När jag kom till Sverige var de tre första orden jag lärde mig: ”Tack så mycket!” På engelska: Thank you so much! Spanska: Gracias! Italienska: Grazie! Vi kan säga det på olika språk men det betyder samma sak. Överallt hörde jag orden ”tack så mycket”. Till exempel när jag gick till Hemköp för att handla mat. När jag betalade i kassan, sade kassörskan tack så mycket. Samma sak med biljettkontrollören på tåget. Efter att ha ätit säger jag tack för maten! Detta uttrycker tacksamhet.
Next year’s (2017) Filipino Christian Communities in Sweden General Assembly will be the 9th FCC Assembly spearheaded by the Filipino Mission in Sweden. The first such assembly was held August 2009 at the St. Nikolai Parish in Linköping. During that event, a decision was made by those who participated that this activity would be made annual. So a raffle was done and The Filipino Christian Community in Helsingborg was chosen as the host community for the Second General Aassembly (2010). This was respectively followed by Stockholm (2011), and Malmö (2012), Göteborg (2013), Trollhättan-Vänersborg (2014), Örebro (2015), Gävle (2016).
The Filipino Mission in Sweden formally started when the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (The Passionists, for short) of the Philippines sent Fr. Gabriel Baldostamon, C.P. to Sweden. This was in response to the invitation of the Diocese of Stockholm c/o Bishop Anders Arborelius, OCD. Fr Gabriel arrived in Sweden on December 5, 2005.
Initially, Fr. Gabriel settled down in Our Saviour’s Parish in Malmö as base of his mission. He had no specific idea yet what to do. He was just told to observe first and find out what he could do while assisting in the Parish. Realizing that there were Filipinos in Malmö, he made contact with them. From there, he started to contact other Filipinos, and with their help, Fr. Gabriel was able to organize Filipino communities in Malmö, Göteborg, Trollhättan and Stockholm. He visited these communities monthly, while at the same time helping out in the Malmö parish. Thus, the Pastoral Care Ministry for the Filipinos, with the mandate of the Bishop, was born.
Fr. Gabriel was also offered to regularly celebrate mass and hear confession with the contemplative sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Växjö ( which is no longer done at present).
Feeling the need for another Filipino Priest in view of the increasing numbers of the Filipinos in Sweden who are scattered throughout the country, Fr. Gabriel asked for another Filipino priest after consulting the Bishop of the Diocese. And that he got. Another Filipino Passionist Priest, Fr. Roberto Bersabal Wapaño, C.P., was sent to Sweden and arrived here on May 25, 2007. With his presence another Filipino communities were organized in Helsingborg and Halmstad. However, Halmstad community was later joined to the Helsingborg community.
Geographically, Malmö lies in the Southernmost part of Sweden. And as we planned to expand our presence to other areas/cities, Malmö was not the ideal mission base. The bishop took cognizant of this predicament. When the Parish Priest of Linköping decided to go back to England, the Bishop of the Diocese offered us to take over and make Linköping our mission base, which we gladly accepted. We moved to Linköping in August 2008. To help us in the transition period, another Passionist Priest, Fr. John McCormack, C.P., who belongs to the English Passionists (England) was temporarily appointed as Parish Priest until such time when a Filipino Passionist would be fluent or at least manage to converse, in Swedish language. When that moment came, Fr. John left the Linköping Parish in December 2010 after turning over the the responsibility to care for the Parish to the Filipino Passionists. By January 2011, the Bishop officially turned over the Parish to us. Consequently. Fr. Gabriel Baldostamon, C.P. was appointed and installed as Parish Priest, the first Filipino Priest ever to be accorded such position in Europe.
With this development, the Filipino Mission in Sweden took another ministry, the Parish Ministry, in addition to the Pastoral Care Ministry for the Filipinos here in Sweden. We are now engaged in two ministries in the Diocese, namely.
