24 October 2011

'Greater Love: Richie Fernando SJ', a joy-filled Filipino missionary



I haven't been able to post for more than a week as I was giving an eight-day directed retreat to eight sisters of the Missionaries of Charity near Manila. While I had some access to the internet it was rather slow.

I had intended to make a post here on the murder of Fr Fausto Tentorio PIME, a 59-year-old Italian priest, in the Diocese of Kidapawan, Mindanao, on Monday 17 October. I will save that post for a later date. As I was looking for a video about Father Fausto I came across one about Brother Richard Michael 'Richie' Fernando SJ, a Filipino Jesuit scholastic who died while trying to prevent a troubled and disabled young man in Cambodia from throwing a grenade. That was in 1996 - on 17 October. Father Fausto gave his life exactly 15 years later.

I remember the mixture of sorrow and pride I felt when I read of the death of Brother Richie, pride as a missionary in the Philippines that a young Filipino seminarian had given his life so spontaneously in order to save the lives of others while on overseas mission, and sorrow that a young life had been cut short. Some months later in the Columban house in Manila I met an Irish Jesuit priest who had been in Richie's community in Cambodia. I shared my feeling of pride and sorrow with him but he could only share his grief at the tragic loss of a brother.

The video above is the first of a four-part production by Jesuits in Manila. At the end of each part you will find the link to the next.

I read somewhere very recently that joy should be even more characteristic of Christians than love. The two, of course, go together but we have the English expression 'as cold as charity' which comes out of the experience of a joyless Christianity, the kind you read about in the novels of Charles Dickens, for example. In everything I have read or heard about Brother Richie Fernando he has come across as a young man of loving faith filled with joy, a joy that is characteristic of the faith of so many Filipinos.

Fr Christopher F. Amoroso MSP, a young members of the Mission Society of the Philippines serving in Japan, wrote an article in the May-June 2011 issue of Misyon, the Columban online magazine I edit, Misyon and My Vocation, on how reading about Richie Fernando in our magazine led him to the priesthood.

Yesterday was Mission Sunday. Fr Fausto Tentorio PIME and Brother Richard Michael Fernando SJ are true faces of the missionary church.





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