THE ICON of OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP

 

Asia-Oceania

AOTEAROA

MAJELLA

Vice-Province of Manila

website: redemptorist.org.ph

 

email: baclaranrector@yahoo.com

 

address: Redemptorist, Baclaran, Paranaque, Metro Manila 1702

 

contact person: Fr. Joey Echano, CSsR

Background/History of the Devotion of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila

The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Philippines is home to thousands of devotees who go to the Shrine 24/7.  Every Wednesday thousands make a lot of sacrifice to fulfill their devotion to our Mother.

This phenomenon all started when the Novena was begun in June 23, 1948.  Since then, Baclaran was visited by thousands of people.  Never did our founding Redemptorist fathers imagined that someday on this site will rise a shrine where thousands upon thousands of people from all over the country will flock day in day out. Indeed it was a phenomenon even a miracle, not the work of our own hands but God and Mother Mary and.  Baclaran became a household name because of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and the warm affection and devotion of the Filipino people to Mary.

An interesting aspect of the Baclaran phenomenon is the fact that the church is open 24 hours a day. It is a church that is never closed, not even when curfew was declared during the Marcos Martial Law era. According to Father O'Leary, permission for this was granted by Rome after being assured of adequate security. Three shifts of private security guards assure good order night and day and there has never been a single case of vandalism.

Perhaps the closest to a security problem ever experienced in Baclaran was on Sept. 20th, 1997; eve of the big rally against Charter Change (Cha-Cha) jointly called by former Pres. Cory Aquino and Cardinal Sin. At least three bomb scares happened in churches, one of them at Baclaran. After receiving a phone call, the chief of the security guards found a suspicious looking package behind the statue of St. Gerard Majella near the entrance of the church. (One newspaper mistakenly reported the statue to be that of St. Ignatius of Loyola!) It was a bomb and it was detonated outside in the car park causing no injury to anyone.

It is edifying to often see at night a taxi without passengers pulling up into the parking lot and the taxi driver going in for a brief prayer before resuming his nocturnal rounds of the city. A visiting Redemptorist Consultor General once went to the choir loft in the wee hours of the morning and counted 150 people in the church. To be sure, some would be sleeping soundly in the benches. But others, surprisingly, could be observed praying fervently, even walking on their knees. Many of those who visit in the early morning hours come from the nightspots along Roxas Boulevard. Often there are celebrities who want to avoid the glare of the media. Some, no doubt, would be the paid entertainers themselves.

After the World Youth Day held in Manila in January 1995 graced by the Pope John Paul II's presence, some Italian priests came away very impressed to have found a church that is never closed. When Pope John Paul II held his traditional meeting with the Roman clergy during Lent that year, one of them spoke about Baclaran and, to warm applause, suggested to the Pope that it might be imitated in Rome! The nearest thing to this happening in Rome is the four major basilicas, unlike the other churches in Rome, do remain open even during the holy siesta hour.

The Redemptorists brought the picture of the Mother of Perpetual Help to the Philippines in 1906. Forty years later, the Redemptorists introduced the Perpetual Novena to the nation. The honor of conducting the first Perpetual Novena in the Philippines goes, not to Baclaran, but to the Iloilo community, in May, 1946 in the Redemptorist Church of St. Clement.

That same year, the Redemptorist Rector of Lipa City in Batangas happened to be visiting Iloilo. He was present at the Novena devotion and determined to introduce it in Lipa. There it was started the following year. When the Rector of Lipa, Fr. Gerard O'Donnell, became Rector of Baclaran, his first thought was of the Novena which he began at 6.00 pm on June 23, 1948.

Fr. Leo English conducted the first Novena in Baclaran. There were only 70 people present. The capacity of the church at that time was only 300. Within the next year, a second session had to be provided, and some extensions were made to the small wooden church. Before the end of 1949, there were eight crowded sessions of the Novena. The Wednesday of each week became a day of prayer to the Virgin of Perpetual Help throughout the entire nation.

The increasing attendance of the devotees forced the Redemptorists to consider a more spacious church. Fr. Lewis O'Leary, Superior at the time, assumed management of the massive construction. The bulk of the money that financed the building came from the small offerings of ordinary people. An appeal made from the pulpit was for ten centavos per person per week. This is why it took six years to complete the construction of the church. When the money ran out, the construction was suspended; when more money came in, the work began again. The old church continued in use as the new rose over it; the Novena continued as usual.

 

The foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney on January 11, 1953. On January 1958, the Philippine hierarchy officially declared the Baclaran Church to be the National Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help. And on December 1st, 1958, the completed church was solemnly consecrated by Archbishop Santos of Manila, assisted by Bishops Antiporda and Shanahan.

The official opening ceremony was held on December 5, 1958. Archbishop Santos celebrated the Mass, assisted by Cardinal Agagianian and several other bishops. Since the day when the Shrine was opened, it has never been closed, day or night.

 

What draws thousands of devotees to the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran? It is nearly impossible to explain the deep mystery that lies beneath every heart of the devotee that keeps them going to our Mother of Perpetual Help every Wednesday. Evidently, the love of God and the intercession of Our Mother of Perpetual are truly experienced by the devotees, in spite of all the pains and struggles they go through in life.

 

But if there is one clear reason for the thousands of devotees who flock to Baclaran it is the special Marian piety of the Filipino People.  Devotion to Mary is deeply embedded in Filipino culture.  There is a phrase In Spanish, about the Philippines being “pueblo amante de Maria”—a people in love with Mary (bayang sumisinta kay Maria). Baclaran is the quintessential expression of this.  What Baclaran is now, is because of the Filipino’s deep devotion to Mary.  Indeed, If Filipinos are sent on mission throughout the world, our special gift in mission will be our love for our blessed Lady.

 

 

Photos and Videos of the Devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila