“What you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
ACIM-Asia Medical Mission
Yolly Gamutan’s report
On June, I spent time looking for an assistant and eventually hired Chrismarie Joy Mondia - the sister of John Aldy Mondia who is one of Fr. Tim's trainees in his Sakop San Jose program, a former mission patient and a would be aspirant at St. Bernard Novitiate. I tasked her to make a community health map of our mission area in Kawas to facilitate health program delivery. The community health work was interrupted by the catechism program in Kawas and FVR which we had to help organize for the sake of the French volunteers who were going to handle the catechism lessons. I also had to find and prepare a place for the Swiss nurse volunteer who was coming on July with her cousin to help us with the mission work. There were four children from Kawas who were baptized. On June 27, there were 5 weddings in Kawas on their first patronal feast in honor of St. John the Baptist. On June 28, 8 children from various mission places were baptized. [Our little school attended by 6 little mission patients and a few other children of our chapel faithful opened on June 24.]
On July 3, I sent some pamphlets on the Militia Immaculatae to a partner doctor. On July 5, 8 other children were baptized, among whom were also mission patients. There was another round of catechism camp on the second week of July in Kawas and FVR. A patient in our Tacloban mission received Extreme Unction and died. The patient was the husband of a former Legion of Mary member in Davao City. He was buried by Fr. Ghela on the third week. A patient from Camiguin Island was admitted in Cagayan de Oro. His wife feared that he was dying and was inconsolable. She is a Legion of Mary member but she cannot bear the thought of death. After 8 days, he got better and was sent home. On the third Saturday of July, Fr. Onoda came to visit. We toured him to the catechism center in FVR and Kawas. He was able to hear the Confession of a former faithful who had kept away from the chapel for a long time due to some personal conflicts. He was able to bless the body of a baby patient in Kawas. He was also able to hear the Confession of Mrs. Vicenta Salazar (mother of Sr. Maria Concepcion) and give her the Viaticum. She died on July 22 during the bedside Rosary prayed with her by the Swiss volunteers. On the feast of St. James, the Blessed Sacrament was translated from the St. James Chapel to the Church of Our Lady of Rosa Mystica and St. Joseph. On July 26, two mission partner dentists who had signed up for the Militia Immaculatae (a husband and wife team) came to attend Holy Mass upon the invitation of two Legion of Mary members. They attended with their family. On the last week of July, we assisted Fr. Onoda on his mission visit to Palawan and organized a catechism program for the children and lay leaders with the goal of bringing them under the banner of the Immaculata.
On August 1, we buried Mrs. Vicenta Salazar and in the afternoon, assisted at the wedding of a former member of the Apostles of Mary who had dropped out from the traditional Mass and only returned to the Mass early this year. A bedridden patient with a massive bed sore in his back was confined in the hospital for debridement and replacement of thoracostomy tube. He was accidentally electrocuted 2 years ago and had since been paralyzed and bedridden and dependent on manual ambu bag respiration in order to breathe. His parents and brothers took turns in delivering air into his lungs. He was visited by Fr. Tim. He considers himself Catholic but he was baptized in the Philippine Independent Catholic Church. His parents were married in the same sect but they attend Mass at the Roman Catholic parishes. Apostles of Mary members visited them to teach them catechism and to pray the Rosary with them, hoping to bring them to the sacraments. There were many patients this month but their stories were almost similar: they were poor and they could not afford treatment cost. They came to Mass and listened to the catechism out of respect to the mission and we are simply praying that grace will move them in God's time and they will have conviction and true love of God. Our attention and energy during this month were all focused on the arrival of the Bishop to administer Confirmations. I mobilized the volunteers to engage in the physical preparations as a way of a rehearsal for the big medical mission and Church blessing on February next year. By God's grace, 70 children and adults passed the evaluation and were able to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Many of them were mission patients.
[To raise their living conditions, we assisted the laborers at the chapel construction and interested males among the mission patients to avail of free training in plumbing to get a license as plumbers and increase their chances in finding work and better pay. Also, we tried to negotiate with government officials for relocation lots for our landless mission patients and their families in order to give them decent places to live and improve their health conditions.]
In September, I was able to assist the choir at the Confirmation ceremony in Maasin, Leyte before coming to Tacloban. I was very happy to see medical mission patients from Tacloban receive Confirmation. I was sad that they were dressed poorly for the important Sacrament but I was happy to see that they were happy and had learned their catechism. I joined them afterwards on the trip to Tacloban. I joined Elaine Salazar and she presented to me the concerns of the mission in Tacloban: the spiritual work with the military officers and missions in areas infested with communist guerillas. The efforts of the military officers to bring the communist rebels who have surrendered to the catechism and eventually to the sacrament of Confession. She also presented the patients needing assistance. After discussing with her the needs of the mission in Tacloban, I spent 2 days to check the state of affairs in the chapel. I was sad to see that the daily Rosary in the chapel by the catechism children had been stopped, so was the daily catechism lesson. Patients' attendance in the Holy Masses had dropped. After assigning a catechist I also interviewed some patients and catechism pupils and encouraged them to resume their daily Rosary and catechism lessons in the chapel. I asked Ronielyn Lagdamen, one of the mission staff, who is also a member of the local Legion of Mary, to see to it that the catechism work with the children and the mission patients will indeed be revived. I also spoke with one of the mission staff who was feeling unhappy because of her mounting financial problems and had lost interest in working for the mission. On September 3, I organized a program for the feast of St. Pius X. The catechism children had a raffle draw of prayers for SSPX priests assigned in the Philippines. Afterwards, I headed back to Gensan. I referred to Fr. Tim the concerns of the military partners in Tacloban and gave their numbers to him, which he readily called. He was able to speak with Captain Osores and Lt. Colonel Rodrigo Ilustrisimo. I wrote a report to Fr. Onoda regarding the situation in Tacloban.
