Home Our Diocese Father Ricky Manalo in Delaware set for program ‘A treasured presence —...

Father Ricky Manalo in Delaware set for program ‘A treasured presence — Filipino American Catholics’ May 13 in Millsboro

Father Ricky Manalo will lead a program May 13 in Oak Orchard.

OAK ORCHARD — Father Ricky Manalo thinks American Catholics could learn a lot from their Filipino counterparts.

Father Manalo, a Paulist priest known for his accomplished composing skills, will be speaking at Mary Mother of Peace Catholic Church in Oak Orchard on May 13. The day-long program — “A treasured presence — Filipino American Catholics” — will be devoted to the 500th anniversary of Catholicism in the Philippines.

Catholicism is believed to have been brought to the Philippines by Magellan. Father Manalo will be speaking on the Quincentenary or 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Catholic faith. The program is entitled “A Treasured Presence: Filipino American Catholics” Cost is $35 and includes breakfast and lunch. Reservations are requested.

Sussex County is not exactly known for a huge Filipino population, but Father Manalo has roots in this area. He has spoken at both Mary, Mother of Peace, near Millsboro, and at St. Jude the Apostle in Lewes. He is friends with Mary, Mother of Peace Music Director Paul Szczerowski.

Father Manalo travels extensively and has in fact, preached on every continent except Antarctica. That’s a bit of a bucket list goal for Father Manalo, but it hasn’t happened yet, he said. “I go where I’m wanted.”

His music has been sung during the Papal Masses of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, according to his website. On Feb. 5, 2019, his Mass of Spirit and Grace was the musical setting chosen for Pope Francis’ Eucharistic celebration in the Sheikh Zared Stadium in Abu Dhabi.  This event was the largest gathering of Christians in the history of the Arab Peninsula (160,000+ worshippers, including 4,000 Muslims), and it was the first time a Roman Catholic Mass was ever celebrated “in public” in this region.

​He has written over 30 articles, books and chapters in books on a wide range of topics, including liturgy, culture, music, and the intersection of sociology and religious practices.  His first book, Chanting On Our Behalf (revised edition, Pastoral Press, 2015) won the first place award for Best E-Book by the Catholic Press Association.  His second book, The Liturgy of Life: The Interrelationship of Sunday Eucharist and Everyday Worship Practices (Liturgical Press, 2014) was a finalist for the 2015 Excellence in Publishing Awards by the Association of Catholic Publishers.

The demographics of the local population doesn’t really matter because the Filipino culture and faith is very much a part of the American melting pot and it can perhaps offer a few lessons to American Catholics, he believes. Although perhaps small in number, their devotion and belief can be powerful, he added. There are recorded instances of Filipinos being in the California area as early as 1587, meaning they predate most European settlers, he said. There were also enough Filipinos fighting in the American Civil War that there are references to “Manila Men,” he added.

Father Manalo explained that Catholicism is the dominant faith of the Philippines, unlike America with its’ many Christian denominations. That focus on one faith, together with a strong focus on family and tradition means many Filipinos incorporate their Catholic beliefs into their lives in America, whether they have been here for 20 minutes or 20 years.

Asian and African cultures tend to have a more “collectivist” view, he said. He explained that that means those cultures tend to take a broader community-based view of the world, a view often associated with the larger extended family typical of many immigrant families. “When they migrate here, they bring that collectivist culture.”

An American or European view is more likely to focus on the individual or the immediate family.  “Europeans tend to be more individualistic, more about my choice and my opinion,” he believes.

He quickly adds that there is no judgement involved in that observation and that there is not a right or a wrong, only that the cultures tend to be different in their perspective.

Paulist Father Ricky Manalo has served as a consultor for the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. (CNS photo/courtesy Father Manalo)

He said that those differences can perhaps be traced to the Enlightenment in 16th to 18th Century Europe. That period of Enlightenment changed the way people think and introduced the idea of faith in harmony with or in conflict with science. That’s a debate which still rages today. While European ideas were changing, areas colonized by Europe like the Americas, or the Philippines did not go through that Enlightenment period until later, he said. “For better or worse, it affected our view of Catholicism,” he said.

He believes another cultural difference is that America has a clear demarcation between church and state. That line, he believes, is far more blurred in some areas of the world, like the Philippines. Father Manalo, who is Filipino, said that in the Philippines, you see processions, the Rosary or Stations of the Cross in every town. In America, that may be reserved for holidays, he said.

Once again, he stressed that that doesn’t make either culture good or bad, but simply different. “For better or worse, we have a separation of church and state.”

“It is a great community to learn from as far as Catholic devotion and faith,” he said. “I think there is a lot that we can learn.”

For Father Manalo, that has not always been an easy difference to reconcile. He is Filipino but was born in New York and raised in New Jersey. He said that meant he found himself “betwixt and between” in a world where he sometimes felt he was “not fully Filipino or not fully American.”

While having one foot in one culture and the other foot in a different culture may be difficult, it is not unique for many in the American experience. In some ways, he feels it is a common tale of immigrants to America as they juggle sometimes conflicting identities.

That struggle to mesh sometimes meant Anglicizing immigrant names or making other efforts to fit in, even if it meant living valued traditions behind.

He believes the future of Filipinos in American Catholicism is a bright one, although it does include challenges like maintaining strong, traditional Catholic identity for the next generation, he believes.

“Filipino American Catholics are not only a diverse and vibrant part of the American Catholic Church today, but an important part of its’ future,” according to a flyer for the event.

Mary Mother of Peace said the church has already begun hearing from Filipino-American Catholics in Delaware and Maryland.

To register for the day-long session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., please contact Nela Wintjen at 302-727-2919. Mary Mother of Peace Catholic Church is located near Millsboro off Route 24 at 30839 Mount Joy Road, Millsboro, DE. 19966.