A Sense of Belonging

Last Sunday, our youngest received the sacrament of Baptism. Like the boys, she was welcomed into the Catholic Church early. She is three weeks old. In was almost two months. And J was a month old. Like the boys, she wore my Baptismal bib, a thin piece of cloth, with the Cross in light blue, now thirty-five years older than her. For our family, it is important that the children be baptized sooner (than later), before trips, before parties, before anything else.

Unlike the boys, she was baptized here in Canada (J in Manila, In in Naga). She was baptized without the usual fanfare, and without the extended guest list of family, and friends-who-are-family. We chose to keep it small and simple. She was Christened though in the presence of the closest of kin, and was baptized together with two beautiful little girls from the parish, and their families.

It was different in the sense that the young priest who baptized K, was not someone who has witnessed our marriage, or the growth of our little family (at least not yet, but we are definitely looking forward to more moments with him in this new chapter). It was all new, but nonetheless, very beautiful. It was what it ought to be. (Shout out to Fr. Aba, Fr. Joenel, Fr. Bogey, and the God Squad of Caceres who we miss dearly)

It was one of our family’s first milestones here in Canada, and perhaps one that has put many things into perspective. K’s baptism is the first important family event that is truly rooting us to this home.

We have been here for over a year, and although we are all well adjusted, happy, and comfortable, the yearning for “home” is still there (and may continue to be there for forever). There will always be this longing for the familiar, for certain people, places, and a lifestyle and culture that is an ocean away.

This is magnified a hundred times when we focus on our children. Our dream school is not here, the grandparents, and many aunts and uncles are not here, the village that raised us as children, or who grew up with us (and may now have their own children), are scattered around the globe.

Fr. Lucio though said many things that struck me. He welcomed the girls into the parish. He welcomed K into the little community that we have joined, where we enrolled the boys, and where we attend mass. He talked about how it takes a village to raise a child, and how the parish was ready to be part of that village.

I was ashamed of my snooty sentiments when we first moved – that it was more challenging to find God here, that the traditions were different, that there was no Jesuit school, that my boys might not grow up into the fine Christian gentlemen I wanted them to be.

Because Fr. Lucio was right – the parish, if you allowed them, was truly ready to embrace you, accept you, and support you in this faith journey. I started to see this during J’s Vacation Bible School last summer. He loved every minute of it, and he can’t wait for next summer. He made friends, I made friends, and we both started to have a deeper sense of belonging in the parish.

There was the re-realization that “God is in All Things”. That He is in all places we go, and He is wherever we decide to call home. He isn’t just in the familiar – His relevance reaches out to such a broad audience, embracing diversity, uniting us all in His love.

I looked behind me, and saw the few family members we invited, and felt assured that they had our backs. I saw my parents, and said a silent thank you to God. They came to help, and are doing a spectacular repeat performance of their parenting act, but this time, with our kids. (And of course, thanks to that village of mine that has allowed my parents to come over, because they are making sure everything runs smoothly for them back home).

Our village has expanded, and crosses oceans and borders. We didn’t leave the village. It just got insanely bigger.

As I watched one of the other babies being baptized, surrounded by her huge Italian family, I smiled, knowing our huge Filipino barangay would have loved to be there with us too, comforted by the thought that they’ll always be there for us. And oh so grateful for the family and friends here that have supported us this past year, moving, transitioning through jobs, and baby-expecting.

So, yes, our roots continue to deepen, here in Canada, but more importantly in our faith. K is where she belongs, and so are we – in the heart of Lord, and He in our hearts. With that in mind, we’ll know we are always home.

Happy Christening, K! May you be a loving, strong, woman of God.