NAGA CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -- At a very young age, Jessie was left to the care of his abusive stepfather, who tied him inside a poultry house for several months after his mother died.
Neighbors who learned about Jessie’s situation reported the matter to the police.
Subsequently, the Department of Social Welfare and Development took custody of the boy, but because it does not have facility for children suffering from mental incapacity, it turned him over to the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) in Naga City.
Jessie, who was then four years old, was suffering from epilepsy. He communicated like a cock and ran with his arms spread like wings.
The boy used to go around in circles, chased and smelled things that he saw. When he laughed, he cackled like cock. He also avoided eye contact with people by covering his head with his arms.
For six years that the MOP patiently nurtured Jessie, they were able to discover how to free him from his mental state that isolated him from the real world.
The group provided him with unconditional commitment of helping him find the real world around him through the nurturing power of love.
It was a great achievement that after six years under the care of the missionaries, Jessie has overcome some of the issues that separated him from the environment around him.
So much have changed in Jesse’s life by the time he reached ten years old. He has become aware of the world around him and learned to discard the ways of the cock and follow simple instructions from the people providing care for him.
Almost in saintly deed of charity, the MOP easily stands out in Naga as one of the very few entities that religiously uphold the rights and dignity of rejected, abandoned and disabled individuals of the society that no one wants to care.
It began its mission in the Philippines and in Naga in 1993 among the slum dwellers. That year alone, it took care of 110 individuals with varying mental and physical problems and disabilities.
The MOP finds fulfillment in caring for the physically and mentally challenged individuals, who have been abandoned by their families. Its core commitment and mission to the society is to bring dignity to the homeless, destitute and helpless individuals.
On October 17, 1997, the Vatican formally recognized MOP as a religious institution.
Its founder, a Jesuit priest named Fr. Richard Ryan Ho Lung, turned his back on a promising career in the academe and opted to live with the poorest of the poor in the ghettos of Jamaica.
Lung made the difficult decision of leaving the Society of Jesus, which he loved, and founded a religious community of men who dedicated their lives in the sole service to the human beings that no one wants to care and cannot take care of themselves.
He experienced firsthand what poverty is when he was still living with his family in Richmond, St. Mary, Jamaica.
The priest was born to a poor couple from Hong Kong on September 17, 1939.
He would openly share to fellow missionaries how several times he, his parents and three other siblings shared a cup of rice for a meal if only to survive in a day.
The poverty Lung experienced in gnawing and his parents could not decently provide for them their basic needs when he was growing up.
He was almost deprived of the material things normally needed to live a decent life. He has to bear great embarrassment in school and the neighborhood where he grew up because at times he has to wear tattered pants around which exposed his rear end to the elements and battered his ego.
Lung is described by his fellow missionaries as “somebody who had experience so much poverty but rejected a life of ease amid the opportunities that came in his prime.”
Vow of poverty
Fr. Lawrence Mendoza, head of the mission in Naga, revealed that all the priests and brothers of MOP practice the vow of poverty and a regimented life of practicing their brand of spirituality.
“All the priests and brothers own only three habits, two pants, four pairs of underwear and a pair of sandals each. We sleep in dormitories with small lockers, eat the same simple food, wash our clothes, clean our rooms, do manual labor and devote ourselves to prayer and meditation nine hours every day,” Mendoza said.
Ora et labora, or prayer and labor, is their routine from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
They have no siesta; do not smoke, drink or gamble, or watch television. They are also not allowed to have personal bank accounts.
Unlike the secular ones, the missionary-priests provide for free marriage ceremonies, baptisms and blessings of the dead within the village where their center is located. In some instances, they pay for the church fees of unmarried couples to fulfill the sacrament or make coffins or bury the dead of poor families.
During Mass, which they celebrate at 10 a.m. on Sundays, the offertory ritual of passing around the offertory box is absent. They do not ask for money during the Mass, which some of their wards attend together with the villagers and program supporters.
For 22 years of missionary service, the priests and brothers of MOP have sheltered and cared for hundreds of persons at the Apostolate Center, which is the home of the homeless and the mentally, physically and terminally ill people in the compound of the Heart of Mercy, the mission center located in the middle of the community of urban poor families in Cararayan, Naga City.
They have cared for the terminally ill and permanently impaired individuals, who have no homes to go back to or identified relatives to locate, until their death. But for those wards whose families have been traced, they helped them reintegrate in their homes or origins if ever their families have been located once their situations improved.
At present 130 children and adults make their home here. They are fed, bathed, clothed, groomed, and given medication and therapeutic services by caregivers who are volunteers from the community and the missionaries comprising of 55 priests and brothers.
“We ensure that they live in the atmosphere congenial to the well-being that allows them to live in dignity and respect for each other,” Mendoza said.
The MOP takes in those who belong to the poorest of the poor, who are no longer able to support themselves and without families to give care to them or have been abandoned by them.
It cares for 30 children and a mix of adult and elderly, composing 50 women and 50 men suffering from mental and physical disabilities like cerebral palsy.
Need for donations
Mendoza said the MOP needs donations from kind-heart people and institutions to improve their work and services for these abandoned human beings whose dignity and humanity have to be bestowed on them given their conditions. Providing them with their daily food consumption entails at least one sack of rice a day.
He said the fund provided by their main institution in Jamaica is not always enough for them get through with their operations but they are grateful that there people who lend their support to their mission with their regular donations to the program.
With the successful operation here, the MOP has expanded its mission to Cebu City, Manila and outside the country in Indonesia and East Timor.
It is a gem, indeed, to find a tribe voluntarily caring for individuals who are considered liabilities of the society and thrashed by their families.(PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD