Never in my wildest dream did I think that this day would come …. that the Queen of Peace Church would be desanctified or closed. What made it worst was that the last mass before it was closed was on the feast day of Mary, the Queen of Peace.
The desanctification of Queen of Peace Church is the result of the disagreement between the Diocese of Bacolod and St. John’s Institute, my alma mater. The school owns the church as certified by the donor of the lots of the school and church and wanted to have it back with chapel status but the Diocese wants to have it. After they cannot have it legally, they punished the school with their desanctification decree.
All throughout the mass, I was quite emotional and teary-eyed just like many Johnians who attended the last mass. I kept on reminiscing happy memories and important milestones in my life of which the Queen of Peace Church was part of. First Communion, Confirmation, graduations, First Friday confessions and masses (first and last period classes were suspended), praying the rosary, class schedule to serve in the mass, anticipated Saturday masses with two of my closest high school friends and many other happy memories. Who could forget our high school graduation day when there was a shooting incident inside the church just as the graduates were preparing to march to the church for our graduation rites. Someone shot one of the principal sponsors at an ongoing wedding during communion. Our graduation rites was rescheduled in the afternoon at the gym. The church was temporarily closed.
The Queen of Peace Church has been an integral part of every Johnian’s Christian formation. The faith has been imbibed in us from kindergarten till high school. It strengthened our Catholic faith. With its closure, I feel sad for the students of St. John’s Institute. They lost the opportunity of strengthening their Christian formation outside the four walls of the classroom.
After the mass, the decrees about the closure issued by the Bishop of the Diocese of Bacolod was read and the altar was stripped of its vestments. I was teary-eyed throughout the mass but this was when tears welled in my eyes. It was a very sad moment. It felt like someone was taken away from me. I also saw many crying openly.
A Johnian placed a white cloth at the altar after it was stripped of its vestments. She also placed on the altar the image of Mama Mary which she donated to the church some years back. The Diocese have intended to take the images of adoration inside the church since they are planning to build a new one carrying the name Queen of Peace, but no way can they get the image of Mary, the Queen of Peace at the center of the altar. She should stay where she has been since the late 1960’s. The Johnians and Hua Ming community will protect her and will fight for her. She has and will forever be a part of our lives.
Emotions flared up among the Johnian community and I am one of them. But when emotions calmed down I came to realize that the closure is like a stab in the back but it may be God’s way of returning our “chapel” to where it rightly belong . . . to the Johnian or Hua Ming community who founded and built it from scratch through the leadership of the late Msgr. John Su and Msgr. John Liu. Together with St. John’s Institute, the Queen of Peace Church was their baby.
The desanctification will not diminish our Catholic faith. In fact it unified the Johnian/Hua Ming community. Stripping St. John’s Institute of its Catholic status is painful but it will survive and stand strong. Being a Catholic is in the heart and no human can take it away from us. In the eyes of God, we are and will remain as Catholics.
I attended the last mass to show my support to my alma mater and because my conscience said so. Being the biggest Johnian family, my family is very passionate with this controversy between the school and the Diocese. The school has our full support. During the mass, being emotional with the events unfolding, I was inspired to write this blog. Before I started writing, I asked the guidance of Mama Mary.
We may not understand it now but God may have better plans for the Johnians/Hua Ming chapel. This could also be a test of our faith. Our chapel may have lost the sacraments but it will remain strong and standing. We remain hopeful that something good will come out of this sad development.
I took these pictures on Christmas Eve 2015.
Hail Hua Ming Hail!