I could see immediately that Lala had a special gift: she’s a natural 'ice-breaker'. Though she seldom says anything, she lights up any group into which she comes, unless she’s in a bad mood, which happens from time to time.
Lala became a member of our Faith and Light community in Cebu but I lost contact with her when I went to Lianga, Surigao del Sur, in 1993 as parish priest and to Manila the following year to become vocation director of the Columbans. But one day when I visited the L’Arche community in Cainta, Rizal, known as 'Ang Arko', I was surprised to see Lala there. L’Arche, the French for 'The Ark' as in Noah’s Ark, was founded by Jean Vanier, in 1964 when he invited two men with learning disabilities, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, who had been living in an institution, to join him in a small cottage he had bought and was renovating in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Jean had no intention of founding anything, but he realized very quickly that he had made a commitment to these two men. One of them, I forget which, chose to live independently some years later, something he could never have done had he stayed in the institution and not met Jean. Out of these small beginnings has grown an international movement of about 130 residential communities where those with learning disabilities are enabled to live in a family-type situation and to develop their abilities to the greatest extent possible.
The Easter Vigil was celebrated in the underground basilica. Some of the Old Testament Vigil readings were dramatized. During the account of creation when the words God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him were read, a spotlight shone on a young man in a wheelchair. But what moved me most was when Lala was part of a group dramatizing the reading of the Exodus.
I simply marveled at the fact that a young woman who should never have been born, according to the 'wisdom' of so many, left after birth among garbage, was on the other side of the world helping to proclaim the Word of God to thousands of people, many like herself, and doing so with the joy that permeates her soul.