DIVINE MERCY IN THE PHILIPPINES
As early as 1958, Mr. Rey Gutierrez, a promoter and member of the Legion of Mary, encountered the devotion to the Divine Mercy when a friend of his shared with him a picture of Jesus as the King of Mercy along with a one-page brochure detailing Christ’s apparition to St. Faustina in Poland. Immediately, he decided to help spread the devotion in his parish at Sacred Heart in Kamuning, Quezon City, Metro Manila. In 1959, due to the imposition of the ban, Bro. Rey had to stop. However, in April of 1978 when the ban was lifted, Bro. Rey then began printing and distributing literature on the Divine Mercy.
Sometime in 1982, Bro. Rey was introduced to Mr. Renato “Boy” Fider, a businessman, by his brother and a friend of Mr. Fider, Mr. David Gutierrez. Bro. Rey then gave Bro. Boy around 100 copies of literature on the Divine Mercy. Bro. Boy recalls that the literature was the same as the first copy he received from Ms. Terry Asuncion of the Third Order of Carmel Prioress sometime in 1979, which he initially ignored. Suddenly, Bro. Boy found himself also distributing literature and giving short talks on the Divine Mercy as well.
On September 18, 1983, Bro. Boy, together with Sis. Rosario Achondo, Sis. Zeny Peralta, Sis. Lily Decena along with several fellow parishioners of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila organized a Divine Mercy prayer group, which was approved by their Parish Priest, Fr. Tito Fernandez, officially dubbing the group as “The King of Mercy Prayer Group.”
Around the same period, Sis. Corazon Venezuela, a businesswoman in the manufacturing industry, who just came back from the U.S.A., brought home with her a copy of a booklet of the Divine Mercy. Sis. Corazon was so touched by the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy that she decided to also print copies of the booklet here in the Philippines. Being granted the Imprimatur to print the booklet on February 16, 1984 by Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, who was then Vicar General and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Manila, Sis. Corazon then established a Divine Mercy Supply Center that printed around 3,000 copies of the booklet on the Divine Mercy, which the prayer group of Bro. Boy also helped distribute.
On the Easter of 1985 after the Easter mass at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Cubao, Bro. Boy got to know Mr. Don Emil de Castro, a radio announcer and television newscaster, and gave him a copy of the booklet on the Divine Mercy. Being immediately touched by the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy and at the height of the political turmoil in the Philippines, Bro. Don then invited Bro. Boy and fellow devotees of the Divine Mercy in Cubao and other parishes within the Archdiocese of Manila for a meeting to discuss as to how they could launch a nationwide prayer for peace. In the said gathering, the group agreed to propagate a daily prayer at 3 O’clock in the afternoon that was composed by St. Faustina as written in her diary, entailing Bro. Don to travel across the Philippines. On May 2, 1985, Msgr. Ramirez presided a “send-off” mass for Bro. Don at the San Miguel Pro Cathedral in Manila.
Soon after, Bro. Don found himself travelling all over the Philippines to coordinate with local bishops, dioceses, lay communities as well as with radio and television stations. Bro. Don was then able to secure endorsements from bishops in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, institutionalizing a nationwide prayer for peace. Then on June 16, 1985, the 1st ever nationwide airing of the now widely known 3 O’Clock Habit was made and the Divine Mercy “Say A Little Prayer” Movement [DM-SLPM] / 3 O’Clock Habit was born. This momentous and historic event, eventually became a daily habit of all Filipinos and is continually being aired by radio and television stations nationwide to this day. As a follow-up to the surge of the 3 O’Clock Habit, on Aug. 3 & 4, 1985, the 1st Divine Mercy Convention was held at the College of the Holy Spirit in Mendiola, which furthered the establishment of Divine Mercy communities nationwide.
