THE feast of our Mother of Perpetual Help will be next Sunday. Last June 12 was the start of our daily novena masses. In our daily novena prayers, the symbols in the icons are thoroughly explained.

An icon is a sacred image created by a prayerful artist where he portrays symbols with deep insights.

The original icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help is now enshrined in the Redemptorist church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, Italy. The history of the original icon can be traced back to the year 1495 when the sacred image was enshrined in a church on the island of Crete. How the original icon came into the hands of the Redemptorists is an interesting and unique narrative which is not mine to tell due to my column's space limit.

The public is enjoined to click on this website (www.iconoflove.org) where the history of the original icon and the symbols of the icon are clearly narrated.

I can, however, safely quote that in the final process of the transfer of the original icon, our holy father Pope Pius IX surprised the Augustinian priests holding the icon to give the original image to the Redemptorists with the command, "Make our Mother of Perpetual Help known and loved!"

On April 26, 1866, the original icon came to St. Alphonsus church in Rome.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the handing over of the original icon to the Redemptorist Congregation. In this connection, a letter dated April 26 sent by Superior General Fr. Michael Brehl, C. Ss. R. to the congregation announced the Jubilee year to begin on the Feast of our Mother of Perpetual Help this June 27, to continue until the Feast of our Mother of Perpetual Help on June 27, 2016. In Cebu, however, and in Mindanao, the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help always falls on the third Sunday of June. The theme of this year’s celebration is, "Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Icon of Love."

We in Cebu, make our Redemptorist church the focal meeting place of all devotees who publicly wish to venerate our Mother of Perpetual Help. Our church has grown bigger to accommodate more and more people.

The main door of the church opens to show the main altar where a large picture of our Mother of Perpetual Help is enshrined. However, if one walks a few footsteps inside the main door and turns left, one will see a small altar where a true copy of the original icon is enshrined. Usually, one sees a line of people with floral offerings or thanksgiving prayers ready to pay their respects to Mother Mary.

In our church, there are three regular daily masses at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and 5:30 p.m. with daily scheduled confessions.

On the first Saturdays of the month, different communities surrounding the parish walk to the church with the image of our Mother of Perpetual Help while praying the rosary to be in time for the 5:30 a.m. mass.

We have 11 Wednesday novena masses throughout the day and people from the southernmost tip of the province to the northernmost tip of the province arrive to venerate our Mother Mary. A lot of devotees try to attend the nine consecutive Wednesday novena masses culminating on the Wednesday before the fiesta.

Nine days before the actual feast, we have the daily novena masses in preparation for the feast day.

The procession on the feast day itself has devotees willing to walk and pray "rain or shine."

The dedicated and committed Redemptorist priests in our midst have worked so hard whether through their services in church, through their missions, their outreach programs, retreats, recollections, hospital visitations etc. to make the command of the Holy Father Pope Pius IX, "Make our Mother of Perpetual Help known and loved worldwide" feasible. The committee on social concerns which takes care of the poor is so active.

We include these Redemptorists in our thanks to God. The challenge for us who have been blessed with God’s love and mercy through the intercessions of our Mother of Perpetual Help is to help others know and love our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Let us joyfully celebrate the Jubilee year of the transfer of the original icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists Congregation!