, the Filipino migrants have no Filipino Masses or visits from Priests, to the detriment of their spiritual life. The Church is definitely losing many Filipinos in Europe (and even in Rome for that matter, right at the heart of Catholicism).

Filipino Priests are able to reach only a minority of Filipinos in Europe. In Rome, assuming an average of 50 persons in each of the 60 Communities, it could be estimated that around 3,000 go to Mass on Sundays, out of a total of around 60,000 Filipinos in the City. In Milan and other cities of Italy, perhaps a total of another 5,000 or 8,000, out of 120,000 Filipinos outside Rome. This rather generous estimate of 11,000 Sunday Massgoers translates into around 6% of Filipinos in Italy going to the Filipino Masses. Of course, there are also many who attend Masses in Italian Parishes, though we still do not have estimates.

As for the apostolate of the laity, we have to emphasize that the bulk of their apostolate and spiritual life is not on Sundays, in Masses they organize or attend. Rather, these Sunday spiritual and formation activities are precisely meant to help them become good Christians each day – in their families, work or studies, and with colleagues and friends.

Distribution of Priests

More Priests are needed to serve the growing Filipino population in Europe and those in places with no Filipino Masses yet. But since the number of Priests cannot be increased overnight, perhaps a first step towards meeting this challenge is a more rational distribution of Priests who are already here. The following considerations could help bring this about.

Tiny Filipino Communities in Rome should instead come together for Mass.

  • That is, they may maintain their group identities (Constitution and By-Laws, officers, finances, activities, etc.), but come together for Mass.
  • This is the situation desired, for example, by the Migrantes Office in Rome, and actually is the case at Santa Pudenziana (Sentro Filipino), Sacro Cuore (across Termini), and Santo Rosario (Risorgimento area), among others.
  • There is a laudable effort to unite regional groups, for example, the Ilocanos and the Bicolanos. They come together for recollections or feasts, and could eventually unite definitively, as they discover the joy of being together in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Communion.
  • DIFFICULTY: Some Communities take this encouragement to come together simply as not being given their own Priest. They add that they have been having their own Masses for the past many years, and why should they be stopped now? POSSIBLE REPLY: Uniting small communities would mean allowing Priests to celebrate in far-flung cities where there are no Filipino Masses yet.
  • DIFFICULTY: Some Communities have two or more Priests, why should others not have any? POSSIBLE REPLY: The Priest is there not only to say the Mass, but to give holistic formation. Communities with hundreds of Massgoers need more than one Priest, for confessions, recollections, talks, etc. Small Communities could join these big Communities and avail of the same means of formation — instead of just having many Masses in many Communities and practically nothing else.
  • DIFFICULTY: Communities that broke apart can never reunite. POSSIBLE REPLY: This is not always true, as indeed, some have reunited. Most if not all admit that the split was due to personalities, compounded by pride (for example, as a result of not being elected an officer). Reunification is possible only if there is a deep spiritual life, that cannot be provided by Masses alone, but developed with the help of other formation activities, that big Communities try to offer to all, facilitated with the team ministry of several Priests. Besides, in many cases, they do not really need to reunite, but simply join even different existing big Communities (or the same one).

Advantages of Tiny Communities coming together for Mass

  • Having a less number of Communities, but with each Community having many hundreds of Massgoers, gives a positive impression of unity among Filipinos. This is precisely along the line of the Gospel message of love, joy and peace. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Communion. On the other hand, small Communities are more often the result of disunity and lack of communion, the healing of which would be facilitated by a greater appreciation of the Mass, and of spiritual, doctrinal and apostolic life as a whole.
  • At the practical level, it would be less burdensome if small organizations simply take turns in sponsoring a Mass once in a while, rather every Sunday, in terms of manpower, logistics, and even Mass stipends. Each organization could rather use their extra resources for other purposes, such as outreach projects back home in the Philippines.

Still along the idea of a proper distribution: less Priests celebrating Masses for tiny Communities would mean more Priests for other missions.

  • First of all, small Communities who decide to join larger Communities for Sunday Mass (even while maintaining their own Community identity if they wish) should be appreciated, as they greatly help in the Evangelization of other Filipinos in Italy and Europe.
  • More Priests could reach areas with no Filipino Masses yet, or assist Chaplains who are alone in serving thousands of Filipinos.
  • More Priests, doing team ministry and with the help of the laity, would be able to offer more formation activities for big groups (in the many hundreds), rather than focus on Sunday Masses for tiny groups (10 or 20 or even 50).

