A Bastion and Beacon of Faith for 35 Years
A circular church with an altar in the middle, huge crowds eager to hear powerful homilies on weekdays and Sunday masses, extended hours of confession and relevant formation talks are just some of the attributes of the Sto. Niño de Paz Chapel, more commonly known as the Greenbelt Chapel (GBC). Over the years, the Greenbelt Chapel has earned its reputation as a sanctuary in the heart of the concrete jungle of Makati Central Business District.
This year, the Greenbelt Chapel celebrates three decades and a half of rich and colorful history, a story for the books that one would never grow tired relating to future generations. It speaks of a vision of love that would soon create a bastion of faith and a beacon of light for weary souls. Let me tell you that story…..
It all began six years before its inception 35 years ago. Fr. Edgar Saginsin arranged a meeting between Jaime Cardinal Sin and Ms. Fanny Del Rosario-Diploma regarding building a St. Patrick Cathedral inspired chapel within the premises of a commercial center. From 1977, wheels turned and the Chapel’s inauguration came on July 28, 1983. The Chapel was first handled by the Salesians of Don Bosco. A noteworthy line of dedicated shepherds followed: Msgr. Chito Bernardo (1986), Msgr. Jaime Mora (1989) who was assisted by Fr. Jim Ferry, Fr. Jose Mario Maximiano (mid 1991), Fr. Anton Pascual (late 1991), then Msgr. Mylo Hubert Vergara now Bishop of the Diocese of Pasig (mid 2000), Fr. Prex Fajardo (2001). The present chaplain, Fr. Rufino Sescon Jr. was installed in 2005. Fr. Jun is currently on his13th year of being a shepherd to his flock at the Greenbelt Chapel community.
Three significant changes happened in the 90s. In 1992, Greenbelt Chapel opened its doors to the laity to serve during masses, paving the way to servanthood. The volunteers were called servants up to the present time. It gave the lay people a chance to share their time, talents and treasures to the community. GBC’s home grown charismatic community, Emmanuel (ECCC), was formed the following year. The ECCC gathers people and lead them to a path closer to God. Twenty five years later, they still hold weekly praise and worship sessions and healing masses. They still reach out for weary souls to help people in need of spiritual healing and guidance. The Love A Parish program (LAPP) was launched in 1995. It is a cornerstone initiative aimed at providing support to poor parishes and charitable institutions. Now on its 23rd year, it continues to support 469 poor parishes nationwide and a number of charitable institutions serving the poor like the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa, Poor Clares and Caritas Manila. To this day, LAPP carries immense effects on the lives of the marginalized, it has widen the Chapel’s reach to serve and extend help beyond the city of Makati.
The first decade of the new millennium ushered in fresh changes at Sto.Niño de Paz. In 2000, Msgr. Mylo Vergara came up with a Memorandum of Arrangement between the Archdiocese of Manila and the FRD Foundation on the proper administration of the chapel. On the following year, Fr. Prex Fajardo instituted the daily 13 hour confession. St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, renowned for his zeal in the confessional, was adopted as the secondary patron of the chapel. More mass schedules were also added and as of this writing, the Chapel holds 31 masses a week. Later on, a Servants’ Mass every first Wednesday of the month was introduced by Fr. Jun in 2006. Before the start of the Servant’s mass, an audio visual presentation is shown to highlight the ministry in focus for that month. After this the Chaplain or in his absence, an assigned priest, gives a spiritual formation talk. After the talk, the ministries hold their respective meetings to discuss various concerns and activities. In the same period, the number of servants increased and formation programs both for servants and the mass goers were introduced. These include the Basic Orientation for New Servants (BORNs), trainings, retreats, recollections, pilgrimages, talks and other activities aimed at informing and strengthening the spiritual life of the multitude. There are at present 12 ministries spread over three commissions. Each ministry chooses a coordinator that becomes part of the Pastoral Council that spearheads the planning for chapel activities. The newest of these ministries are the Sojourners – Young Professionals Ministry (2015) which aims to guide young professionals in their spiritual journey, the Padre Pio Prayer Group (2016) which is a devotional group for our Secondary Patron and the Stewardship Ministry & Social Action Ministry (2018), in-charge of the funding and organization of timely and relevant activities/initiatives for the community.
On April 1, 2012, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) took over the temporal affairs of the chapel where previously its main task was the spiritual administration of the community. The following year, before the celebration of its Pearl Anniversary, and the Feast of the Sto. Niño, RCAM and Ayala Land signed an agreement granting another twenty five years of subsistence to the Chapel. This brought several changes in the circular edifice. The mechanized tabernacle was replaced by a fixed tabernacle behind the altar, renovations were undertaken to provide better services and comfort to mass goers: wider bridges, bigger fans, installation of LED and yes, including a belfry where the bells toll in unison as we give praise to our Creator.
Through it all, Greenbelt Chapel in its three and a half decades of existence continues to be a sanctuary for souls seeking respite from the busy environment, to seek solace and hear God’s message. The chapel is also privileged to meditate more on the lives of saints through numerous visits of pilgrim images of Saints, the Blessed Virgin and Jesus for veneration. On March 23, 2016, the Chapel hosted the relics of Padre Pio from Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. Since then every 23rd of the month has been dedicated as Padre Pio Day at the Chapel in order to promote devotion to this great saint and for more awareness on the sacrament of reconciliation. Most recent visits were the Relics of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin in 2017 and their daughter St. Therese of Lisieux in February this year. We also had the pilgrim relic of St. Augustine last June.
In response to the call for New Evangelization, in November 2017, the mass every 7pm of Thursdays has been dubbed “Encounter” which features modern praise and worship songs, and creative prayers as a way to encourage the young adults and professionals in the business district to deepen and live out their spiritual life in their respective workplaces. The Bible Timeline Series” was also introduced every Monday to help the faithful enrich their knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of a regular on-going formation in the Catholic faith for the community.
With all its simplicity, Greenbelt Chapel carry on with its mission and strives to attain its vision: Vision – Greenbelt Chapel is a spiritual home where the Christian faithful belong, believe and become true children of God; Mission – To evangelize specially the working populace of Makati through meaningful celebration of the Holy Eucharist, preaching the Word, daily confession, creative and dynamic ministries, integral formation and witnessing of the Catholic faith, prayer and healing experiences and solidarity with the needy. The Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel has grown through the years because its community lives out what is stated in its Stewardship program: We are graced, we are grateful, we are generous. Believing in those tenets and trusting in the goodness of the Lord, the Greenbelt Chapel looks forward to more years of blessed and humble service.