FILIPINO THANKSGIVING DAY MASS. Fr. Venson Valenciano celebrates the annual Filipino Thanksgiving Day mass held last Nov. 22 in the Saint Hugo of the Hills church. The concelebrants are Fr. Felix Alasola (left) and Fr. Enno Dango (right). Assisting them is Deacon Robert Roland (2nd from left). Photo by Percy Antonio

“We live in ungrateful times. There are many ungrateful children who no longer thank their parents for providing them shelter, food and clothing. Many of us no longer thank our employers for giving us a job in this time of financial difficulty.”

Fr. Venson Valenciano made this stark observation in a homily he delivered during the Filipino Thanksgiving Day mass held last November 22 in the Saint Hugo of the Hills church on Opdyke Road, Bloomfield.

The Philippine Medical Association of Michigan (PMAM) headed by Dr. Rosemary Aquiler-Angeles organized the mass in collaboration with the Filipino-American community.[box type=”default” size=”large”] ‘There’re many ungrateful kids who no longer thank their parents’ [/box]Some 900 faithful attended the annual thanksgiving celebration, a Filipino-American tradition started by PMAM 28 years ago.

In his homily, Father Valenciano, a Filipino-American priest assigned to a parish in Atlantic City, New Jersey, intoned, “We keep on counting what we do not have in life, while we fail to appreciate what we have.”

He noted that “while most of us pray to God, these are mostly requests, and how life has treated us unfairly and unjustly,” observing further that many Catholics “often fail to thank those who serve them with sacrifice and faithfulness.”

He chastised many Catholics, especially Filipino Catholics, for not being familiar with tithing, which is a biblical pronouncement that “10 percent of your net income belongs to the Lord.”

Father Valenciano, who is a former rector of the Providence Hospital in Southfield, said in the Catholic Church, “we do not impose tithing but rather, we encourage generosity.”  He stressed, “You give from your heart. To really thank the Lord on this Thanksgiving Day is a question of generosity.”

He recalled the biblical story about Cain and Abel, two brothers who “offered their thanksgiving to the Lord.” He asked, “how come the Lord accepted Abel’s offering, and was displeased with Cain’s?”

“We do not know why,” he said. “But the crime committed by Cain against Abel tells us something about why God did not accept Cain’s offering. God sees the heart of Cain. It seems that life for Cain is a competition, an unhealthy competition… Cain constantly compared himself with Abel to the point that Cain forgot his individuality and uniqueness. Cain defined himself in the standard of Abel. Thus, he became unhappy…and angry, and this drove him to kill his brother.”

He emphasized, “To really thank God is to appreciate what you have and what you are.   Stop comparing yourself with others. Stop counting what you don’t have because you end up losing what you have. You’ll be crazy…you’ll end up like Cain.”

He also said, “Thanksgiving means counting our blessings and not our woes. And even in our woes, in everything give thanks to the Lord.”

Father Valenciano, who is from Bicol, Philippines, was the celebrant of the thanksgiving mass. He was assisted by Fathers Felix Alasola, Enno Dango and Tim Galos and Deacon Robert Roland.

Several of the liturgical songs were sung in Filipino by the Philippine Chorale and Isang Binhi. The choir, composed of 12 sopranos, nine altos, seven tenors, nine basses, three soloists and six instrumentalists, was under the baton of Dr. Enrique Ostrea Jr. The soloist who impressed the churchgoers with his operatic voice is Ricky Villaflor.

During the public-announcement portion of the mass, PMAM President Angeles said that part of the proceeds from the thanksgiving mass will be donated to Father Ruben Villote’s Center for Migrant Youth, which is a home of displaced teenagers.

The remaining proceeds, Angeles said, will be used by the PMAM Foundation to fund PMAM’s  medical mission in Iriga City and other charitable projects.

The male soloist is Ricky Villaflor. He’s from Bicol.