A 500-step stairway commemorating the quincentennial anniversary of the first Mass in the Philippines has just been built in the newly inaugurated religious complex in the Diocese of Romblon.
The stairway, ascending from an eco-garden to the world’s fourth Living Chapel, was blessed on March 30. It is found on the hills of Bagsik village in the municipality of Alcantara.
In his homily during an early morning Eucharistic celebration, Fr. Ethelbert Magbata, parish priest at the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish, highlighted the importance of the Christian faith in the lives of Filipinos.
“500 years of Faith that formed us as Filipinos and Asians is a great blessing to be grateful to God,” he said. (Read: The 500-Year History of Catholicism in the Philippines)
This faith, according to the priest, is what strengthens the Filipino identity and what keeps Filipinos on holding on to God through “the Church, God’s words and the sacrament.”
Romblon to the Nations
The complex, named “Romblon ad Gentes”(Latin for “Romblon to the Nations”), will serve as a place of prayer, reflection, and faith in action where the faithful can gather to learn from the lives of their parish patron saints, know the history of the diocese through time, commune with nature and live by the teachings of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.
Meanwhile, Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SDB, Coordinator of Ecology and Creation of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development sent his greetings on the inauguration of Romblon ad Gentes. (Read: Bataan Parish Dedicated to St. John Paul II Now a Diocesan Shrine)
In an official letter, Fr. Kureethadam expressed his joy “on the beautiful occasion of the blessing and inauguration of Romblon ad Gentes religious complex with the Laudato Si’ Garden, Living Chapel and the 500 steps to commemorate the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.”
“We join you and the entire Church in the Philippines in praising and thanking God for the wonderful things that the Almighty has worked (cfr. Lk 1:49) in your land during the last five centuries,” Fr. Kureethadam said.
Living Laudato Si’
With seven pillars made of bamboos, the Living Chapel symbolizes the seven Laudato Si’ Goals: Response to the Cry of the Earth, Response to the Cry of the Poor, Ecological Economics, Adoption of Simple Lifestyles, Ecological Education, Ecological Spirituality and Emphasis on Community involvement and participatory action.
“The open-air sacred space, will be a center of reflection and learning on ecological spirituality and sustainable actions for the care of creation,” said Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines (LLS), a faith-based organization inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology.
A Living Chapel is a work of art constructed with plants, recycled materials, and other sustainably sourced elements. Indigenous flora species are to be used for landscaping while rainwater collector facility, endemic tree nursery, and solar panels will be integrated and installed soon. (Read: Asia’s First Laudato Si’ Living Chapel Rises in Romblon Province)
“In partnership with LLS, parish ecology ministers will undergo values formation and environmental sustainability training programs to efficiently and effectively assist in maintaining and managing the Laudato Si’ Garden, Living Chapel, and Romblon ad Gentes complex as a whole,” Galicha added.