Christmas with a Purpose

By Richelle Verdeprado

The author, a social worker by profession and a campus journalist from elementary school through college, joined the editorial staff of Misyon in October. We have published a number of her articles in previous issues. She is from Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

Each year of my life I’ve celebrated Christmas in a different way. When I was still living with my family in our simple town, we used to celebrate Christmas with neighbors. We would share whatever we had with each other and would all end up having more than enough to eat for the celebration. In the eyes of the child like me that time, such a spirit of sharing made me wish for everyday to be like Christmas Day. That was a decade ago.

Richelle and her classmates in graduate school spending Christmas at Sagada, Mountain Province in the northern part of the Philippines

In 2011 I spent the Christmas Eve with the girls and Sisters in Holy Family Home, Pembo, Makati City. It was a night of prayers and laughter, a night of singing and hugging, merriment and reconciliation. For each girl in the home it was another night of being with a family, a family where they were being cared for and loved. By this time, I wasn’t a child anymore. But Christmas has its magical effect of bringing out in everyone the simplicity, innocence and joy of being a child once again. No matter where you are or who you are it just comes out naturally for you to be excited in giving and opening gifts, in putting up decorations in your house and in dancing to the beat of songs that we only hear when Christmas approaches.

While the celebration was going on, I suddenly thought about the Sisters. They had offered their lives for the mission. Being with the girls, seeing them grow in faith and making each day for them a day closer to their dreams being fulfilled has been the way of life of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family. Holy Family Home is a home of wonderful dreams and a home filled with love. More than any material thing that the Sisters have provided for the girls is the assurance of unconditional love for each of them. More than the diploma the girls could acquire is the Sisters’ deeper desire of educating them in wisdom that they can carry for a lifetime and of values that penetrate not only their own lives but also those who are significant to them and people around them.

The children and staff of one of the homes of Virlanie Foundation Inc. after attending a morning mass few days before Christmas

Through the years, people have come and gone, have entered and left the homes of the Sisters.But surely, each girl that they have welcomed is already part of their family forever. Such has made Holy Family Home a true home because the love that the Sisters have for the girls is something that will never be cut anymore. It goes on, and it grows for it is a kind of love coming from God. It transcends time, as though Christmas is really everyday.

Then came last year when I had a different taste of Christmas. I spent it in Sagada, Mountain Province, with nine other people. We were so diverse--- with four Muslims in our group. What made that Christmas different wasn't the spelunking experience in the Sumaguing cave or the hike towards the Hanging Coffin but the actual walk in cold streets on Christmas Eve. We were doing something we had never done before and it made us feel like children. Once more we were greeting strangers happily as we gave them our biggest smiles. Nobody knew us there so we could jump and run in as carefree manner as we wanted.

        Holy Family Home girls on their way to an Advent Concert together with the center's directress,
Sr Luz Maria Buitrago, TC

But this showed us another meaning of Christmas, perhaps a deeper meaning of Christ’s coming to Earth. It showed us that we are all brothers and sisters and all the other factors and factions should not make us different from one another. It was a new place for most of us but all of us felt at home. As we heard the sound of a gong while children danced around burning firewood, I thought of my little angels in Virlanie Foundation where I was working at the time. For sure, they were having a wonderful time too, together with the house parents who sacrificed spending Christmas with their own families to be with these children. Surely, it was all something done with love and because of that love, our souls will witness what faith and mission truly mean.

In my heart, I know that I will always be thankful to God for my little angels and the house parents in Virlanie Foundation, as well as for the Sisters and the girls in Holy Family Home, for those who have been in our neighborhood before and for those new faces in Sagada that we might never see again. They have all taught me that Christmas may come in many shapes, colors and forms, but in the end, these will all speak about our faith in that one special night that has given us Jesus. Then, because of that faith, we are moved into carrying out our purpose in life which is love in action, a purpose we recognize now as our mission.