Monday, May 30, 2016

A tribute to Father

This is an important week for our Church! This Sunday was the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus, and this Friday we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is also an important week for Father Joe, our priest, spiritual father, and mission partner here in Sagay.

In April 1989, in southern Maryland, I was born. Just a few weeks later, Fr. Joe was visiting parishes in New Jersey giving mission appeals and planning to continue on to Rome. But he never made it to Rome because he suddenly became very sick and had a series of seizures. After five days with no improvement, his host family convinced him to go to the hospital. 

Baptizing dozens of babies at a chapel Mass. Father has a deep love for the sacraments.
In Father's words, the doctor briefly examined him and then commanded the hospital staff to "get that man admitted immediately! He has two days to live!" A large mass on Father's brain made an emergency operation necessary but with little hope for success -- Father was told his chances were 50/50 and that, even if he survived, there was a great possibility that he would be left in a vegetative state.

On the eve of Corpus Christi, Fr. Joe lay awake in his hospital bed anticipating the operation that would begin the next morning. It was his first and only visit to the States, and considering the possible outcomes, he requested that his bishop in the Philippines have his body sent home for burial if he did not survive.

In his early priesthood, celebrating with a young couple after their wedding Mass.
Miraculously, the operation was 100% successful! And five days later on the feast of the Sacred Heart, his bandages were removed and doctors cleared him for discharge -- a miraculously quick recovery!!

Today, 27 years later, Fr. Joe frequently reflects on his life and how God has led him through every trial he has faced, not the least of which being his operation. This anniversary week is always a reminiscent time for him, but this year in particular because it is also the closing of a chapter in his priestly life. After nine years of faithful, tireless service to the people of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish in Sagay, Father is being transferred to the coastal town of Balingoan located on the mainland, less than a mile from the port. This Friday he will cross the ferry and report to his new assignment, beginning a new chapter in his life just as he did on that same day so many years ago.

A common sight: Father hiking mountains to visit the sick or in search of water sources.
God has been so good to Father Joe -- and so very good to me for allowing me to serve under his shepherding care. I have learned from Father that we can each only do so much - no one person can do everything - but that our job as Christians is never completed. That when we are unsure if some undertaking is possible, we must simply go on and trust that the Lord will take care of it.

That, in matters of mercy and service to the poor, it's better to act first and ask questions later, to not worry whether your finances and resources will suffice but to just give and give until there is nothing left.

Blessing a ferry before its first voyage. Fr. Joe's own father was a marine mechanic.
I have learned that a little humor can lighten the heaviest of life's burdens and that there's nothing a cold bottle of coke cannot fix. That the Lord affords us all sufferings for our good, and that sometimes He even allows us to "suffer comfortably." That, while we may not always see God's hand at work in our lives, when we look back we will realize that He was there all along.

Repairing a family's home after it was destroyed by a fallen coconut tree.
I love you, Father! Your new flock will be forever blessed to have you as their shepherd! I pray that the Holy Spirit will raise up many more holy priests willing to lay down their very lives every day for their people and their poor.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Here are a few pictures from the busy month of May!

Baby Ariel was born with a hole in his heart. We met him in January when he was just one month old; he was thin with grayish skin and rarely made a sound -- clearly a sick little baby! After two trips to a cardio-pediatrician on the mainland and four months of daily medicine, the hole has begun to close. Ariel is thriving and getting chubbier every day. Thank You, Jesus!

On the right is Onel, a young man from Malaybalay who attended our mission trip this April. Last week he accompanied us on a home visit to Michael, our friend suffering from PAN, a rare disease of the blood vessels. Although Onel himself has received little formal education and has great difficulty reading, he zealously shared a Scripture passage with Michael's family and spoke to them about repentance and the mercy of God. Evidence of what the Holy Spirit can do in a heart that is ready to receive Him! 

These are our dear friends Lilay and Jerome Siapo! Until now, they and their five children have shared a small, crowded house with their extended family. With the help of Fr. Joe's maintenance team and YOUR generous donations, they now have a home of their own. (This picture was taken after Fr. Joe blessed their new house.) Please pray for the Siapo family as they work alongside us in this mission. Jerome gave up his job this year so they can serve full-time as FMC interns while they discern whether the Lord is calling them to become missionaries!