For only the second time in its 17-year history, “Siete Palabras,” the traditional commemoration of Jesus’ last words on the Cross, held annually at the historic Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City on Good Friday, will have a woman among its seven preachers.
The preacher is Sr. Catherine Edith Cruz, OP, dean of Colegio de San Juan de Letran de Manaoag (formerly Our Lady of Manaoag College) in Pangasinan and member of the Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic.
She will be only the second woman to deliver the address. The first was Sr. Letty Ham, OP of the Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies, who delivered one of the “Siete Palabras” about a decade ago.
The testimonials of faith will also be given by women: Sr. May Escalano, OP, who serves farmers and people with disabilities in Pampanga; Lourdes Ukila, a teacher of poor children in Dagat-dagatan, Navotas; Lucy Guya, who works with indigenous people; Sr. Cecilia Espenilla, OP, who attends to victims of human trafficking; Catherine Ramos, OP, a dedicated teacher in Aquinas School; and Sr. Elvira Delfonso, OP, a survivor of two critical ailments.
“Siete Palabras” producer Fr. Christopher Jeffrey Aytona, OP said the inclusion of more women in the yearly program was inspired by Pope Francis, who said during his recent visit in the country: “Women have much to tell us in today’s society. They can see things with a different eye.”
Father Aytona also stressed the contributions of women in evangelization, citing famous Dominican saints such as Catherine of Siena, Margaret of Castello, and Rose of Lima.
Being a yearly production of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, “Siete Palabras,” in its earlier years, only had Dominican friars as preachers for the “Seven Last Words.” Last year, however, a diocesan priest and a lay person were included in the roster of preachers, which “drew positive feedback,” said Father Aytona.
“The Order of Preachers [or the Dominican Order] believes that, as a family, preaching should not be limited only to the friars,” he says.
This year, the Lenten special will focus on the official church celebrations of the Year of the Poor and Year of the Consecrated Life, and the year-long preparation for the 800th foundation anniversary of the Order of Preachers in 2016.
Partnering with Radio Veritas and the Catholic Media Network, “Siete Palabras” intends to reach Filipinos abroad through the program’s live internet streaming, on April 3, 12 noon to 3 p.m. It will be broadcast live by GMA 7.
The other preachers are Fr. Gallardo Bombase, OP from Albay; Fr. Norman Quilaquil, OP from Davao; Manila diocesan priest Fr. Carlo del Rosario; Fr. Enrico Gonzales, OP from Santo Domingo priory in Quezon City; Fr. Filemon dela Cruz, Jr. OP from the University of Santo Tomas (UST); and Fr. Allan Lopez, OP from Pangasinan.
The Seven Last Words are: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34); “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43); “Woman, behold your Son: Behold your mother” (John 19:26-27); “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34); “I thirst” (John 19:28); “It is finished” (John 19:30); and “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
To render music and interpretative dances are UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, Letran Filipiniana Dance Company, Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir, Letran Calamba Culture and Arts Department and Bro. Kenneth Rey Parsad.