I still remember the 2018 Provincial Assembly of the Province of Our Lady of the Assumption. During the small group sharing, our group discussed the relevant and sharp apostolates for the Province taking into consideration the promotion of the Eucharist. Since the Eucharist is nourishment, the group reflected on the possible apostolates that are truly nourishing. Among the many different answers given by the group members, there was one commonality, i.e., it is first and foremost, nourishing the physical hunger of people especially the poor. There was then the consensus that the Province should endeavor to engage in more food distribution efforts by inviting able partners who can provide and share their material resources for the poor.
This would-be effort was seen by the group as a way of concretizing or operationalizing the rekindled Eu-charistic Spirituality which for the past years was the focus of the Philippine Province as laid out in its previous mission statement, “… to rekindle our passion to the Eucha-ristic Mission in order to become, in the footsteps of Fr. Eymard, disciples and apostles of the Eucharist, for a world that challenges us”. The Province made many efforts to renew the passion for eucharistic endeavors. These efforts benefited every religious of the Province, and I believe that now is an opportune time to zealously take action in pursuit of our eucharistic mission.
Just think of this! Why were we given the time and instruments to rekindle our passion for eucharistic mission? I believe that our omniscient God was smiling down on us as we equip ourselves for the coming pandemic. Thus, as a Eucharistic community, we should not be immobilized nor halted to exercise our eucharistic mission at which our passion was painstakingly rekindled.
The covid-19 pandemic challenges our living out of the Eucharistic Mission to its roots. There are times we feel at a loss or overwhelmed by the things we should do. The pandemic changes our priorities and limits our actions in compliance with prevailing health guidelines.
‘Safety First’ protocols especially limit our living out of the eucharistic mission. However, adopting creative ways can open up new avenues in fulfilling our eucharistic mission. We should look at the pandemic as an opportunity to share our eucharistic charism, and the Community Pantry is a novel manner of doing this.
The community pantry project was started in early April 2021 by a young woman named Ana Patricia Non along Maginhawa St., Quezon City. She filled a cart with food (rice, vegetables, canned goods) and other necessities (face masks, face shields. etc.) to be given out for free. Ms. Non always thought of the people left most vulnerable by the pandemic - those who don’t have the option to stay at home and stay safe and whose meals depend on the income they earn on the same day, if any at all. Since then, different variations of community pantries have been set up in different barangays all over the Philippines by individuals, groups, organizations, churches, etc. “Give according to your means, take according to your need”: This slogan written on cardboard posters became very popular in connection with the “Community Pantry Movement” in the Philippines.
At my parish, St. Jude Thaddeus Quasi Parish, we have already conducted this community pantry three times (once a week) since April 27. We prepare 250 plastic bags of assorted goods (rice, canned goods, vegetables, instant noodles, fresh eggs, coffee sachets, biscuits, etc.). To ensure orderliness and safety, the people are asked to line up at a safe distance to each other, and as they move and pass the table with the plastic bags of goods, they each get one. After getting their bags of goods, they also get congee or hot soup in styrofoams.
One bishop calls these community pantries “the most tangible sign of hope’’. Thus, we will continue the community pantry as long as we can since it is a very concrete expression of our rekindled eucharistic passion - it is rekindled eucharistic passion in action.
May 10, 2021
Father Joseph Matitu, sss