A journey of four years begins with Mass — and a fiesta celebration.

At 7 p.m. March 16, the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland will be the starting point of four years of commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Filipino Catholic Evangelization.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will celebrate the Mass, with the Filipino priests of the Diocese of Oakland concelebrating.

In addition to preparing the liturgy, which will be celebrated in English, the priests have been preparing a prayerful, ambitious program, culminating in the March 6, 2021, celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Catholicism to the Philippines.

“Our Faith, Our Journey, Our Mission” is the theme that will propel the Diocese of Oakland through four years of symposia and thoughtful study and reflection, firmly rooted in the New Evangelization. Catholics in the Philippines are in the midst of a nine-year program leading up to the 2021 celebration.

“It’s a time for us to celebrate the faith that we have,” said Rev. Gerald Pedrera, parochial vicar of St. Isidore Parish in Danville. “It is to give thanks that God has been with us for 500 years, and God has been very faithful with us all throughout the history, whether within the Philippines or outside the Philippines.”

Catholicism arrived in the Philippines in March 16, 1521. The first Mass was celebrated on Limasawa Island on March 31 of that year. Over the centuries, the Catholic faith has permeated Philippine life and culture. That faith has been carried by immigrants. Those coming to the Diocese of Oakland have brought their religious traditions and devotions.

The celebration is not, however, simply a look backward. Nor is the journey for Filipinos only. In a letter to pastors, Bishop Barber wrote that while it is a Filipino celebration, it is not exclusively for Filipinos.

“The faith that was brought to the Philippines is the faith we all share,” Father Pedrera said.

Each pastor in the diocese’s 84 parishes has been offered the opportunity to host a replica of the Pilgrims’ Cross, which will travel from parish to parish, in intervals of about two weeks. Prayers accompany the cross’ visitation, sharing the Filipino experience of faith expression. “It will be concretely lived and celebrated through the visit of the Pilgrims’ Cross,” said Rev. Rolando Bartolay, parochial administrator of St. Clement Parish in Hayward.

Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.