History of the Philippine Catholic Mission in Switzerland

The Philippine Catholic Mission is not new. It has already existed since 1994 under the care of Sister Olivia Racinez, a nun belonging to a religious institute called Worker of Christ, the Worker. But the task of the Mission is so big that a clamour for a Chaplaincy in the German-speaking part became urgent. The call for a separate mission in the German-speaking part took an initial phase during a Pastoral Assembly held on October 8-10, 2004 in Montet, Fribourg.

The Assembly was a gathering of Filipinos representing different Filipino groups and organizations based in Switzerland. It was spearheaded by Sr. Merlyn Arsolon, Fr. Guy Pineda and Fr. Ferdinand Ragasa together with group leaders from different communities in Switzerland.

The Assembly was participated and convened by Bishop Precioso Cantillas,SDB,DD, Chairman of Philippine Church’s Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The 63 delegates from different religious organizations, socio-cultural groups, and others came out with a statement of Vision-Mission after a process of deliberations and sharing of experiences.

From September 2012 up to the present:

The Philippine Catholic Mission Mission in the German speaking part of Switzerland is a Pilgrimage church. It is a church in journey whose members are migrant people, the Filipinos. The celebration of the Holy Mass has been the centerpiece of the Pastoral Ministry to the Filipinos. Through the initiative of religious groups, Filipino student Priests in Fribourg, Rome and other places were invited to celebrate the Eucharist for various communities.

Sr. Olive began organising religious activities for Filipinos in the French speaking part. Other religious groups like the Tuluyang Pinoy followed, to especially cater to the needs of Filipinos in other areas of Switzerland. The need to have a Filipino priest stationed in Switzerland was recognized, and Migratio finally approved the assignment of Fr. Johann Dumandan as the Chaplain. According to the records of Migratio, the official establishment of the PCM was on January 1, 2006.

Chaplaincy activities during the time of Fr. Johann Dumandan:

Fr. Dumandan has been saying Mass regularly for various Filipino groups. There were Masses in Tagalog in the Erlöser Church in Zurich every Sunday except on the 3rd Sunday of the month, once a month weekend masses in all other communities, special mass for one group every First Wednesday, and traditional once a year masses to celebrate the feast of a Patron (like Our Lady of Manaoag, Sacred Heart and Peñafrancia). A charismatic group had a traditional anniversary celebration with a special mass by a priest coming from outside of Switzerland. Parish Renewal Experience was also introduced among others.

Fr. Dumandan's term officially ended on September 2012. We give him due recognition and appreciation for the 6 years of his service. The Migratio then asked the help of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) to take over the Chaplaincy.

Recent developments

The SVD Chaplains Fr. Antonio P. Enerio, SVD and Fr. Julipros Dolotallas,SVD continued the above practice of celebrating masses for Filipino groups on various places, on Sundays, special days and other Feast days. They also collaborate with the Ma. Lourdes Parish Church in Seebach, Zurich where a good number of Filipino groups attend the English Pilgrim Mass.

The Chaplains have a very good personal and working relationship with the Filipino Deacon Rev. Alex Gonzales who oversees the Seebach services. The Chaplaincy officiates once a month Bible-Sharing and every Sunday Mass to build the bridge between Filipino faith communities. They also work closely with the SLS, Solothurn Sisters in terms of other Pastoral Care activities for Filipinos, and in preparing them for liturgical seasons - Advent and Lenten Recollections.

As more communities are now formed for example in Zug are made aware of the Chaplaincy, needs from other communities have been expressed desiring for pastoral care from the Chaplains. For the past years the Chaplains have endeavoured to accommodate all the requests of the various groups for masses and administration of other sacraments.

Pastoral and Social Realities:

After having served and worked with the various communities during the first two years of the Chaplaincy here are some of the realities of the PCM in the German speaking part of Switzerland.

1. The PCM is unique. The center is in Zug and the office is in Steinhausen at the SVD facilities. The Filipinos are all over the German speaking part of Switzerland and they can not be "cared for" from an office or a center or one Filipino church of their own. In short we do not have a center of their own. Hence, they gather for liturgical celebrations and other services in the Churches designated for them or in rented halls, in their respective cantons. The railway train thus has been the Chaplain's "office" and "home" as they travel from one community to the other to reach out to and serve various groups.

2. The PCM is characterized by diversity. The communities comprising the PCM come from different regions of the Philippines and speak different languages. They are of different educational backgrounds, jobs and economic standings. It also follows that they different levels of understand of the Christian formation and professing and practicing their faith. Thus, there is no unique approach to this diversity of pastoral needs.

Owing to the diversity of the Filipino communities, many groups are more "social" than "religious". Most social groups though , in living their faith still value liturgical celebrations especially on special occasions. The PCM does not focus only to the religious groups but also to social groups as well. It is the mission for all Filipinos who wish to live their faith in communion with the Church. The Chaplaincy has the challenge to help build and enhance the capacities of the Filipino migrants so that they will be able to lead, motivate, and inspire their members to live their faith truthfully and promote the growth of their communities as real Christian communities.