Living the Faith in the Philippines and Australia

By Jordan Grantham, 30 October 2018
The Alimangohan siblings: Lynell, Sarah, Raphael, Sr Maria Faustina, Gabriel, Sr John Mary and Miguel. Photo: Supplied.


The Alimangohan Family: Part Two

“Dying to self in marriage and family” bore great spiritual fruit for Liza Alimangohan in ways she could never have imagined with the blessing of two daughters joining the Sisters of the Immaculata.

The Catholic Church in Australia has been blessed with the vocation to religious life of two of her daughters, Sr John Mary and Sr Maria Faustina of the Sisters of the Immaculata.

Early days of marriage

Liza’s lively faith helped rekindle husband Arnel’s love for God and together they joined the Light of Jesus community, a Catholic charismatic group. Daily Mass, rosary and frequent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament were especially important to them and their spiritual and personal growth.

Liza would need this spiritual fuel when she gave birth to seven children in eight years. Falling pregnant with twins was especially risky after several caesarean deliveries.

“It was very wonderful because in the Philippines we could go to Mass every day,” she said. “There I would hold my tummy and pray to God, ‘please heal me’. I was scared.”

Liza says a providential sign was having a devout Catholic obstetrician, Dr Divina Gracia at the Perpetual Succour Hospital, who delivered all seven children.

Arnel also had his faith strengthened during a medical emergency, when he was about to go into surgery and was immediately healed in the hospital chapel while praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The doctors described it as a miracle.

The brood of children attended school next to the Basilica of Santo Nino of Cebu, home of the famous Santo Nino statue and the Augustinian Fathers.

“Our parents were very deliberate in picking the kind of school that would give us that kind of formation and invested time in us,” Lynell, the eldest daughter, said.

The Alimangohan children also pointed out that their parents didn’t just emphasise spiritual practices but also actively fostered the importance of the interior life in their children and let them creatively experience the Faith.

“As children, Mum used to tell us stories and they would be the Lives of the Saints,” daughter Sarah said.

Moving to Australia

The family moved to Australia because Arnel was dissatisfied that travel for work separated him from his young family.

“My priorities are always God and then family and then work,” Arnel said.

Liza was initially reluctant but saw the opportunities of moving to Australia.

“The Lord brought us here for mission,” Arnel recounted Liza saying.

There was a powerful culture shock when they moved to Penrith and they certainly missed the Catholicity of Filipino culture.

“We’re Filipino, so Catholicism is incorporated in the culture,” Lynell said enthusiastically.

“But there’s a point in your life when you’re free to make your own choices and we owe it all to the Immaculata Sisters because most of our conversions have started from Mission School,” she said.

The Sisters of the Immaculata were recommended to Liza and after investigating it herself, she sent some of the children along to the Immaculata Mission School, which lasts roughly two weeks. In 2018 it featured daily Mass, Adoration, sport, music and recreation with over 150 young people.

Lynell said that her experience of the mission school ten years ago deepened her understanding of the foundational teachings of the Catholic Faith.

“It’s not just Filipino culture, it’s not just what we were brought up with. There is a reason behind it and it’s all centred in the love of Christ.

“As you grow older you want to know deeper things about the faith and that’s what the Mission School provided us with.

“The speakers were so open and it was a place that you could ask questions without being judged,” Lunell said.

Sarah described her experience of the Immaculata Mission School as a true rekindling of faith in the breaking of the bread.

“When a soul grows up in a society that is not of God, the soul grows in amnesia,” Sarah explained regarding her childhood loss of devotion.

“My soul remembered God in the anamnesis of the Mass.”

The children then attended the Immaculata Sisters’ Friday night youth group and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Lewisham Parish.

Groups of university friends would sometimes visit between lectures.

“We would meet up, go to ‘Ado’ [Adoration], and then have a coffee together and then go back,” Lynell said.

Raphael likewise grew through encountering the Immaculata community.

“My faith that was inherited through my family was made alive and put into action,” he said.

A commitment to spiritual growth

From a young age Liza and Arnel educated the children in the interior life, that is what is happening in the innermost part of the soul.

“In conversations, they would ask ‘What is God doing in this?’ ‘What is he doing in your heart?’,” Sarah recounted.

They see the family as the domestic Church in prayer in mercy and mission for others.

Sarah began to realise why her parents were so counter-cultural in their extensive volunteering, involvement in ministry and ongoing struggle for growth in faith and virtue.

It clicked when friends in formation for priesthood and religious life explained their personal growth in holiness.

“They shared stories about how, to be Catholic, you actually need to keep growing and growing to perfection because that’s what Christ wants. To be perfect in Christ, not in a self sufficient way.”

The Alimangohan Family: Part Three will be published tomorrow. Part One was published yesterday.


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