1. Pastoral care ministry for the Filipinos
2. Parish ministry
After a while, we were able to organize other Filipino communities in Linköping and in Norrköping. Then we expanded our mission to Täby and Gävle. Täby community was consequently joined to Stockholm community.
Again with only two priests in the Fil-Mission and with the increasing number of Filipinos in Sweden. We felt the need for another Priest. After consulting the Bishop and after informing our Passionist Community of the Philippines, another Filipino Passionist Priest, Fr. Nelson Caserial, was sent to Sweden and came to Linköping on November 6, 2011. With his presence expansions were made in Örebro, Skövde, Luleå, Borås, Enköping, Sundsvall, Uppsala,, Gällivare-Kiruna, Varberg, Jönköping,
Another Passionist Priest, Fr. Roño Toledo C.P. joined our man-power on June 24, 2014.
With this addition, we have been able to organize other Filipino Communities in Skellefteå, Kristianstad, Kalmar, and Västerås.
Presently, the Fil-Mission in Sweden is taking care of the twenty two (22) Filipino Christian Communities and Two Parishes.
The following are the Filipino Communities under our Pastoral Care:
1. Malmö (which also includes the other neighboring areas like Ystad, Trelleborg, Lund)
2. Helsingborg ( which includes Halmstad)
9. Trollhättan (which includes Vännersborg)
11. Stockholm (and neighboring areas like Täby)
13. Luleå (which includes Piteå, Boden, Haparanda and Kallax)
We have initial contacts/invitations also from Karlstad, Falun-Börlänge-Ludvika and Östersund. Occasionaly, we are also invited to celebrate mass in Denmark.
In 2014, another parish, St Joseph the Worker Parish of Luleå, was entrusted to us by the Bishop. Fr. Nelson Caserial was appointed as the Parish Priest on May 1, 2015 and was consequently installed as such on June 24, 2015. As Parish Priest, he is presently residing there.
Thus, we are presently engaged in two (2) Parishes of the Diocese, namely:
1. St. Nikolai Catholic Parish in Linköping, and,
2. St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish in Luleå
As of now there are four Filipino Priests in the Fil-Mission. All of us belong to the Passionist Congregation and, except for Fr. Nelson, live in Linköping, the mission’s base station. From Linköping, we visit regularly (every month) these areas, usually on weekend for that is the best time to gather and meet the Filipinos.
However, practically, only two of us are doing the visitation to these communities, since Fr. Gabriel is tied up with the Parish works as parish priest of the Saint Nikolai Parish in Linköping. The Filipino communities in the north are taken care of by Fr. Nelson.
In our mission, we celebrate masses, administer other sacraments like baptism, marriage, confession, annointing of the sick. We give counseling where needed; give retreats and recollections, conduct Bible seminar/studies, and visit the sick.
Once a year since 2009, we have been holding a Diocesan General Assembly of the Filipinos in Sweden. We feel that it is good for us Filipinos in Sweden to come together, pray and celebrate together, sing together, eat together, share talents and simply enjoy each others company and presence at least once a year. The first of these assemblies was held in Linköping (2009), followed by Helsingborg (2010), Stockholm (2011), and Malmö (2012), Göteborg (2013), Trollhättan-Vänersborg (2014), Örebro (2015), Gävle (2016).
Next year’s assembly (2017) will be held in Borås.
Moreover, since 2014, we have also been conducting an annual FCC Leaders’ Assembly. So far, all the FCC Leaders’ Assemblies had been held in Linköping Parish.
As of the present, the estimated number of Filipinos in Sweden runs between 10,000 to 15,000 and still increasing. We don’t have the exact number yet.
Geographically, our mission covers the South, the Middle and the North of Sweden. We dream of covering more areas where there are Filipinos. But to do this we need more personnel. The Bishop has been informed about this and has given his go-signal. We are just waiting now for the response from our Passionist Community of the Philippines. We hope that another Passionist Priest will come in the near future for the “harvest is great but the laborers are few”.