Filipino Catholics in the United Arab Emirates paid tribute to early missionaries back home as they commemorated on April 16 the fifth centenary of evangelization in the Philippines.
In a Mass held at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, Capuchin Father Troy De Los Santos said the Church is where it is now because the missionaries had a vision that is still alive today.
While admitting the “shortcomings and mistakes” of the past, he emphasized that what the Church is celebrating is the “gift” of Christian faith.
“This celebration is not just a flashback, a look back. We are also challenged to face the future. In other words, what we are celebrating today is also a call to mission,” said Father De Los Santos.
That mission, he said, has continued as witnessed by the works that many churches are carrying out, and even by overseas Filipino workers.
“You, our OFW brothers and sisters, are the present-day missionaries,” he said. “You were the ones who are gifted to bring faith, to share your faith.”
The Filipino priest, who also vicar general of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia that covers UAE, Oman and Yemen, told OFWs to look to the future with courage by always turning to the Lord when they are weak.
“Let us be keen in this celebration and let us not be discouraged. If there comes a time where we feel discouraged, let us remember the blessings God gave to us,” Father De Los Santos said.
Echoing the message of Pope Francis, who visited UAE in 2019, the priest reminded OFWs to be proud of their “yes” to the mission of spreading the faith through the “ordinariness” of their life.
“Your Christian life can be recognized through your simple life and work, where it may be. Your giftedness of faith shows so let us not be ashamed of that,” he said.
UAE remains among the top destinations for OFWs, according to a report from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
As of 2020, there are more than 648,000 Filipinos working there, majority of whom are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.