Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Reminders of war in a new place of worship
Spent shells are put to peaceful use in a Maguindanao churchA spent 105 mm shell (right) stands alongside religious exhibits in the church's mini-museum (Photo Bong Sarmiento)
- Bong S. Sarmiento, Maguindanao
- October 26, 2012
In June 2008, a time of fierce armed clashes in the district between government Â and rebel troops of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Â gunmen armed with a can of gasoline burned down the church.
Like most local buildings, the church was made from light materials and set on stilts; it burnt easily.Â Two years later, a new concrete building arose in its place, thanks to the efforts of parishioners who donated sacks of cement, gallons of paint, cash and their labor.
On October 3, 2010, during the townâs annual fiesta, about 1,000 people - Muslims and Christians alike - attended the inaugural blessing.
The new church is well equipped with modern amenities. âWe have a big television screen where the lyrics of hymns and songs are projected," Ronnie deJesus, the guitarist of the parish choir for the past 20 years, said with a smile.
He said in the old church, the lyrics of songs were projected onto a white cloth on a wall.
But the church also has a feature that one might not expect to see: more than a dozen 105 mm artillery shell casings, adorning posts and ceilings, either as chandeliers, lampshades or candleholders. They were retrieved from the local area, where they had lain since the 2008 hostilities.
As another reminder of the area's turbulent past, the back of the church has a mini-museum that shows the history of the parish. As well as more artillery shells, one of itsÂ main exhibits is the charred remains of a wooden image of Jesus Christ inside a crystal box.
De Jesus said the wooden image "miraculously survived" the inferno when the old church was burned.
Oblates of Mary Immaculate priest Eduardo âPonponâ Vasquez Jr. had the idea of making the remnants of war part of the churchâs design.Â âThis new church was made possible [through] the contributions of both rich and the poor people of Datu Piang," he said.
The town, especially the churches and convents, played host to around 50,000 people who fled their homes. Now with the new church in place, and a framework peace deal signed between the government and the MILF, local people can look forward toÂ the prospect of lasting peace.