Fr. Nilo Macapinlac
Father Nilo Macapinlac, from Vegreville's St. Martin Tours Parish, will lead a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land, Oct. 19-31.
The highlight of the pilgrimage is the canonization ceremony of seven saints, including Blessed Pedro Calungsod.
"The world needs a model of faith, heroic faith," said Macapinlac, noting that young Filipinos coming to Canada could read the life of Calungsod as their exemplar, and imitate his virtues.
"When they arrive in a new territory, there are complications, struggles, homesickness, issues of their moral life, enculturation and everything is new to them," said Macapinlac.
"But along comes this guy who, despite a lot of struggles, remained faithful to the Lord. He lived a heroic life and offered everything to God."
At least 44 people are going on the pilgrimage, and as word spreads, Macapinlac said it could reach 50 or more. The contingent is mostly from Vegreville and Edmonton, with a few people from Calgary, Toronto, California and possibly British Columbia.
They will travel to Rome and Florence, Italy. Also penciled in for their itinerary are stops in Galilee, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
This will mark Macapinlac's third trek to the Holy Land in as many years, but he said that every journey there is unique and special to him. In 2010, he went to commemorate the Year of the Priest. Last year he climbed 2,250-metre Mount Sinai, retracing the footsteps of Moses.
"Everybody with the Catholic faith would like to go to the Holy Land, especially for this one because it will coincide with the canonization of Pedro Calungsod, the second Filipino saint," said Sofio Tenada, who is going on the pilgrimage with his wife, Eva.
Being Filipino themselves and both retired, the Tenadas, from Edmonton's St. Theresa's Parish, decided that the pilgrimage was a wonderful idea. The couple has ventured to Europe before, but more so for leisure, and never a spiritual journey like this one.
"Everybody who would like to enrich their faith should go on a pilgrimage. That's what I believe, and that's why we're so excited to go," said Tenada.
He did not know much about Calungsod before, but on a trip to the Philippines three years ago, he started to hear his name more and more.
"I started reading more about him, whatever I could find. It will be really exciting, especially because on the same day there will be a Canadian canonized too," said Tenada.
Aside from Calungsod, six others are being canonized Oct. 21, including Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
Leading people on this pilgrimage, where there is a balance between faith and leisure, Macapinlac is confident that they will discover God through the churches, nature, art and architecture.
Aside from the fact that Macapinlac is Filipino, he perceives the pilgrimage as being important for many reasons.
"It is very special for me because Canada has the first aboriginal saint and the Philippines will have its second saint, the youngest saint, that came from my territory in the Visayas region," said Macapinlac.
The first Filipino saint was St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who was half Chinese. Calungsod's parents were both Filipino.
When reading eulogies, one learns about the lives of people, perhaps how they enjoyed visiting Las Vegas or beaches of the Bahamas. While Macapinlac is not opposed to such stories, he would like to hear more about how people lived their lives as Christians, how they followed the Lord.
"Calungsod died when 17, so he could be the patron saint for the youth, catechists, altar servers, and above all he was the protector of priests," said Macapinlac.
Calungsod defended Father Diego Luis de San Vitores, so he is a defender of priests. As well, the saints are a bridge towards Christ, so he anticipates that the canonization will be a grace-filled event, perhaps a moment of transformation or conversion for those present.
"Nowadays people are lukewarm or cold in their faith, and become frustrated, then become agnostics or atheists, and maybe abandon their faith," said Macapinlac. "A pilgrimage like this is an opportunity for people to reexamine their own lives because, as Socrates says, an unexamined life is not worth living."
He hopes the pilgrimage might generate transformations in people's lives. People might be led to a vocation, perhaps the priesthood or into lay ministry.While going to these sacred places is not a Christian requirement, the adventure might very well intensify one's faith life.
"Our greatest journey in our earthly sojourn is from the mind to the heart and from our heart to the mind. Once we elevate our hearts and minds unto God, this is the greatest journey," said Macapinlac.