The members of the Salesian family in the Philippines along with countless devotees of Mary Help of Christians (MHC) rejoice in the re-enthronement of Don Bosco’s Madonna in the Manila Cathedral.
The Mass which will precede the enthronement will be presided by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila at 9 AM, 20 February.
Before the ceremony, let us travel down the memory lane back to the early 20s when two Salesians of Don Bosco brought the image of Our Lady to the shores of the Philippines.
Fr. Remo Bati, SDB, rector of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians has this historical narrative to share.
Pope Pius XI appointed Bishop Willam Piani–himself a Salesian–as Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines on Feb. 17, 1922. He would serve the same office for 26 long years, up until 1948.
According to Bishop Louis Morrow, then a Salesian priest when he served as Bishop Piani’s secretary, because of Bishop Piani’s distinctive Salesian devotion to MHC, he established the Archconfraternity of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) in many parishes.
No wonder, many bishops declared MHC as the secondary patroness of their dioceses. Medals, prayer novenas, images and statues of MHC were widely distributed, apparently copied from the original ones he had at his Delegation House in Malate, near the Parish Church of La Nuestra Senora de los Remedios.
Among the most privileged and prioritized places chosen by Bishop Piani to enthrone a statue of Mary Help of Christians for veneration, was the Manila Cathedral itself. The first chapel facing its main altar was dedicated and named after Her. This was done in coordination with the Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Michael O ‘Doherty (1916-1949). (Cfr. the Cathedral map guide at the entrance of the church).
But then in 1942, due to the Japanese occupation, the statue of MHC in Manila Cathedral was brought for safety to Our Lady of Loreto, Sampaloc Manila. Later on, when the Parish Church of MHC in Better Living, Paranaque was proclaimed by the CBCP as a National Shrine on Aug. 24, 1985, the said statue from Sampaloc was solemnly transferred to Her new Shrine in Better Living in 1994.
Hence, from 1942 up to 2015, 73 years had passed in which the statue of MHC was away from the Manila Cathedral, particularly the Chapel, which up to now is still dedicated to Her.
It is for this reason, in view of the Bicentenary of the Liturgical Feast of Mary Help of Christians (1815 -2015 ) that we have requested the Archbishop of Manila, His Eminence, Cardinal Tagle, together with the Rector of the Cathedral, Fr. Reginald Malicdem, the permission to enthrone Mary Help of Christians once again in the Chapel dedicated to Her for almost a century already.
As of now, there are other Marian statues venerated in that chapel: Our Lady of Antipolo, Our Lady of the Pillar and Our Lady of the Milk, but MHC will occupy a prominent place starting Feb. 20, 2016.
Historical background is based on the research made by the historian Fr. Gregorio Bicomong Jr. SDB in his book “The Arrival of Don Bosco in the Philippines”, published in 2001. (Cfr. Chap. 4, pp.69 -108).