Guidelines from the Diocesan Migrantes and Filipino Chaplaincies would greatly help the Communities and Priests (including the distribution of Priests).

  • The guidelines would prevent just anyone to set up a Community and to invite a Priest to celebrate (sometimes without the Priest knowing that they are factions or not recognized by the Diocese).
  • This way Priests do not (sometimes even unknowingly) celebrate in chapels near each other for tiny groups on the same Sunday.
  • Whenever a Priest is requested to celebrate a Mass, he should immediately coordinate with the Diocesan Migrantes Office or the Filipino Chaplain if there is one. Collegio Priests should coordinate with the Pastoral Commission for usual Communities, and with the Rector for new Communities (the Rector in turn will coordinate with the Migrantes or Filipino Chaplain).

For Collegio students, a possible approach for a better distribution of Priests could be (based on past years’ experiences with combining pastoral work with human, spiritual and academic formation):

  • Those who wish may form Team Ministries of two for a normal-sized Community. The one senior at the Collegio or in ordination could be the official Spiritual Adviser, whose name is submitted to the Filipino Chaplaincy.
  • For each month: two Sundays could be handled by the Spiritual Adviser or by the Team, one Sunday could be handled by a guest Priest from the Collegio, and one Sunday could be “Integration Sunday” (animating the Italian Parish regular Sunday Mass – this could be celebrated by a non-Filipino Collegio Priest).
  • With the rotations described above, each Collegio Priest could easily make himself available for Mass outside Rome (whether in Italy or abroad). These Masses should be in a special way coordinated with the Rector as well.

An Ecclesiastical structure with a personal jurisdiction for the Filipino migrants, and with its own Ordinary, would greatly help in the proper distribution of Priests.

  • AT PRESENT, some Philippine Bishops have a direct agreement with the European Bishop, to provide a Priest for the Filipinos. This Priest cannot always easily serve other Filipinos in a nearby Diocese, as this would mean, at least in theory, asking permission from his Philippine Bishop, the local Diocesan Bishop, and the nearby Diocese’s Bishop. ON THE OTHER HAND, the Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could eventually try to secure a blanket permission from a Bishops’ Conference, to allow him to assign Filipino Priests as needed.
  • AT PRESENT, there is no authority that could direct a Filipino Priest to celebrate (or not celebrate) Mass in a specific place, as practically everything is voluntary. Any Priest can celebrate for any inviting Community, as long as the local Diocese does not officially object, even if there are two simultaneous Filipino Masses 5 minutes away from each other. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary would be able to efficiently distribute Filipino Priests to where they are needed most.
  • AT PRESENT, there is no specific training for Filipino Priests to minister to migrants. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could ordain Priests for this purpose, and could train Priests on loan for this purpose.
  • AT PRESENT IN EUROPE (and other places with Filipino Chaplains, such as East and Southeast Asia), many Filipinos are unable to be integrated into the local Churches, especially because of language, social and cultural difficulties. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could have an overview of the different situations in the continent (unlike Chaplains who usually only see the local or at most the national conditions) and try to share effective ways to integrate the Filipinos.
  • AT PRESENT IN THE US AND CANADA, many Filipinos are well integrated, even forming part of or leading the Parish or Diocesan ministries. This is not the case in many other countries. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could share these experiences in other parts of the world.
  • AT PRESENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST, many Filipinos have no access to a Mass. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could offer Priests to the Middle East Bishops, to celebrate Masses for Filipinos and those of other nationalities if needed, in their existing parishes or chapels. This way the Filipinos would not be removed from the local Churches, but rather encouraged to be more integrated, and even given key roles to build the local Church.
  • AT PRESENT, Filipino Religious Priests minister to Filipinos where they have houses. Sometimes this gives rise to multiple and totally uncoordinated (if not disuniting) Filipino Communities in nearby areas. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could coordinate the Religious Priests to serve Filipinos in even more areas as needed.
  • AT PRESENT, many Dioceses do not have any program specific for Filipino migrants. ON THE OTHER HAND, an Ordinary of a personal jurisdiction could gather experiences and best practices from Dioceses with Filipino Communities worldwide, and help local Dioceses receive the Filipino migrants, and discover practices that Filipinos could contribute to enrich their local Church.