In 1986, Bro. Don then also established the 1st ever Divine Mercy Chapel in the Philippines at #19 Spencer St., Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila. To further the propagation of the Divine Mercy, in 1987, Bro. Don, who was also a television newscaster, was able to request for airtime on Channel 4, a government-owned television station, to air the 1st ever TV Mass in honor of the Divine Mercy as well as “The Hour of Great Mercy©,” an exclusive program on the Divine Mercy. On the same year, Bro. Don organized as well the 1st ever media convention on the Divine Mercy in order to further orient media practitioners on the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy, which because of the 3 O’Clock Habit, was phenomenally spreading like wild fire across the nation. The convention was graced by the presence of the late +Jaime Cardinal Sin, then Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila, who addressed the delegates and concelebrated the Holy Mass together with Bishop Teodoro Bacani, D.D. and Fr. James Reuter, S.J., among other priests, which was aired live on Channel 4.
At the onset of 1988, with the growing support and enthusiasm of the devotees and supporters of the Divine Mercy, Bro. Don then decided to put the message and devotion into practice by establishing a Divine Mercy Charity Lying-In Clinic, Divine Mercy Dental Clinic & Divine Mercy Home For Unwed Mothers at Aurora Blvd., Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila, which was blessed & consecrated by the late +Jaime Cardinal Sin.
Soon after, on Nov. 29, 1988, the Divine Mercy Apostolate of the Philippines [DMAP] was founded, electing Bro. Gene M. Young III, a real estate developer and the son-in-law of Sis. Corazon Venezuela, as its first president and with Msgr. Ramirez acting as Spiritual Director. Sis. Corazon Venezuela was also given the title of honorary chairwoman in recognition of her efforts in the propagation of the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy.
Sometime in 1991, the Oasis of Love Community, represented by film director, Mr. Ben “M7” Yalung, approached Bro. Don to co-produce a tagalog movie on the life of St. Faustina. A year after, the movie “Divine Mercy Sa Buhay Ni Sister Faustina©” was premiered nationwide with actress, Donita Rose, portraying St. Faustina and featuring renowned actor, Christopher de Leon, in a lead role.
Then after, in 1992, the late +Jaime Cardinal Sin, called upon Msgr. Salvador R. Jose and Bro. Don to help establish an Archdiocesan Shrine in honor of the Divine Mercy on a 1,500 sqm. property in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila that was previously donated by Don Paco Ortigas. Through the generosity of donors, benefactors, supporters and propagators of the Divine Mercy, Bro. Don was able to help raise 83% of the total amount needed to construct the Shrine. On June 12, 1996, the 1st ever Archdiocesan Shrine in honor of the Divine Mercy was completed with Rev. Fr. Jose Maximiano assigned as its 1st rector.
Meanwhile, sometime in 1992 as well, a great miracle of Divine Mercy happened in Cebu. A government employee in the person of Bro. Stanley Villavicencio phenomenally came back to life after dying in the I.C.U. His mystical encounter with Jesus, the Divine Mercy, Himself who gave him instructions was investigated, discerned and validated by the authorities of the Archdiocese of Cebu. +Ricardo Cardinal Vidal assigned Msgr. Cris Garcia as his Spiritual Director. This event changed the life of Bro. Stanley forever. In fact, this caused several bishops in Visayas and Mindanao to give him their endorsement for him to propagate the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy, which he did throughout the country and in many parts of the world.
Bro. Don de Castro hosting "The Hour of Great Mercy" live on Channel 4
On November 30, 2002, the Diocesan Shrine dedicated in honor of the Divine Mercy as declared by Most Rev. Bishop Rolando Tria-Tirona of the Diocese of Malolos, Bulacan, was given the status of a National Shrine by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines [CBCP] presided by Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, OMI and, with the apostolic blessings of the late Pope John Paul II, who is now a saint of the Catholic Church. The elevation of the National Shrine in honor of the Divine Mercy was covered and aired live by Bro. Don on the Divine Mercy TV Channel [DMC] ©. Then on June 22, 2005, Bishop Jose Oliveros, D.D., the Divine Mercy National Episcopal Coordinator for the Philippines and Bishop of the Diocese of Malolos, Bulacan, together with the Papal Nuncio, Most Rev. Antonio Franco, officially appointed Fr. Mar DJ Arenas as the Parish Priest of the Divine Mercy National Shrine of the Philippines along with Fr. Reynaldo San Juan as the Shrine Rector.
