BY BOBBY MENDOZA, –
“Where do i begin to tell the story of love…?”
You would remember these famous line from a song and a movie entitled LOVE STORY?
This is how i feel when I was asked to write a tribute about Fr. Renato – a man full of love and compassion which we and our family have witnessed in more than 40 years of being friends while to him and his close associates as his family.
We first met Fr. Renato in his first Tagalog mass at St Andrew’s Church in Marayong. It was packed due to the excitement of meeting a Filipino priest and the Mass being in Tagalog. The guest in that Mass was Bishop Bede Heather, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Parramatta, who later we’ve found, was instrumental in bringing us this Filipino priest. In his Homily, Fr. Renato touched on the topic of SIN & how the tongue as the most dangerous part of the human body in which everyone laughed. Bishop Bede wondered, because apparently for him, this is the first time people laughed on the topic of sin.
That day, me & my family sat at the back. Fr. Renato met us and during the course of our conversation he asked if i could help with his plan for the Filipino community. Later, I met the rest of the team whom he approached for this mission. We were men of ONE HEART for ONE MISSION – to deepen the faith of the Filipino community with the concept & spirit of Bayanihan / The Christian Community.
November 1980 was a significant day, for he left his family and country to shepherd the growing Filipino community in Australia. And he spent most of his life in this mission. He was the first chaplain to the Filipino community in Sydney.
I’d say, he had blessed most of our homes (if not all), blessed our cars, our rosaries & religious images and officiated our weddings, baptisms & funerals in more than 40 years.
He brought back Block Rosary to our homes, Tagalog masses, Simbang Gabi, Panuluyan, Pabasa, Station of the Cross. Including, the Mini- fiesta in our small Christian communities highlighted by renewal of marriage vows among couples through the help of heaven-sent community leaders of ONE HEART for ONE MISSION, the likes of Reming Biala, Jun Cadelina, Bobby Mendoza (with my years of experience in building small Christian communities), Ding Rivera (Accountant and ex-seminarian), Meynard Talisayon (a very religious man) who compiled copies of guide to praying the Rosary in Tagalog & Spanish from memory and now Elder of El Shaddai group), musicality of Ric Sibucao & Benjie Morte, and Tatang Joe Gonzales (deceased) who brought the Fatima (via bus, train & foot) to our homes.
He spent most of his days off (Monday) at home in Marayong. When my kids were much younger, he would lie flat on his tummy and let the kids play horsey- horsey on his back. They called him Tito Paras.
Once my apo answered the door. Belen asked “Who is it?” He replied ” it’s God, Lolabee!” Guess who it was? Fr. Renato ! Ha ha ha!
May i share a few of our priceless moments with Father…
…In one recession time in the 80’s, I was unfortunate to have lost my Computer contract. Father would come with a sack of rice and bags of groceries, knowing we won’t survive raise 5 kids from Belen’s wage alone;
…There was a time when i was Contracting in NZ, someone tried to break-in our house in Marayong. Father and his friend Amading (deceased) slept at our house every night to safeguard Belen and my 5 daughters;
…Belen worked night shifts in the city, as telephonist, from 7 p.m. to 2:30 am. I had an accident and unable to drive plus there was a train drivers’ strike for 2 weeks. Fr. Renato drove Belen to work in the City, in Martin Place and home. He’d set 3 alarm clocks to make sure he would be awake at 2 am to pick Belen up and drive her back home. He also arranged for Jun Cadelina as his alternate driver.
My family were not the only recipient of his goodness. I’ve seen him gave company to women face court hearings, gave financial assistance to those in need, food and funeral expenses. He is not rich but would give it all, when someone is in need.
Every year in January, Fr Renato, Belen & i go to Orange, NSW to celebrate mass with the Sisters of Mother Theresa (a.k.a. Missionaries of Charity) & help with their mission for the aboriginal community. For Fr Renato, building the small Christian communities, was the best way of sharing their resources, disseminating information and instilling in their hearts that they are truly brothers & sisters in Christ.
There were many times we would schedule an appointment with him in his A4 size calendar/diary that he was always fully booked on weekends evidenced by the fact that he was invited to celebrate Mass in Newcastle then celebrate Mass & Wedding in Wollongong followed by Mass in Penrith then visiting the sick in Blacktown hospital then home at the Divine Word Missionaries a.k.a. SVD in Epping (now Marsfield). These were his weekly routine.
In one gathering of priests at home in Quakers Hill, one asked “how would you rate Fr Renato’s spirituality, on a scale of 1 to 10 ?: The unanimous answer: 12.
One of the Priests then said, “We would be burnt out, a long time ago the way he was going.”
Truly, a man of God, a father to thousands.
Saludo po kami,
Isang taos pusong pasasalamat, Padre ! Valē !