Friday, April 6, 2007



In the Old Testament, the Jewish people wandered in the desert for decades, moving from one land to another until they reached the Promised Land.

In a way, the humble beginnings of the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart can be likened to their experience. The devout community at Barangay San Antonio in Makati City, journeyed for decades, moving and building chapels from one site to another until they found a permanent house of worship.

The story of the Sacred Heart Shrine began in the mid 1950's when a small group of people in Barangay San Antonio was looking for a common place for worship. At that time, San Antonio was a sparsely populated village surrounded by cogon and rice fields. Deeply religious the people celebrated fiestas and held masses in makeshift chapels.

In 1955, the Women's Club of San Antonio put up the first chapel on a vacant lot in Kamagong Street. The San Antonio Village Women's Club was headed by the late Mrs. Leonor Tello and Mrs. Paula P. Pena, and they were assisted by a youth leader, Mr. Eddie Tabhan.

The Chabarel Hall fathers and other priests were invited to say mass for the villagers in that chapel. One of these priests was Jesuit Father Pedro Verceles, who was the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer (AP) that time. AP is an international Catholic organization that actively promotes the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Fr. Verceles kindled the community's devotion to the Sacred Heart. Eventually, the AP Center 1226 was established in Barangay San Antonio on June 19, 1957.

In 1960, the growing community felt the need to move on to a bigger chapel. Thus, they built a larger one on an idle land also located at Kamagong Street.

Two years later, the community had to transfer again because the owner had to use the property. So the members looked for a more spacious and permanent site for the chapel. They found a suitable land on nearby Dao Street, a 4,000 square meter lot owned by the Ayala Corporation.

In the course of their civic work, the community leaders met Atty. Jose Feria of the Makati League of Good Government; who offered to help request the Ayala Corporation to lease the land where the Church now permanently stands.

The Ayala Corporation agreed to lease the land to the community only if the AP Center would be duly incorporated. The AP members did what they were requested to do. Thus AP Center No. 1226 was incorporated as the San Antonio Village Apostleship of Prayer Center Inc. or SAVAPCI on October 27, 1964. The community designated Jesuit Father Lorenzo Ma. Guerrero. who replaced Fr. Verceles as AP National Director, as their adviser.

With the expressed approval of the Ayala Corporation, the Makati Citizen's League Lessor leased to the SAVAPCI the land where the Shrine stands now on December 29, 1964.
In the next four years, Fr. Guerrero led the community's fund raising efforts for the chapel's construction. Raffles, benefit dinners, bingo socials and rummage sales were held to raise funds. Fr. Guerrero's friends also donated various construction materials.

The chapel's construction took three years to complete. Finally, on December 18, 1971, the Sacred Heart Chapel, borne out of the community's collective effort, was blessed by Bishop Amado Paulino, then Auxiliary Bishop of Manila. The community's persistent search for a permanent home finally ended.


Less than a year after the chapel's blessing, some community members petitioned for the conversion of the San Antonio community into a parish. Rufino Cardinal Santos, the Archbishop of Manila, assigned Fr. Nico P. Bautista to prepare the community for the eventual parish conversion on November 8, 1972.

One requirement for the conversion was the transfer of the land's lease from the SAVAPCI to the Archbishop of Manila. Cardinal Santos said this would assure the stability and permanency of the parish.

As history had to run its course and challenge the community for eventual changes from a chapel community to a parochial one, a legal dispute resulted during the transfer. It was a trying time and it divided the community for a while. The Decree of Erection of the Sacred Heart Parish was signed on January 11, 1976 by Archbishop Jaime Sin, who replaced Cardinal Santos as Archbishop of Manila and Fr. Nico was officially appointed as the first Parish Priest.

A few weeks later, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) led by Julio Cardinal Rosales moved for the designation of the parish as the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart.

The canonical inauguration of the Parish, the Shrine and Fr. Nico's installation as its first Parish Priest and Rector took place on February 14, 1976, almost 31 years ago, as of this year.


In the past three decades, the Shrine and the Parish have undergone many changes. The physical transformation of the Church is very visible. But one needs to take a closer look into the underlying changes in its programs and character as a community of God which are far more significant.

The first five years of the Parish was a period of organizing and taking root. Fr. Nico was an effective communicator who worked with great zeal in laying the foundation for the parish's ministry programs. He made himself available to the people, especially the poor and the youth, always ready for consultations and in administering the Sacraments.

It was the time when lay organizations, such as the Catholic Women's League, the Legion Mary and the Youth Club, were actively formed. It also marked the parish's initial outreach to non-churchgoers in the community and attempted to foster a sense of family unity among the diverse members of the community.

During those waning years of the Martial Law, people from all walks of life would come to the shrine to hear Fr. Nico's hard-hitting homilies. Fr. Nico served the Shrine for a total of eight years, from 1972-1981. Part of his legacy is the bronze statue of the muscular and smiling image of the Sacred Heart which was once the centerpiece in the Shrine's Altar. This statue is now the centerpiece of a plaza fronting the Church.


For four months in 1981, Msgr. Godofredo Pedernal served as interim rector of the Shrine until Fr. Maximo A. Ocampo was appointed as the second Parish Priest and Rector. Incidentally, Fr. Max was on a break from his parish work in the U.S. when he got the new assignment. He immediately buckled to work and served as the lead architect of what is considered a period of building in the Shrine's history.

As a fitting testament to the permanence of the land on where the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart currently sits, a Deed of Donation was awarded by Don Enrique Zobel of Ayala Land Corporation for the benefit of the Sacred Heart Parish Community; which was accepted by Fr. Max Ocampo, sometime in late 1981.

Fr. Max started his term by putting the Shrine in order; sprucing up its surroundings, paving the grounds, lighting up the area and building a fence around it. Afterwards, he organized the mortuary and turned it into a source of revenue for other renovations and facilities construction.

Fr. Max was of the mindset that if he could help it, he would not ask for contributions or have too many fund drives. It was his thinking that the parishioners should concentrate on their spiritual life without having to constantly raise funds.

Together, with the Parish Pastoral Council headed by Ric Alindayu, Father Max dedicatedly set about working on his vision. First, he built auxiliary chapels and introduced pre-need pledges for its use among the parishioners. With this money, Father Max dutifully:

A) Built the rectory and parish office and the medical-dental clinic to serve the needs of the poor;
B) Undertook the first major total renovation of the Church, working together with the patronage of his "cabalen" the late Mayor Nemesio Yabut; This was blessed by His Eminence Cardinal Sin on June 1985.

C) Enlarged the parish hall after a year or two and added a terrace and the consultation rooms being used by the visiting Sisters;

D) Built the niches alongside the chapels in order to fund the building of a new and bigger Medical and Dental Clinic for the increasing number of patients the clinic was ministering to;

E) Refurbished the old clinic so it could serve as the parish office, while the old office was turned into a Reconciliation Room.

With the help of the architects and builders in the Parish, the Church was made over with a modern and Western look, but projecting a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Fr. Max also put up much needed structures within the Church compound such as the rectory, the medico-dental clinic, the niches, and parish halls.

It was also during the term of Fr. Max when auxiliary chapels were built in Sta. Cruz and San Antonio. Pastoral programs for the poor were also begun.

The Shrine's builder-priest is also a builder of leaders. Fr. Max is also credited for building up a good core of leaders most of whom held positions in various organizations in the district of Makati, such as the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women's League, Daughters of Mary Immaculate, Legion of Mary, Mother Butler Guild, and other Catholic Charismatic groups.
Fr. Max "constructively" served the Shrine for 18 fruitful years until his retirement in 1999. He splits his time between the Shrine and a parish in the United States.


The appointment of Bishop Crisostomo Yalung in 1999 as Shrine Rector and Parish Priest was aptly described as auspicious. Bishop Yalung then held multiple positions at the Archdiocese of Manila and the CBCP.

All through his term, the Shrine became a more prominent pilgrimage site. The Shrine drew waves upon waves of devotees, especially during the Jubilee Year, when it was designated as one of the Seven Jubilee Churches in the Archdiocese of Manila.

The Shrine was also one of the first stops of the Relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in its three month stay in the Philippines in the year 2000. Moreover, the Shrine became the center of church activities in the district of Makati.

Bishop Yalung made changes that forged unity among the parishioners from both sub-parishes. During his term, evangelical efforts were also enhanced through innovations on liturgical and related activities. He also pushed for the publication of the weekly newsletter called Heart Works.

Bishop Yalung served the Shrine for only three years. In that short time, more physical improvements in the church structure and in the compound were done to make the Shrine a more comfortable place for worship. This includes the redecoration of the altar, the repair and strengthening of the Church's basic structure, and the retouching of the interiors.


The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart is an artistic fusion of post modern
and classic interiors thoughtfully designed to complement elegance,
and accentuate comfort with solemnity of worship.

The centerpiece of the Altar is the hand-painted massive portraiture
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is in itself, a masterpiece artwork
by a Filipino painter-artist priest, Fr. Armand Tangi, SSP.

The colorful and artistic unique mosaic glass interpretation of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus was also designed by Fr. Armand Tangi,
is now the center of adoration
at the Adoration Chapel of the Shrine.

The Altar of Repose located at the left side corner of the Church which
houses the different Saints on their respective occasions.


Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio took over a newly-refurbished Church in 2001 when he replaced Bishop Yalung as the Shrine's Rector and Parish Priest. With the physical improvements of the Church taken cared of, Msgr. Clem then set out to restructure the parish programs to make them more ministerial, action-oriented and geared towards the poor.

Under Msgr. Clem's guidance, a new parish vision and mission came about. The parish is now moving towards the fulfillment of its vision of "a caring, loving and responsive Church." It's mission is to make this vision alive, visible and felt in its journey especially with the Church of the Poor.

The parish is currently carrying out this mission through the scholarship program, the expanded evangelization programs in the depressed areas of the community, a micro lending program, housing assistance for the poor, a more active health care program, and many such other activities.

As concrete proof of the success of the outreach programs, many of the less fortunate members of the community have volunteered and integrated themselves into the parish programs and ministries. Aside from continuously promoting the devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Shrine has also extended it compassion to poor parishes and dioceses in need outside of Metro Manila.

Msgr. Clem's deep abiding love for the poor, the children and the youth has shaped this current chapter in the Shrine's journey of faith. More and more parishioners are following his lead by reaching out to the poor and contributing their share in drawing poor people to the Church.


A brief moment in the Shrine's history is the pastorship of Fr. Pericles "Prex" Fajardo. Known for his amiability and availability, he hoped to bring about a better and renewed community of priests. He began the team ministry effort in the Shrine so that the priests could get more involved in the pastoring of the flock.

He also built the Chapel for the priests so that they could deepen their spiritual life and minister better for the parishioners. Fr. Prex also strengthened the ministry for healing and a more vibrant Sacrament of Reconciliation. He encouraged and supported on going formation and spiritual retreats and recollections. His brief but fruitful stay had lasting contributions to the life of the Shrine which Msgr. Clem continued when he came back.


We have traced how the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart came to be, how its story developed in the past 31 years. Now we know how it took form: from the informal gatherings of a small group of deeply religious people that led to the building of a small Chapel; from the community of Sacred Heart Devotees who found the land and pooled their resources to build a bigger Chapel; the somewhat painful transition from a Chapel Community to a Parish; and the growth of the Church, internally and externally, with the coming and going of every Rector and Parish Priest.

The next significant question is: Where is God calling the Shrine's community to go? And some of you might be moved to ask, how can I take part in this journey?

At present, the Shrine is trying to implement the new vision of the Archdiocese of Manila under the leadership of His Excellency Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, D.D. This vision is not far from where the Shrine is headed. It is also continuing to find fresh ways and meaning to the devotion to the Sacred Heart. It hopes to follow the road to becoming a caring, loving and responsive Church, especially for the materially and spiritually impoverished.

This mission is adapted from the Archdiocese of Manila's greater vision of becoming "a community of persons with the fullness of life." You can make a difference by opening your heart, drawing it closer to God and being a part of this wonderful parish community.

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