With the Divine Mercy devotees and propagators speedily increasing in numbers, numerous activities, events, programs and groups were organized in various parishes and communities. A notable event was when an Asian Pre-Congress on Mercy was held in Manila organized by Dra. Telly Somera, a Filipino Theologian, in preparation for the 1st World Apostolic Congress on Mercy that would be held in Rome. In addition, Sis. Mary Anawim, a Filipino devotee and propagator of the Divine Mercy, also helped organize the 2nd and 3rd World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Krakow, Poland and in Bogota, Columbia, respectively.
On December 13, 2015, Bishop Jose Oliveros, D.D. opened the Holy Door of the Divine Mercy National Shrine and led the groundbreaking of the project for the 100 feet tall statue of the Divine Mercy.
More so, in recognition of the crucial role played by Filipinos in the propagation of the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy in the world, the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, which was endorsed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines [CBCP], was held here in the Philippines from January 16 to 20, 2017. The said event was organized and headed by Rev. Fr. Prospero Tenorio, Rector of the Divine Mercy National Shrine in the Philippines, and was assisted by Sis. Monina Tayamen of the Divine Mercy 3rd Millennium Apostolate of the Philippines, together with other Divine Mercy groups, devotees and propagators in the Philippines. The said Congress was attended by delegates, devotees and propagators of the Divine Mercy from all over the world, even by Fr. Serafim Michalenko, MIC of the Divine Mercy National Shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. and of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, among others.
At present, the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy - 3 O'Clock Habit are working hand-in-hand to further develop devotees, promoters and propagators by means of conducting symposiums on the Divine Mercy nationwide and by establishing the Philippine Institute of the Divine Mercy.
In the same year, 1992, due to the fast growing devotion of Filipinos to the Divine Mercy, Bishop Cirilo Almario, Jr., D.D., then Bishop of the Diocese of Malolos, Bulacan, led the ground-breaking at a site that was initially developed to be a Parish dedicated to the Divine Mercy. The Parish was formally inaugurated on November 30, 1994 with Fr. Vicente “Vic” Robles serving as its first Parish Priest. Fr. Vic then approached Bro. Don to assist in promoting the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy to his Parishioners as well as to help in the cause of possibly making the Parish into a Shrine in honor of the Divine Mercy. Bro. Don recalls giving talks on a bench and preaching the message and devotion with the use only of a megaphone to Parishioners and devotees, asking them to continuously support the cause. To be able to reach out to more people, Bro. Don invited Fr. Vic to celebrate the live TV Masses on Channel 4 and seek support from donors and benefactors on Bro. Don’s TV show on the channel, “The Hour of Great Mercy©.” Through the graces of the Divine Mercy, on April 11, 1999, Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, D.D., the new Bishop of the Diocese of Malolos, Bulacan, declared the Divine Mercy Parish as its Diocesan Shrine.
To further strengthen the fundamentals in propagating the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy, the Marian Fathers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. the primary propagators of the Divine Mercy in the world were commissioned by the Holy See to establish the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy headed by Fr. Serafim Michalenko, MIC, Rector of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, U.S.A., & Fr. George Cosicki, CSB, a biochemist and known author on books & teachings on Divine Mercy. Recognizing the crucial role played by Bro. Don in helping spread the Divine Mercy not only in the Philippines but also around the world, Bro. Don was invited to be the Philippine delegate and one of the first graduates of the institute in 1996.
Charged to advance and propagate the Divine Mercy even more, Bro. Don then established the first and only television channel in the world spreading the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy 24hrs. a day, 7 days a week, which is dubbed as the Divine Mercy TV Channel [DMC] ©. DMC initially aired across the Philippines and around Asia in the year 2000 via Dream Satellite TV then on local cable television via Destiny Cable. DMC now airs worldwide via video streaming over the internet thru www.divinemercy3pm.com.