The Philippine Consulate General in Toronto hosted a Zoom teleconference on 16 July 2020 with members of the Toronto Organizing Committee (TOC) to discuss updates on the preparations for the celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines. The Consulate General and the TOC had three preparatory meetings prior to the declaration of a state of emergency in Toronto brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Present at the virtual meeting were members of the TOC chaired by Parish Pastor of the Our Lady of the Assumption (OLA) Church in Toronto Reverend Father Sherwin M. Holandez, members of the El Shaddai-DWXI PPFI Toronto Chapter, headed by Council of Elders Sister Theresa Jose, and Trustee of Ward 8 of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) Garry Tanuan. The TCDSB and El Shaddai were invited to the meeting to explore possible areas of cooperation in connection with the religious component of the Quincentennial celebrations in Toronto, as well as to encourage active participation of young Filipino-Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Reverend Father Holandez mentioned that the Archdiocese of Toronto approved TOC’s taking the lead in the religious component of the quincentenary celebrations in Toronto. Father Holandez also updated the group on the preparations for the launch, as well as the various planned activities leading to the main events for the 2021 Quincentennial celebrations. He also agreed with the proposal to conduct an interfaith prayer to highlight the presence of other denominations and harmony among them in Philippine society. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch, initially scheduled for August 2020, has been moved to 03 October 2020. The kick-off celebration will be a pre-recorded Mass, either at OLA Church or at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, and a short program, which will all be made accessible on YouTube.
Other planned events at the Parish-level are the Living Rosary in October 2020, Simbang Gabi from 16 to 24 December 2020, and Kumpisalang Bayan, Visita Iglesia, and Lenten activities in March 2021. Father Holandez also mentioned about a Filipino-Canadian Conference on New Evangelization in May 2021, with the theme “Filipino-Canadian Families and Young People Walking with Jesus”, with Father Jerry Orbos as proposed speaker, as well as a conference in July 2021 for the Filipino-Canadian religious, consecrated persons and associates, and a Talk with families, youth, and lay groups. His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has been invited as Guest Speaker in this Talk, as well as to celebrate the Mass with the participants. A grand Fiesta sa Nayon featuring food and traditions from different regions of the Philippines is also being planned. The TOC is also working on a PH500 Souvenir Program project. A Mass to be celebrated by Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto, will be the highlight of the Closing Celebration in August 2021. It was also mentioned that the TOC is in the process of engaging Filipino-Canadian religious and secular communities as event convenors, to assist in the above-mentioned planned events.
Philippine Consul General to Toronto Orontes V. Castro informed the group about a proposed art contest and exhibition depicting the quincentennial jubilee of Christianity, which will be a project of Sentro Rizal Toronto, in collaboration with the TCDSB. The contest and exhibition will be open to students from Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Toronto.
Trustee Tanuan and Sister Jose expressed delight on the opportunity to be a part of the quincentennial celebrations. The former committed to support the TOC in reaching out to the youth, through its 92,000 Catholic students in Toronto and Filipino-Canadian staff in the Board. The El Shaddai also pledged support to the celebrations. Sister Jose mentioned that 2021 is also a big year for them as they will host in July 2021 the USA-Canada-Europe El Shaddai Anniversary event. They have invited Bishop Ted Bacani and Brother Mike Velarde from the Philippines.
Consul General Castro ended the meeting with the assurance of the Consulate General’s support and active participation in the events leading up to the Quincentennial commemoration in 2021.