26 January 2016

Porferio D. Matulac RIP, the father of a Columban priest

Porferio D. Matulac was the father of Fr Cireneo 'Dodong' Matulac, a Columban priest ordained a few days after Christmas 2002. Father Dodong started off under my care as a 16-year-old first-year college seminarian in Cebu City, studying at the University of San Carlos. Later in his formation Dodong spent two years on mission in Chile as a seminarian on what we call 'First Mission Assignment'. After his ordination he spent some years in China and is now involved in the formation of Columban seminarians in Quezon City but is currently doing a year's study in Chicago.

I remember being very touched when he told me how his family welcomed each New Year. Shortly after his ordination I asked him to write an article about that for MISYON, now MISYONonline.com, the Columban magazine I edit here in the Philippines. It was published in the January-February 2004 issue. The Matulac Family live in a remote part of southwestern Mindanao, in a small village that is part of the municipality of Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay. Father Dodong was able to spend nearly a month with his family over Christmas and the New Year before returning to Chicago.

The funeral of Porferio takes place in Payao on 30 January at 10am.

How My Family Welcomes The New Year

by Fr Cireneo Matulac

Father Dodong with his parents 'Poping' and 'Vering' on his ordination day

There’s growing excitement in our family as we prepare for the New Year’s celebration. My brother has just left for the población to buy ice cream, the only time we have it, a real New Year’s treat. I feel that this New Year’s celebration will be different. My mother has insisted on baking rice cakes which she hadn’t done for years. My two sisters are preparing their favorite dish and my other brother is preparing his usual pork and chicken barbecue. My family has certainly become a lot bigger. I now have seventeen nephews and nieces, the oldest in his early twenties, and all of them are extremely excited. I’ve heard the younger ones say, ‘Uncle will celebrate Mass for the New Year in Lola’s house.’ ['Lola' is 'Grandma'].
Our time of the year
Celebrating the New Year has always been a happy occasion for my family. We welcome it in a festive manner even in dire times. My father makes sure that everyone is present and leads us in our family para-liturgical celebration, like a family Gagmayng Simbahanong Katilingban, (GSK), or basic ecclesial community. We start at 11pm and finish a few minutes before midnight when we wish each other ‘Happy New Year.’
My father selects a gospel reading and then expounds on it with the passionate homily he has prepared weeks before. His sermon usually revolves around how our family has gone through hardships and difficulties but has always been able to move forward. He attributes this not to any of his strengths and gifts but to prayer that God always answers. He reminds us that every evening my mother leads us in the rosary. I remember that as a child I always fell asleep before we finished. My father speaks of the generosity of God who continues to bless us all the days of our lives. When he comes to this point, my mother seconds him with her sobs and tears. She isn’t particularly sad. Her tears express a joy for which there are no words.
Father Dodong on a recent 'field-trip' in the USA

What binds my family
After our liturgy, we have the family dinner. This is the time when we make wishes for the coming year. When I was a young boy I asked God to make me a little taller. God answered my other prayers but not this one. This New Year, however, I can’t wish for anything more except for our family to be always together.
I know that this New Year will be different. I am the youngest child and I was ordained to the priesthood only a a few days ago. My mother told her grandchildren that this time we would have Mass instead of my father leading the family liturgy. Secretly, to his great delight, I asked my father to prepare the homily. Deep in my heart I know that this is a tradition that sustains us as a Christian family and that my vocation sprang mainly from my parents’ faith articulated by my father in his New Year’s sermon and made a lot more profound by my mother’s sobs and tears. I’m sure that it is going to be a different celebration this year, as my mother has told her grandchildren. But then it’s always different because each time we welcome the New Year we’re growing deeper in our faith in God. This yearly ritual has always been a wellspring of my family’s faith and my vocation to the priesthood.
Every New Year is indeed different and yet a continuation of what we’ve always been doing.

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