The new coronavirus reached Canada in late January 2020 after an individual who had returned to Toronto from Wuhan, China tested positive. In early March, the wife of our Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-March, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic and Canada and the rest of the world went into lockdown.
The grim reality of COVID-19 had moved CHSNAF Canada East President Vica Mangalindan to organize a nine-day novena starting March 27, 2020. The novena, which began with a small group of seven members from the Toronto GTA area, has grown into a nightly prayer session of 40 steadfast prayer warriors from California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Seattle, Texas, Vancouver, Virginia and Manila.
The Canada East Chapter Secretary Yam Esmele is our Zoom host who keeps a tight lid on Zoom security to ensure that all of us can pray in a secure environment. Nightly prayers start at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
For the first mystery of the rosary, prayers are offered for frontliners (doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, hospital workers, researchers and scientists) who unselfishly work to treat and care for the afflicted and search for a cure.
For the second mystery of the rosary, prayers are offered for those stricken with COVID-19 and others with other ailments.
In the third mystery of the rosary, prayers are offered for the souls of recently departed alumnae, faculty members, relatives and friends. Prayers are also offered for the strength and consolation of their grieving families.
The fourth mystery of the rosary is dedicated to the most vulnerable such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. As COVID-19 is known to strike the elderly staying in senior homes, special prayers are offered for some of the members’ mothers living in senior facilities. At this decade, prayers are also made for persons who have returned to the workplace (e.g. essential workers) and who have recently travelled and are in quarantine. Lastly, the group prays for the Philippines and its vulnerable citizens, for democracy, economy, national unity, justice and peace.
In the fifth mystery of the rosary, the group prays in thanksgiving for family and friends recovering from COVID-19 and other ailments, for those who have overcome challenges such as the safe delivery of a grandchild, or the safe arrival at a travel destination. The group gives thanks for the opportunity to pray together every night.
At the end of the prayers, a video with a religious song (chosen by the evening prayer leader) is played to complete the night’s prayers. This has become a tradition that the group look forward to, as they are treated to beautiful and prayerful songs performed by opera singers, pop stars and even the members’ own children, nieces and grandchildren.
On Sundays, the group prays in Tagalog. “We find it more heartfelt to pray in our native language”, stated Vica, “We also welcome the opportunity to practice speaking in uninterrupted Tagalog for the whole evening.”
Given the current restrictions on social interactions, this nightly event is also a chance for alumnae to greet each other, share the day’s events and activities, comfort each other in our struggles and challenges, and celebrate each other’s victories and answered prayers.
During the course of six months, some of the members or their spouses had been hospitalized, some of the relatives have been sick or suspected to be sick with COVID-19. On the bright side, the group had marked the birth of a few grandchildren, celebrated birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Philippine Independence Day, Canada Day, family reunions and other special occasions, all on Zoom. Indeed, the group have been praying together through good times and not so good times.
Twice a month, an alumna’s daughter, daughter, Hanna Michelle Montoro, leads he group in yoga, appropriately modified for seniors in the group. What a delightful way to end a spiritual exercise—with a short, relaxing workout!
Indeed, the nightly CHS Prayer Brigade has been a pillar of comfort, strength, and support for many of the members.
The Ontario-based Prayer Brigade’s alumnae members include Elvie Tan from Richmond Hill, Melissa Unidad from Unionville, Ethel Zabala-Laxa, Gilda Giron, and Bubut -Tameta from downtown Toronto, Patsy de Leon, Vica Mangalindan, Anita Chan, Yoly Lim and Yam Esmele from North York, Lydia Bernardino, Malou Parcero, Patty Cebrero and Rose Pimentel from Mississauga, Mila Syme from Brampton, Evelyn Ador Dionisio from Oakville, and Lizzeth Reyes from Grimsby
The group are sincerely grateful for the leadership of Vica and Yam in initiating these nightly prayers.
By Mila Syme