GIVING and SHARING
For it is in giving that we receive. St. Francis di Assisi
Fr. Isabelo A. Carloman Jr., OSA is from Lanao, Pilar, Camotes Island, Cebu, Philippines. He is one of the two Filipino Augustinian priests who volunteered to work as missionaries in Prague.
Historically, Czechs were Christians and majority were Catholics until the first half of 20th century when the Church lost their adherents to the wars and the communist regime.
The archaeological remains, the beautiful Baroque and Gothic churches all over the country are constant reminders of their faith. A recent survey by Pew Research Center placed 72% of the 10 million Czech population as irreligious, a category which includes atheist, agnostic and no religion in particular. His mission was not so easy.
Currently, there are almost 900 Filipinos in the country most of them are in Prague. In an atheist country, these Filipino Catholics are like sheep without a shepherd. While learning the Czech language, he started his mission in the Filipino community. Initially, he provided counselling to a group of Filipinos working in an IT company. They were glad to have such service, to talk about their lives and challenges as an OFW. He noticed that they long for a community that will listen to them and strengthen their spiritual life especially, the young couples who were living-in together. They expressed their need for spiritual enhancement through the sacrament of matrimony.
The first program that was introduced was the English-Filipino mass during Sundays at 2 pm and the Sto. Niño novena mass during Friday at 6:30 pm. These encourages Filipino Catholics to attend masses and joined the Filipino choir.
As a result of his counselling the Christian Life Program (CLP) and Mass Wedding were realized. The CLP is a Couples for Christ program of the Parish extended to the Filipino community, spearheaded by another Filipino priest, Fr. Imman Noel Abellana, OSA and the CFC Vienna Austria community. It provided the participants enough time to reflect on their spiritual life. Eventually, it helped them decide to take the sacrament of matrimony and be active Catholics. These programs also encourages Filipinos married to Czechs to be part in the Catholic community activities.
Aside from his advocacy on spiritual growth, he is also involved in sports program. The sports program is organized by ENFID CZ and FilCom. It encourages ecumenical participation from different communities with different faiths.
Back in Camotes Island Cebu, he founded the charity, Sharers of Joy. It offers high school and college scholarships to deserving students of the island and youth from different indigenous ethnic groups in the Philippines. The charity started 20 years ago with gift giving, a feeding program every 28th of December and provision of school supplies every last week of May. ENFiD-CZ is supporting this charity by donating toys and school supplies to the children.
When asked about his idea of giving and sharing, Fr. Isabelo responded, if a person extends genuine help… blessing works in two ways, one to the receiver and then to the giver. The giver experiences the satisfaction and unexplained joy when you make someone happy. The receiver experiences a sense of happiness when they received something from someone whom they never knew. If you want to live a better life he said, start by being generous.
There must be some truth in it! In The Paradox of Generosity, a study by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson on generosity, they found out that there is a consistent link between generosity and living a happier life. People who are generous live life with a greater sense of purpose and experience less depression.
He started the charity with his family. At first, he received negative reaction because not all were willing to share with what they have. Then, little by little they opened their minds and hearts to the importance of giving and sharing joys to the children.
The joy in giving is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. Mother Theresa
According to him, some people often can’t give if they don’t see the need and if they don’t feel the mercy. Often, people with the same experience share more even if they have less because they understand what it feels like to be in a similar unfortunate situation.
A UCLA study confirmed that “the more we tend to vicariously experience the state of others, the more we are inclined to treat them as ourselves.” It is worth noting that most of the philanthropists in the world are the ones who had overcome desperate circumstances in their lives.
He added, that there are also passive people who are not generous at all. Perhaps, they lack the experience or their eyes are closed to the realities around them. These people he added, need education and immersion on realities. They need to see the life of the less fortunate and participate in community activities to let them experience the happiness of giving and to be part of a community.
After all, altruism is inherent in our being. The key is to find a cause that is closest to our hearts and skills. Although, not all of us has the wealth to spare but all of us has the time to share and more often, time is more valuable than money.
Evans, Jonathan (2017) Unlike their Central and Eastern European neighbors, most Czechs don’t believe in God, Pew Research Center http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/19/unlike-their-central-and-eastern-european-neighbors-most-czechs-dont-believe-in-god/
Sullivan, Meg (2016) Your brain might be hardwired for altruism, UCLA, http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/your-brain-might-be-hard-wired-for-altruism
Smith, Christian and Davidson, Hillary (2014) The Paradox of Generosity, Oxford University Press, https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-paradox-of-generosity-9780199394906?cc=cz&lang=en&