As closing rite of the San Roque Parish Congress on Social Services and Sustainability last March 27, the 60 participants were each given a piece of cloth. They were then asked to sew the pieces together to form a “quilt of commitment.”
For Fr. Christian Sambajon, CM, the quilt is meant to symbolize the alagads’ cooperation and willingness to work together to achieve the goals of their Parish Caritas. Fr. Sambajon is the parochial vicar of San Roque Parish in Subangdaku, Mandaue City.
The 38-year old priest from Sorsogon is only too aware of the huge task ahead of him and his Parish Caritas team. And the reason why he convened the assembly three months ago was to prepare all the alagads — representatives from the eight zones of the parish covering the barangays of Tipolo, Subangdaku and a portion of Banilad— for the challenges ahead.
Thus, the first order of the day was to streamline all existing programs and projects of the parish and fit them into the Parish Caritas framework to cover all three pillars — humanitarian, developmental, and justice and peace. He envisions the Parish Caritas to be the coordinating body or secretariat for all activities under these programs.
He noted that during the congress, the alagads appreciated the importance of sustainability and the need to put up a structure that would support the programs, including resource mobilization. The parish has set up a Stewardship Philanthropic Development Office to take care of this.
These days, the parish has its hands full with its flagship housing project in Malibu-Matimco village.
“This is part of the Vincentian mission — to provide shelter to the homeless,” Fr. Sambajon said. When the Congregation of the Mission (CM), to which he belongs, marked its 400th founding anniversary in 2017, the congregation decided to address the issue of homelessness in the next 100 years, he added.
The parish has partnered with the Mandaue City LGU, the Vincentian Missionaries Social Development Foundation, Inc., and the San Roque Multipurpose Cooperative for this project.The local government of Mandaue City requested the Vincentians to help implement the urban poor housing project.
The foundation provides the funding, the cooperative acts as the collection agent, and the LGU provides the land where the houses, each costing P620,000, will soon rise. Under a usufructuary-donation agreement reached among the partners, the beneficiaries take out a housing loan from the cooperative. They repay the loan according to their capacity and capability to pay.
According to Fr. Sambajon, the parish launched an education campaign among the beneficiaries to emphasize that the project is not a doleout and that the housing recipients have to work for it. The Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC), working alongside the Malibu-Matimco Homeowners Association, provides the Christian formation for the mostly informal settlers profile of beneficiaries.
Getting the project off the ground was not without its challenges. Parish pastoral worker Irene Ignacio said they’ve had to manage the expectations of the beneficiaries who, she said, want quick results.
“But it’s a long process,” she said. Right now, the project is in the site development and permitting phase. This was after the beneficiaries were identified and vetted, the memorandum of agreement among the parties signed, and the groundbreaking done.
“And we continue to encourage them to save and to put their savings in the cooperative in order for them to pay off the housing loan,” Irene added.
Fr. Sambajon said housing is not just about building houses. It involves preparing the beneficiaries for the project and explaining to them that this is not a doleout.
“They (beneficiaries) will have to work hard for it,” he stressed.
Works of mercy
Aside from the housing project, they are prioritizing projects on disaster risk reduction and mitigation as well as medical and dental services. The parish already has its own clinic where parishioners can go for consultations.
To help celebrate 500 Years of Christianity, the parish embarked on a yearlong series of activities the parish to represent the seven corporal works of mercy — feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, give shelter to the homeless, and bury the dead.
Both Fr. Sambajon and Ignacio hope that the glass-framed “quilt of commitment” that hangs on the wall of their Parish Caritas will serve as a constant reminder to the team that it will take all hands on deck to implement their parish programs, especially those that will uplift the plight of the Anawim.
Attorney Paredes is a Trustee of Cebu Caritas, Inc. and Member of the Good Governance Committee. Before her retirement, she led the Public Affairs division for Visayas and Mindanao of Smart Communications, Inc. She used to work in media both for print and broadcast.