“Like the miracle of loaves and fishes one baby multiplied to five waiting to be baptized”
Fr. Bernie Rosinski writes his last blog post from the Philippines where he has spent the past two months teaching English. This time he talks about filling in as a “fireman,” celebrating Pentecost with the unexpected baptism of five children.
As the son of a Detroit city fireman, I often heard my father speak of his work as a fireman. It meant extinguishing conflagrations that posed a threat to life and property. For awhile, growing up, I had a hyphenated vocation: priest-fireman and then gradually let go of the second part of the hyphenated name. Imagine my great joy when I heard that serving in a parish on a weekend to substitute for the pastor or assistant of a parish, particularly one where SCJs worked, was frequently referred to by my SCJ colleagues as being a “fireman”.
Recently, here in the Philippines, I was called on to be a “fireman”, to say an English Mass on Pentecost Sunday in Our Lady of Fatima Parish in the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. My chief surprise was the fact that in the Philippines, parish churches frequently schedule Mass in English for their Sunday services.
During the course of the week leading up to my impending duty as “fireman” I also learned that I would be required to administer the sacrament of baptism to one child. When Sunday actually rolled round, like the miracle of loaves and fishes, one baby multiplied to five waiting to be baptized.
The baptisms took place before Mass at the front entrance to the church. Fortunately, the entrance was covered with an extended church roof that protected us from the sun. The entrance area was big enough to accommodate the 50-75 family, relatives, and friends of the parents and all, it seems, were fortified with cameras, especially cell phone cameras.
When I first saw the ritual book I panicked; it was in Filipino, which I do not know. I then prevailed upon a woman catechist to translate my English while I read from an English language ritual. We soon stopped the translating. Most of the people responded in English to the various questions that are asked during the course of the rite, e.g.: What do you ask of the Church for this child? Baptism! And: Do you renounce Satan and all his evil works? I do.
Mass followed in due course. And once again I was impressed with the manner in which Filipinos celebrate their Sunday Eucharist. The altar servers are properly dressed. The lectors or readers are suitably dressed in blue tunics and the women place a small white cloth on their heads. The ushers are women who have the same kind of tunics and head clothes, but the color is black. As a people who love music and singing, there are no one or two verse hymns in the course of the singing.
I was brought to the church by a young man in an SUV that had the archdiocesan coat of arms on its doors. The same man returned me home after Mass. I learned that the next day he was off to Manila to seek employment as a ship’s engineer for which he was licensed. He had great hopes but, as he told me, he had no sponsor. Employment was not sure. God grant him work!