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Learning experiences for a pastor and his flock – 2


It was the first time that I was transferring from one parish to another. That morning of my departure, the active, faithful and supportive parishioners were all around the rectory trying to help pick boxes, bags and whatever furniture I was to bring. Others were milling around inside the church looking sad, crying, murmuring their farewells, waiting to kiss my hand or hug their pastor one last time. Outside the church, a retinue of jeeps, jeepneys, cars and a pick-up truck was readying to transport the people who would accompany me on my exit trail.

As I stepped outside the church, I was met by all sorts parishioners – the ladies who volunteer to clean, the youth wearing the ‘I love fr. Ramil’ shirts, neighbors expressing gratitude and sadness, etc…

Suddenly there came to me, two ladies who were crying their hearts out, telling me how they will miss me and how sad they were that I will be gone from the neighborhood. I know these ladies because I always see them. I pass by the ‘rice store’ of one each time I needed to venture in front of the church. I see the other regularly sitting by the roadside gossiping with her friends or fetching water. I was surprised at their tears because though I always meet them, they never ever went to church the whole time I was their pastor.

The lady who was crying the most said ‘when my daughter learned that you were leaving us, she went home crying. She said she no longer has a priest-friend. She vowed not to go to church unless she can be sure you’re there again.” The woman had a daughter about nine years old. She continued ‘what makes my daughter sad, makes me sad, too”.

Then she said something that nearly broke my heart. ‘father, forgive me that I never go to church. We are very poor. We need money and nobody will tend to my little store if I go to church. Please forgive me for not going to church. But remember, even if I fail to show up on Sundays, you are very close to my heart.”

I was talking to this woman and her companion, when we were joined by another neighbor. This new arrival took one hard look at the store-keeper and said to me, “father, this lady here is my kumare. But she has not been talking to me for a long time.” Then she turned to the store-keeper and asked: “why are you avoiding me? Why do you refuse to talk to me? Have I done you wrong?” the store-keeper protested, ‘no’. “then why do you ignore me all the time? Fr. Ramil is here and I ask that we reconcile as our gift to fr. Ramil. Is it alright with you?” The store-keeper was taken aback by the proposal but managed a silent, ‘alright.” ‘so now, we’re friends again, kumare again?’ asked the other lady. To which the store-keeper retorted with an irritated, ‘yes, yes, yes!’

I left them while they were still talkling with each other and enjoying their restored friendship.

That was God’s most wonderful parting gift for me from my parishioners.