Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bingo and Life

The day before Lunar New Year, Fr. Joseph, the priest responsible for pastoral care of the foreign community and seamen, recounts in his Peace Weekly column how he spent the day.

The members of the Filipino community began to make their way to the cathedral parish, where every Sunday afternoon at 4:00 he celebrates an English Mass for the foreign Catholics in the diocese. However, since the Koreans during this festive time would be with their families, the Filipinos were also anxious to be with their fellow Filipinos and the place they decided on was the cathedral parish, to play bingo, eat and enjoy each others' company.

They asked him to start off their time together with a prayer. He was taken by surprise by the request, but made the sign of the cross and said a prayer. He turned the microphone over to the master of ceremonies. The emcee, like the emcee at a racetrack or a TV variety show, began with eloquence and skill to set the atmosphere for their time together. Everyone enjoyed his speech and bodily movements, joining in with laughter and applause.

The meeting place was separated from the sisters' convent only by a  wall so Fr. Joseph was somewhat concerned what the sisters would be thinking. The possibility for the sisters to spend a  quiet weekend was seemingly in doubt. What was he  to do? he wondered. The Filipinos had come together to enjoy each others company, to laugh and to celebrate the holiday--and of course to play bingo.

Fr. Joesph mentioned his experience overseas in pastoral work where he had seen bingo parties before, but they were all very serene and calmly directed events. This one was very different. The Filipinos were singing, eating, shouting with laughter, a veritable variety show. All this was going on while the numbers were taken out of a container and read off to the players. Each player was busy trying to fill cards with the numbers: horizontally, vertically, diagonally. He doesn't know those who were  successful,  but he knew all were having a lot of fun.

Fr. Joseph ends his column by comparing a bingo card to a person's life: at times as complicated and varied as trying to win at bingo. There were times when the players had all that was necessary to shout bingo, he says, but not knowing it, they waited for another number. At times they were dazzled when others were winning, and often chose to turn in their card for another, thinking it would bring them the winning numbers. He has, he says, in his own hand a bingo card. Will the winning numbers be horizontal, vertical or diagonal? "Lord," he asks," today what will be my reason to shout bingo?"

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