On March 15, 2020, in response to rising COVID 19 cases, the government of the Philippines issued a community quarantine order for the entire national capital region, an area which includes sixteen important cities. After a week, the community quarantine was enhanced to include the rest of the nation. The friars of the Custody are doing their best to respond to the demands brought about by these challenging times.

The St. Maximilian Seminary in Paranaque City, for example, where junior friars undergo formation, is now doubling as the common novitiate for the Federation of Asian Minors Conventual (FAMC). Consequently, there are many opportunities for joint formation activities and meetings during this two-month quarantine period. One such activity is face shield production.
Donors have provided enough material to enable us to make at least 1,750 face shields. The shields will be distributed free of charge to people working on the front line. Since only two friars are authorized to go outside in order to provide for our essential needs, the rest of us have had more time to do some work in the friary, such as cleaning the roof, repainting the premises and the like. The vacation period is usually dedicated to skills acquisition and development; therefore, the friars engaged themselves in planting vegetables for domestic consumption, cooking, driving, and a little bit of carpentry and sewing. During our recreation time, we have unusual summer activities like kite flying and Zumba [a dance-exercise program], which is quite popular in the country. To increase camaraderie among friars, we take part in a “Fraternal Night” once a month. In addition, we have been able to enjoy plenty of rest in order to boost our immune systems.
Likewise, we do not forget our brothers and sisters who need spiritual assistance. Since all small and large public gatherings are banned, we afford them the opportunity to join us for daily Mass and the recitation of the Rosary through Facebook live-streaming service. We also say special prayers recommended by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) such as the daily recitation of the Oratio Imperata against COVID 19.
Each week, the young men in formation have also had time to more deeply explore Franciscan and liturgical topics. Along those lines, I would like to mention a short reflection entitled: “Death during the Roman Years of the Young Maximilian.” The article describes the saint’s experience during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, as reflected in his writings. I hope the example of the young Maximilian may inspire us. May Mary Immaculate intercede for us and keep us safe.

Friar Emmanuel GIVA Jr.
Photos: Friar Elijah PANTORILLA