ECCLESIA IN ASIA Manila, the catechism in the streets of Manuben

For thirteen years a Franciscan layman along with other young people and adults has traveled with a cart through the poorest suburbs of the metropolis to bring the light of faith. “When I was a child, I was like them, with a broken family. I was also a drug addict, but God changed me thanks to the help of a catechist.” They carry with them an image of the Virgin which they call Our Lady of the Peripheries.

Manila, Philippines – For thirteen years a Catholic lay missionary from the Philippines has taught catechism to the poor on the streets of the periphery. Artemio B. Manuben Jr, a member of the Secular Franciscan Order, began this initiative on August 31, 2009 along with other Franciscan catechists from Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Parish in Binondo, Manila. “Our group is made up of Franciscans of the Third Order, full-time catechists from the Archdiocese of Manila and volunteer catechists,” Manuben explained to .

Inspired by Pope Francis’ call to “go out to the peripheries,” the group carries out catechism in the Manila suburbs of Tondo, Binondo and Port Area Delpan, using a Kariton (car) and a method specifically designed to reach to families living on the streets.

“We formed a band of catechists and composed our own songs, which we sang during the Musikatekesis in prison and on the streets,” Manuben continues. The initiative began in 2009 with 23 children and adults on the streets of Tondo, one of the largest slums in the nation’s capital. The main activities are the teaching of the faith through animation, prayer, life testimonies with theatrical activities, games, stories…

The material we use for catechesis are mainly audiovisual tools, but also coloring drawings, Bibles, images of the Virgin of Fatima, the Cross of San Damiano and San Francisco de Asís, and also some small gifts for those who participate. .

Manuben, 47, is a religion teacher at Benigno Aquino Elementary School, Port Area Baseco, Manila. He started going to the suburbs because at the school where he taught he saw a broken car that was no longer good for anything. “It occurred to me to make a new one and turn it into a catechism car. On September 5, 2012, on the feast of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I had him blessed.”

Since then, every Wednesday, after catechism at the Almario primary school, he pushes the cart loaded with food, audiovisual elements, the Bible, the cross of San Damiano and the image of the Virgin of Fatima to the place where many children from the streets are waiting for you. “What makes me love this commitment is to bring Jesus to those who no longer have hope. As a child, I was just like them, with a broken family. I also used drugs. But God changed me thanks to the help of a catechist, ”he says.

“And also since then I have tried to help people who were lost so they could find their way back to God. I want to give back the salvation that God has worked in me by bringing to Him the lost people who live in the streets. Witnessing in front of them has a huge impact, because if God changed me, they can too, with God’s grace,” Manuben continues.

Speaking of the impact of his ministry, he says that after all these years of catechizing on the streets, some fruits of the labor can already be seen. Some families struggled to get a job and rented a house; some have given up their vices and gone back to school. Others who got out of jail are trying to start a new life.

The challenges that he and his team face are many: health, poverty of means, the consequences of storms. “We are thinking of modernizing our Kariton and moving to a catechetical Tricycle. That would allow us to move more easily and take more material for catechism ”, he explains. The team would also like to open a formation house for young catechists who want to participate in this ministry.

“Every time we do catechism on the street, we carry the image of the Virgin, which we now call ‘Our Lady of the Peripheries’ in response to Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries,” says Manuben.

The image represents the Virgin accompanying the catechists in their mission with the last. Because Mary is always present in evangelization, she is a sign of the presence of Christ. “The mission of Jesus was not to end poverty, but to save sinners – concludes the catechist – and that is what we try to do with this car”.



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