September 7-12 - Sick Week
This we call the sick week because all but one mission worker was sick. April, a volunteer, contracted dengue fever. Lovely, another volunteer, had anemia and measles. Chrismarie Joy (a paid staff) had joint pains and suffered fatigue. Joefrey (our finance officer) had to be confined in a hospital due to liver infection. Rosmar (our driver) was anemic from balancing work and schooling duties. I had cough and sinusitis which made me lose sleep and ability to concentrate at work. Joel alone was not sick but his daughter Lucy had dengue fever. When her platelet count plummeted so low, I visited her in the hospital to encourage her. She is a Eucharistic Crusader and had just received Confirmation so I asked her to look around her and see all the sick children and their worried parents and to pray for each of those souls that they may know and love God. I asked her to offer her sickness to God for the conversion of souls and to prepare herself to accept whatever God wills for her, if it be death or good health to continue to work out her salvation on earth. She was very cheerful and promised to pray for her neighbors.
We offered up our worries, pains and fatigue and continued to receive patients. For lack of data (Joel is in the hospital now to assist his wife on childbirth and the staff had not yet submitted their reports), I shall present only the patients whose stories I remember well.
Afraid to Die
One patient in San Pablo, Laguna (in Rizal Province) sent a desperate text message saying she was 8 months pregnant and had eclampsia and feared that she was dying. She was given counseling by telephone and was assisted to go to Confession to ease her conscience as she was bothered by guilt. She was brought to a Catholic parish church nearest to her place for Confession. In this we were able to get the help of Purita Balando, the mission catechist based in Rizal Province. She will be assisted for hospitalization this week, after Purita assists two other patients. We cannot be everywhere at the same time, so patients can only be processed one at a time.
Two sick persons from our mission village in Kawas came to demand assistance. They came from a group hostile to the Catholic Faith. They were members of a protestant sect who jealously guarded their members and considered our mission activities as encroachment. I reprimanded them for repelling the mission workers who came to pray the Rosary at the wake of a deceased patient who happened to be their relative. The patient was a Catholic and had attended Mass at our chapel a number of times but when he died, his children and relatives forbade our volunteers to visit and pray for his soul at the wake. We prayed for his soul in the chapel instead and prayed for the conversion of his clan. Now at the visit of these two relatives I had the opportunity to explain to them that part of our mission work was to help them receive grace and eternal life. They were given assistance in the hope of weakening their defiance against the sacraments. They were all smiles after receiving free medical consultation, ultrasound and medicines.
An unbaptized baby from Kawas got sick. Her mother did not want to come to the mission for help because she had willfully ignored various invitations to come to Mass. After two years of attending Mass, she got affected by the insults and gossips insinuating that she just came to the Mass to beg for food. The gossip was started by a former patient who had previously attended Holy Mass and joined the catechism classes of the Legion of Mary in the mission village due to ulterior motives. After gaining the trust and confidence of the catechists, she had borrowed money from them to support her gambling then later, because she had no intention to pay, she stopped coming to Mass and did all her best to discourage her neighbors and friends from attending subsequent catechism lessons and Holy Masses. Her method of attack was to make them ashamed of receiving alms. To prove to the gossip mongers that they were wrong, the mother of the sick baby preferred to suffer hunger and disease rather than come to Mass for the sake of alms. Recent attempts of concerned patients from the neighboring village to invite her to come to Mass failed to excite her to come. When her daughter got sick, the good patients came to her again to encourage her to bring the baby to the mission. At first she resisted but when the baby developed pneumonia and had difficulty in breathing, she hastened to the mission to beg for help. The baby was admitted to the hospital. The mother and grandmother humbly knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and resolved to resume attending Holy Mass.
Saved by Providence
A couple came to the mission looking for "Ma'am Yolly". They heard their neighbor in the hospital ward mention the name and they decided to seek the person and beg for help. Their third daughter was born with a heart defect and was too small for her age. She was just two months old and she lived almost all of her life in the hospital. She was able to get out of the hospital recently but after two weeks, she was rushed again to the hospital. She needed a blood transfusion but they had already used up all their meager resources and can no longer raise money to pay for the blood. When they came to the mission, their very first statement before introducing themselves was that they were ready to change their religion and embrace the religion of the donor. They imagined that they were facing a protestant missionary. Upon learning that the mission was Catholic, they were grateful to God for guiding them to the right path. The following day, they came to attend Holy Mass. After the Mass, Fr. Tim spoke with them and on learning of the condition of their baby, visited and baptized the baby. They asked "Ma'am Yolly" to be the baptism sponsor. That evening, they prayed the Rosary with their ward neighbor. The next day, they sent messages that the baby took a turn for the worse. They were encouraged to pray and trust that if the baby died, she would be very happy with God in heaven. Soon after, the baby was dead. Today they came to the mission for help in the burial expenses. They were able to smile at the thought that their baby was baptized and therefore certain of salvation. They expressed their grateful amazement that Fr. Tim did not wait to be asked to baptize the baby but directly offered to visit and baptize without demanding any pay or special treatment. This is our consolation and joy, that one little innocent soul is able to join God and that one family that is almost lost to a false religion is given hope and strengthened in Faith through the beneficence of countless donors of the mission.
All thanks be to God and to the mission donors.