Cardinal Tagle lauds overseas Filipino workers for being ‘missionaries’

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, lauded Filipinos working abroad for being “missionaries.”

“Isn’t it perhaps that God has guided us out of the Philippines, not only to earn a living, but also to be missionaries?” the former prelate of Manila said in his Christmas message.

Cardinal Tagle, who left the Philippines early this year for his new post in the Vatican, said overseas Filipino workers, or OFWs, have been helping others discover Jesus.

In the middle of the pandemic, the cardinal said Filipino migrants can seek strength and guidance from the Holy Family “who like us experienced how it is to be away from home.”

On Dec. 17, the Philippines Department of Labor said about 550,000 OFWs have so far been displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the number, about 370,000 have already been repatriated to their home provinces while 126,000 are awaiting repatriation.

Some 82,000 displaced OFWs opted to stay in their host countries.

“Financial difficulties and the COVID crisis have prevented us from visiting home as much as we would have wanted,” said Cardinal Tagle.

“But [migrant workers] have also made us experts in sending our love and affection instantly across the globe through text messages, social media posts, audio and videos,” said Cardinal Tagle.

“We can ask ourselves: Who among my family or friends or co-workers can I bring closer to Jesus today?” said the cardinal in his message.

“How can I help them discover Jesus coming to us, not only this Christmas but each day, in our prayers, the people we meet and the ordinary events of our life?” he said.

A file image of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, celebrates Mass at the Manila Cathedral on Oct. 4 to mark the end of the Season of Creation. (Photo by Kevin Lago)

Cardinal Tagle said “virtual contact” will not only bring people closer to each other, but also prepare them for a more meaningful and fruitful personal contact, face to face, when circumstances allow.

During the launch last month of the “Year of the Missio Ad Gentes” or “Mission to the Nations,” Bishop Socrates Mesiona, chairman of the Mission Ministry of the bishops’ conference, also cited Filipino migrant workers for their missionary work.

“[They] are in effect our missionaries because they are in the frontier … they give life to the Church,” said Bishop Mesiona. “In effect they are the living witness to our Christian faith,” he said.

In an earlier interview, Cardinal Tagle said Filipino migrant workers play a big role in disseminating the “joy of the Gospel.”

“Our overseas Filipino migrant workers have become the big missionary presence,” said the cardinal, adding that they bring their faith with them wherever they go.

He said that migrant workers as missionaries is “something that we did not plan.”

Government data shows that over 10 million Filipinos are living and working overseas.

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