Church-to-church Easter procession keeps Filipino tradition alive on P.E.I.

Filipinos on P.E.I. will be celebrating an important tradition on Good Friday, which is normally held the day before.

'It makes me happy to have this tradition in the Philippines continuing here'

A group of Filipino Islanders from their tour of P.E.I. churches in 2017. The traditions continues on Good Friday. (Submitted by Leti LaRosa )

Islanders may see a convoy of cars visiting Catholic churches on Good Friday. The cars will be filled with Filipino Islanders marking an Easter tradition usually held the day before.

The Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia where Christianity is the predominant faith. The Thursday before Easter — Maundy Thursday — is a holiday in the Philippines and a traditional day to visit numerous churches and pray. 

But Filipinos on P.E.I. moved it to Good Friday when most of the people have the day off, said Leti LaRosa, who helps organize the annual trek.

"It makes me happy to have this tradition in the Philippines continuing here. It is very refreshing — a day for us to give thanksgiving."

Leti LaRosa and Father Joseph Dovari at Holy Redeemer Parish in Charlottetown. (Karen Mair )

LaRosa and her family were the first Filipinos to move to P.E.I. 40 years ago. She estimates there are now about 2,000 who have moved to the Island for work. The majority live in western P.E.I. working in fish and food plants.    

'I'm amazed seeing their faith.' - Father Joseph Dovari

Father Joseph Dovari, in his first year as a pastor at Holy Redeemer Parish in Charlottetown, said he's looking forward to sharing mass with the Filipino community on Friday.

"A month ago we had a Filipino mass here, the church was full and a priest came from Halifax to say mass in their language. I'm amazed seeing their faith. They've travelled all the way from their country and they are so hard working." 

The groups visits St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Miscouche in 2017. (Submitted by Leti LaRosa )

After Holy Redeemer, the 14-church pilgrimage will go to St. Dunstan's Basilica and Pius the X in Charlottetown, Our Lady of Assumption in Stratford, St. Francis of Assisi in Cornwall, St. Malachy's in Kinkora, St. Peter's Church in Nine Mile Bay, St. Paul's in Summerside, St. John the Baptist in Miscouche, St. Patrick's Church in Grand River, Immaculate Conception Church in Richmond, St. Anthony Church in Bloomfield,  Sacred Heart Church in Alberton and St. Simon and St. Jude in Tignish. 

The day is well organized.

"We have prayers that are prepared and Filipinos assigned to read in every church," LaRosa said. "We pray for thanksgiving and it's a chance for us to give time to the Lord for what he has given us."

The group stops for a potluck lunch at the fire hall in Miscouche and a wrap-up potluck is hosted at a home in Tignish.  

'We pray for thanksgiving and it's a chance for us to give time to the Lord for what he has given us,' LaRosa says. (Submitted by Leti LaRosa)

LaRosa said many Filipinos have difficult lives and leave their homeland for a variety of reasons, including poverty, political corruption, crime and ambition to lead a better life. She beams talking about how many on P.E.I. have become Canadian citizens, and passing along traditions like Maundy Thursday to young people.  

"By introducing this to the children, who have often left [the Philippines] when they were very young, it keeps the tradition going." 

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