Story and photos by Gregory A. Shemitz

Farmingdale—Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza, Pope Francis’ representative at the United Nations, was the guest of honor Nov. 6 at the weekly gathering of Filipino-American Catholics at St. Kilian Church here. The Vatican nuncio, a native of Talibon, Philippines, presided at an evening Mass that attracted more than 300 worshippers.

The event was sponsored by the St. Kilian-based, New York metropolitan-area chapter of BLD, a Catholic charismatic ministry founded in Manila, Philippines, in 1985 that has spread to many countries around the world. BLD is an acronym for the Tagalog-language phrase “Bukas Loob Sa Diyos,” which means “Open in Spirit to God.”

During his homily, Archbishop Auza referenced Pope Francis’ September visit to Cuba and the United States, saying the overall theme of the pope’s trip was “the importance of family.”

“At the White House, (Pope Francis) told President Obama that he came to support the family,” said Archbishop Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the U.N. since July 2014.

The main purpose of the pontiff’s visit to the U.S. was to participate in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

“Our society needed to be reminded of the beauty and usefulness of the family for society and for future generations,” said Archbishop Auza, later adding, “The family is the answer to the challenges of the world.”

With “family” being the focal point of the BLD’s evangelization mission, the nuncio’s words were well received by the more than 150 community members in attendance. (The rest of the assembly was comprised largely of St. Kilian parishioners.)

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“We try to evangelize every member of the family, to bring them closer to the Lord,” explained Rene Bacani, the leader of the BLD community that covers the New York metro region, including all of Long Island.

Concelebrants at the Mass included Msgr. Romualdo Sosing, pastor at Holy Name of Mary Church, Valley Stream; Fr. Gius Garcia, associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace Church, West Babylon; Father Len Sabio, associate pastor at St. Louis de Montfort Church, Sound Beach; and Father Augustine Fernando, retired priest in residence at St. Kilian. Father Michael Duffy, St. Kilian associate pastor, served as master of ceremonies.

After the liturgy, Archbishop Auza greeted people and posed for dozens of photos in the church vestibule. The prelate also mingled with participants at a small reception in one of the basement meeting rooms.

The BLD community has been meeting at St. Kilian’s every Friday night since February 2001. The gathering, which averages 80-100 members per week, begins with recitation of the rosary at 7:45, followed by praise and worship from 8 to 9:30, and fellowship from 9:30 to 10. A healing Mass is celebrated on First Fridays.

Members volunteer at the soup kitchen at St. Anne Parish, Brentwood, the second Saturday of each month and participate in an annual medical mission to the Philippines every winter.

Mr. Bacani hopes that Archbishop Auza’s visit will help generate new members for the group.

BLD is “mostly Filipinos, but it’s open to everyone,” he said. “That’s why we invited parishioners to the Mass.”

Two days after visiting St. Kilian’s, Archbishop Auza returned to Long Island, where he was the keynote speaker at the annual St. Agnes Lecture at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington.