June 1994. A new quest was launched by the Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Three Filipino friars trained in Rome, Italy were sent by their Superior General to pilot a new venture, i.e. Rev. Fr. Carmelo del Rosario (priest-psychologist), Rev. Fr. John Carlo Ma. Rosales (priest-engineer), and Bro. Gerard Buen (radio technician). All three were caught by surprise upon being told to search for the possibility of putting up a Radio Broadcasting System in Naga City – the Heart of Bicol. Arriving in Naga City by the 2nd of June they immediately began seeking new acquaintances who could be of help in securing the necessary data for the project. Gradually the development began.
The positive results of the initial transactions triggered further zeal for the first missionaries to advance the cause of the planned radio. Solicitations began in the country and abroad while the missionaries continue to support the project thru their most relevant investment – the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament! Ironically the journey began and it began with nothing at hand!
8th of September. The Missionaries were so much amazed to receive a surprise gift from a benefactor whose devotion to Mary is as strong as her desire to spread the Gospel of Christ thru Radio. “Pasensya na po kayo…” was her humble excuse. And with childish shyness, she handed over a gift check enough to pay “half” of the entire cost of radio equipment. Praised be Jesus thru Mary!!!
Mother Mary’s birthday gift inspired the missionaries to begin searching for the future venue of the planned Radio Station. Amidst the rain of September, they eyed possible places in Naga City, Camarines Sur where the new mission was mandated to commence. After some days, they found a new home at 632 Barlin Street, Naga City just in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Nueva Caceres. The new haven was then called: Caritas Mariae Tabang Banuaan Center.”
Caritas Mariae. They are Latin words meaning “Charity of Mary”. They are expressive of the very charism of the missionaries themselves. Theirs is a mission of charity towards humanity most especially for those marginalized both by material and spiritual poverty. It is a radical sense of loving in a manner dearest to the heart of every Bicolano – a love borne of Mary, The Lady of Peñafrancia!
Tabang Banuaan. They are words native to the Bicolano dialect meaning “Community Service”. Prelude to the dawn of the Radio Station, the missionaries thought of getting more acquaintances through their initial pastoral immersion. “Service” was the imperative word that was immediately evident in the new center. Daily Mass, outreach to visiting beggars, assistance to the Parishes, and Media Networking like film shows, exhibits, etc.
September 13, 1994. Caritas Mariae was formally approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission by the Director of SEC Corporate and Legal Department, Ms. Sonia Ballo. The ratification categorizes Caritas Mariae as a “non-profit” Foundation with SEC regulation number 003475. The Board of Trustees is comprised of Mr. Virgilio Pulayan as President with some other Franciscan Tertiaries in Metro Manila. Its main office is at 753 P. Sevilla St., Kalookan Metro Manila.
According to the pioneering staff, the following are the projected goals of the Foundation.
With the approval of the foundation, the Center became equipped with a possible set-up organization that would result in the following terms: the preservation of the strict observance of poverty on the part of the missionaries and their access to volunteers who will take part in the foundation and are willing to act as a third entity to any financial transactions.
October 4, Solemnity of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of the Franciscans of the Immaculate marked the birth of Caritas Mariae Center, Rev. Fr. Carmelo del Rosario, FFI inaugurated the mission house honored by the presence of their friends and benefactors. A simple Mass was celebrated in the then little Chapel of adoration located in the heart of the newly renovated house. The following important features took place:
After a week, that was the 11th of the same month, His Excellency Msgr. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, OP, DD officially ratified his consent to keep the Blessed Sacrament in the Center for public adoration and functions. They “…will be holding a 24-hour adoration prayer to serve as the media center’s “powerhouse” as St. Maximilian did when he put up his apostolate for the media” (Letter to the Bishop, docum006./301).
With the Eucharist in their midst, the missionaries began to feel the renewed confidence in advancing their cause. November 1994 marked further developments in the progressing mission on the first three friars. Rev. Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, FFI, Founder of the Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate invigorated them more when he came for a canonical visit from Italy. His presence was indeed a grace. The missionaries, therefore, have had the opportunity of being in colloquy with him regarding some difficulties which they naturally encountered in the newly born Center. And based on the capitulary reports submitted by Rev. Fr. Carmelo del Rosario, Director of the Center, the following were their details:
In the realm of technical progress. Caritas Center was blessed with more positive transactional results. By the 14th of November 1994, a gratuitous letter from Commissioner Simeon L. Kintanar of the National Telecommunications Commission was sent to the Radio Veritas Global Broadcasting System, Incorporated containing the official “permit to purchase” the Radio equipment. This ratification was indeed a big grace from the Lord since the future Radio Station was then under the franchise of the said broadcasting system. Eight days later, on November 22, 1994, the feasibility study was made by the National Telecommunications Commissions based on the technical and economic liabilities of the future Radio. The study was done under the supervision of Commissioner Kintanar.
The succeeding months were evident manifestations of God’s caring hands. Young people began to feel the need of responding to the pastoral challenges laid down by the friars. The daily Masses also began to touch the hearts of many lives so much so that the Center continued to be inadequate in as far as space was concerned. Eventually, the following developments took place.
Friends, benefactors, and volunteers felt a common desire to link themselves to the charism imparted by the Franciscan missionaries. Beginning on the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul a good number of volunteer ministers at the newly launched center agreed to consecrate themselves as Tertiary Franciscans of the Immaculate (TFI). The pioneering candidates were Sr. Clare Alfonso and Sr. Agnes Dee both of whom are natives of the place. Their cheerful and high-spirited concern for the poor invited further applicants to the tertiaries. Up till the present, the number of tertiaries has increased to 230 in the Bicol Region. 30 in Metro Manila and some 20 in Palawan Islands.
Vocations also began to sprout among young boys frequenting the Center. In less than a year, the missionaries began to organize a regular day for “vocation search-in”. Many boys indeed responded to it and the Center was then never short of applicants up to the present. Regular volunteers began to stay as full-time collaborators of the Center which somehow answered the friars’ difficulty in making a balance between the apostolate and prayer obligations. This activity, therefore, is more popularly known among youngsters as the “Basic Caritas Community” or BCC. By May 1995, four BCC boys were transferred to the Our Lady of Consolation Formation Center in Cebu City for further Franciscan Training.
Young people were not also left behind in the Center. The AKI Foundation Incorporated was also organized simply to answer the growing need for redirecting the faith of the youth of today towards real values and proper leadership orientation. The regular leadership training program was conducted for their formation and they were given the monthly youth encounter called “Caritas Renewal Experience” which was more popularly known as “CREX”. They actively took part in the youth program of the Diocese most especially in its endeavor to be present during the World Youth Day activities together with His Holiness Pope John Paul II. The Foundation was then ratified as a non-profit entity on September 25, 1995, by the Security Exchange Commission.
Strikingly, many people frequent the center for one sublime purpose – the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Foundation of the Confraternity of the Tertiary Franciscans of the Immaculate did help to make an extension of another apostolic endeavor. With their acquaintances, they decided to put a team that will perseveringly cater to the midday adoration as well as the afternoon adoration since the morning adoration is being taken care of by the BCC Volunteers.
While Caritas continued to face the pastoral challenges Bicolwide, certain technical development began to materialize. March 1995 marked another stepping stone to the upgrading of the Caritas Radio-in-the-making.
The rapid proceedings of Radio Caritas were indeed a striking one. Much to the surprise of its critiques, the silence of the ongoing construction was suddenly broken at the outbreak of its inauguration. On January 20, 1996. His Excellency Monsignor Leonardo Legaspi, OP, DD, celebrated the inaugural Mass at the Caritas Center. That day historically marked the realization of a seemingly impossible mission catered to the three missionaries. Radio Caritas Mariae is now a real entity in the world of arts and communications.