By Vinz Narisma
“We already experienced Him (Jesus Christ) in the street and He never let us stay in pain or fall asleep with empty stomachs,” shared Raymond Villanueva, one of our formerly homeless volunteers who had undergone extensive formation and catechesis with us.
We realize how important it is that we at the Arnold Janssen Bahay Kalinga (AJBK) provide a holistic approach to re-creating and empowering our formerly homeless residents. Formation stops becoming formation without introducing them to Jesus Christ. He Himself is the epitome of a formand who has undergone physical pain, betrayal, and even spiritual doubt in His desire to follow the Father’s will. Through regular catechism, little by little the AJBK residents have gotten to know Jesus Christ as their friend and Savior.
I realize that I’ve seen and walked with Jesus even when I was on the streets. It was He who handed me the food packs so that I wouldn’t sleep hungry. Now, I can formally get to know Him by studying catechism.
As Gilbert, one of the residents shares, “Noon ko pa pala nakita and nakasama si Hesus noong ako’y na sa kalye. Siya pala yung nag-abot sa akin ng food pack upang ‘di ako matutulog na walang laman ang aking sikmura. Ngayon, mas pormal ko Siyang nakilala sa pamamagitan ng pag-aaral ng Katekismo. (I realize that I’ve seen and walked with Jesus even when I was on the streets. It was He who handed me the food packs so that I wouldn’t sleep hungry. Now, I can formally get to know Him by studying catechism.”
For nine consecutive Sundays, La Salle brothers have been their catechists, helping our AJBK residents get to know and experience Jesus Christ by delving deeper into the following:
- The Sacraments. The value of catechism becomes clearer to the residents if they are able to receive the sacraments regularly. Their hearts are open, enabling them to live out the grace of the sacraments through Catechism. Before, some residents would not even participate during the Holy Mass. Since attending catechism classes, there has been a 180 degree conversion as seen through their gestures, behavior, and dispositions during the Mass. AJBK residents have also started to embrace the Sacrament of Penance because of catechism. After the nine catechism classes, it is becoming clearer to the residents how much we are all in need of God’s mercy. Without hesitation, all of them proceeded to the parish and reconciled themselves with God through confession.
- Community life. Previously, many of the residents struggled to have good relationships among themselves. But through the teachings, they now realize that Jesus is present in everyone. They realize that whenever I hurt my brother, I also hurt Jesus Christ. They feel and see God in every resident. Some realize that God’s love and mercy is not merely metaphysical, it is concrete and experiential through the good deeds and words of others. One resident shared his reflection that “the simple acts of every person in AJBK unfolds God’s presence and goodness.”
- Personal conversion. As Raymond Villanueva, one resident shared during an individual conference, “Now I feel that there are changes of myself and how I experience God in my day to day living.” For him, Jesus Christ is now living in his heart. Admittedly, Raymond’s heart had been full of hatred and negativity. But because of the catechism, he noticed how slowly the hatred and my anger he felt towards his family was being replaced by love and forgiveness.
Catechism remains one of our best practices and is indeed one of the best ways to reconnect the homeless to God. It’s an open door that invites our residents to experience and feel the love of God!