Friday, August 28, 2015

Called to serve the Lord

I am very proud to introduce the two young men we are sponsoring at the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus seminary in Cagayan de Oro. Both are recent high school graduates who felt the Lord inviting them to discern a call to the priesthood.

Visiting Edgar, Marnilou, and Fr. Archie, the priest in charge of their formation.
Edgar was one of my favorite students at Holy Rosary High School. He is a bright and respectful young man. Last fall, when we casually questioned him and his classmates about their life goals, Edgar admitted that he wanted to be a priest! We were happily surprised and encouraged him, giving him a Bible and a book on St. John Bosco to learn more about the priesthood. Fatherless, and with his mother abroad for the past eight years, Edgar was raised by his grandmother. He wrote this letter to express his thanks to all of our benefactors:

Edgar and his Lola invited us to join them for a meal after their town's fiesta Mass.
"Good day!! I am Edgar Magpatoc Abid. I am 18 years old. I live in Manuyog, Sagay, Camiguin Province. I graduated from Holy Rosary High School 2014-2015 last March. I am the son of Ednalin M. Abid and the grandson of Angelita M. Abid. I have no father. I am an illegitimate child. We are two siblings, and I am the oldest. My grandmother is a servant of God; she is a lay minister. My mother works abroad. I am Edgar M. Abid, who has a dream to become a priest someday. I want to become a priest because I want to know God, to serve God, to love God, and to be happy with Him in heaven. I want to help those people who do not truly believe in God and also spread the words of God. I am so very thankful for the support. I hope that you will continue supporting my vocation and I pray that our Beloved God will bless you and guide you. Also, pray for me in my chosen vocation. Once again thank you!"
Our other seminarian is Marnilou, who graduated this spring from Sagay National High School. He comes from a strong Catholic family, with one brother already ordained a priest and another brother currently studying in the same seminary. We first met him through Edgar -- their families are next-door neighbors -- and we are so honored to be sponsoring him in seminary. This is his letter to all of our benefactors:

Happy fiesta! Visiting with Marnilou, his brother Marnito (also in seminary), and their parents.
"First of all good day!! I am Marnilou Namata Piloton, 18 years old. I live in Manuyog, Sagay, Camiguin Province of the Philippines. I am the 4th to the youngest in our family. Let me introduce my parents. My father is Marnito Nituda Piloton Sr. and he is the president of our [village] chapel. My mother is Melchorita Namata Piloton and she is a member of the Divine Mercy [devotional group].
We are all twelve siblings, 3 girls and 9 boys. The oldest, Rev. Fr. Marlo Namata Piloton, is a priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The next are Jameson, Marinel Pangasian, Manelyn, Malbert, Mariel, Marjory, Marnito Jr. (who is a seminarian in his 3rd year now), me, Mardel, Mark, and the youngest is Marl James.
I want to become a priest someday to follow Jesus Christ and serve the people, especially the poor. Like my brother, I want to serve the Lord and to become His soldier, and this is my way to serve Him.
Please pray for me to the Lord our God Jesus Christ, especially for my vocation life in the seminary. Thank you, and God bless us!"
I am inspired by these two young men who are responding to the call God has placed on their hearts to serve His Church! Let us pray for Edgar, Marnilou, and all young people who are discerning the priesthood or religious life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

When there is no justice...

I don't teach for the sake of the lessons. I teach for the students.

That might sound obvious, but what I mean is this: being a teacher at Holy Rosary High School is just my "in," a foot in the door to these kids' lives. Inside the classroom, it's nouns, verbs, and English vocabulary, but that's all superficial. It's outside the classroom that counts.

Today during our lunch break, three of my students arrived on our doorstep, telling me they were "problematic." As it turned out, their problem was a common one - no money to pay for tuition this month. But why? I wanted to know the back story, to get more information on their families and home lives.

Mae began, explaining to me that her mother moved to another island three years ago for work and now has a "new family" there; she hasn't visited for the past two years. Mae's father moved to the mainland this past December and sends money back to her, but only on occasion. With both of her parents gone and her grandmother having passed away this spring, Mae is officially the woman of the house.

Their home in the mountain.
Mae is 14 years old and in charge of her 13-year-old brother Rey and their little brother, who is in first grade. She and her siblings live alone up in the mountain. Every morning she wakes at 4am to cook for her "little family." She walks a far distance down the mountain each day to fetch water for their house. During the week she goes to school, and every Saturday she is busy hand-washing all their clothes. Her brother Rey should be in 7th grade, but he dropped out after one month because, as Mae explains, "no budget."

Walking down the mountain from their house.
"Who takes care of you?" I asked. "Who looks out for Mae?"

"No one," came the heart-wrenching reply, as she buried her head in my shoulder and wept.

Injustice. The word boils up inside of me and spills over just like the coffee pot when I leave it too long over the fire. Injustice, that a 14-year-old child should be the sole guardian and caregiver for her two younger siblings. Injustice, that she should have to concern herself with the survival needs of her family while the other teachers and I still unwittingly expect her to attend class each day and complete her assignments.

And most of all, my own injustice, that I've been trying to "prudently" distribute and budget my alms, when, as a matter of justice, every penny I own belongs to Mae and to those like her.

The only available water source for Mae's village is near the bottom of the mountain.
I wish I had a neat and tidy ending to this story, but there is none. For now, I could leave Mae only with the promise that Papa Jesus Himself is taking care of her, and with our own small commitment to sponsor her monthly tuition fees.

Mae is a brave young woman and I am proud to call her my student. I am begging the Lord to have mercy on her and to show me a greater way to love His children, who deserve so much more than we can ever offer them.

"You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. The world is given to all and not only to the rich." ~ St. Ambrose

We are sponsoring Mae and 20 other needy children like her. Please consider becoming a part of this work by donating to our mission!