On the morning of 15 October 2013, when many residents were on their way to work and school on the Bohol Island in central Visayas, Philippines, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the entire region.
The earthquake, energy equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs, killed 222 people, with 8 declared missing and over 900 injured. As well as the human toll, 73,000 buildings were damaged – 14,500 totally destroyed. Many parishes and schools in the region were completely devastated.
Two years later at 8:12am on Thursday 15 October 2015, on the second anniversary of the earthquake, Church bells were rung within the Diocese of Tagbilaran for 33 seconds – the length of the earthquake. The Most Rev Leonardo Y Medroso D.D, Bishop of Tagbilaran, reminded the faithful at a memorial Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Tagbilaran of a small miracle in the Parish of Our Lady of Loon, a centuries old church completely destroyed by the earthquake.
“The people discovered their patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary of Light, in the debris of their century old Church. The statue was buried deep down in the crumbling stones and coral reefs. Having seen the hand of the statue protruding from the ground, the people started digging to recover it from the rubble.
“They found the statue, unscathed, beautiful and dignified as ever. They made a makeshift altar and placed the icon on it for people to see and reflect. Then the people remembered what Isaiah had said while consoling the people who were in exile. He said: “Can a mother forget her own child? Even, if a mother forgets her own child, I will never forget you. I have written your names in the palm of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15 – 16) Yes, their existential questions of whether God is for them or against them in the time of calamity were answered by this mysterious discovery of their patroness. The people’s faith started to return. They have a God who never forgets them; a mother, their patroness, who always shelters them.”
As part of the first leg of the Diocesan World Youth Day 2016 pilgrimage, pilgrims from the Diocese of Parramatta will assist seven of the parishes in most need and will be working alongside Filipino youth; teaching, mentoring, painting, preparing vegetable gardens, feeding malnourished children and completing minor repairs. They will also be involved in a major project of building a Learning Centre for Sacred Heart Academy (756 students) in the Lady of Light Parish, Loon. Students in schools in the area are, to this day, receiving lessons in makeshift classrooms.
The projects undertaken at WYD will be funded by proceeds from a Gala Dinner – Friday, 19 February 2016. The Dinner, to be held at the Westella Renaissance, Lidcombe, will include a three course meal including wine, beer and soft drinks. Keynote speakers will include Greg Whitby, Executive Director of Schools, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta; Fr Joel Ruyeras, Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Light Parish, Diocese of Tagbilaran; and entertainer, Mr Adam Scicluna. Funds raised from the evening will go entirely to the rebuilding projects.
WYD Gala Fundraiser
Venue: Westella Renaissance, Lidcombe
Date: Friday 19 February 2016
Cost: Tickets from $100
For more details: