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Here's Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, doing what he does best: ministering to the people.

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Photo: Felix Carroll

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Brother Thaddeus Lancton, MIC, the Marians' newest missionary in the Philippines.

By Br. Thaddeus Lancton

The Lord called Abraham into a foreign land. This passage in Genesis is resonating with me lately, now that I am serving as a Marian missionary in the Philippines.

I remember mostly the promises God made to form nations out of the descendants of Abraham. But, when I recently reread the Genesis account, I was reminded of the many trials Abraham endured before God's promises were fulfilled. So, too, I am learning that all of God's promises require tests — spiritual tests. God is not a Teacher who grades us at the end of the day! He does, indeed, correct us, but not with red ink. He corrected us through the red Blood of His Son.

As for those other kinds of tests — college tests — with much help from God and some studious friends, I passed those tests last December at Franciscan University, in Steubenville, Ohio, where I earned a BA in philosophy. I thank God those tests are over. My diploma now hangs in Fr. Donald Calloway's office in Steubenville. With that particular chapter of my religious formation closed, I have come to the Philippines to continue my theological studies. School begins in June. I will have four years left before ordination. Brother James Cervantes, MIC, and Bart Lapus, a Marian seminarian, will be joining me here in August. We will all be studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, in Cagayan de Oro.

After a month of traveling to visit friends and family, I made my long trip to the Philippines. On the day of my arrival, I went with Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, a missionary here, to the National Mental Health Institution. I needed a place to run after sitting in a plane for more than 24 hours. While I was running, Fr. Mariusz attended to the sick men and women who strolled the premises.

Father General Jan Rokosz, MIC, called Fr. Mariusz, and asked where he was. "I'm here with Br. Tadeusz (the name the Polish priests call me) at the mental health hospital." We had a great laugh — that I was already in the hospital because of traveling! But I stopped laughing after a minute. I'm not sick, but the people in this institution are, and they have such a great need for priests and spiritual help.

Father Mariusz regularly visits and administers the sacraments to those in the region in greatest need of mercy — the ill, the dying, the poor, lonely, and broken. He has therefore received the nickname (both because of his virtue and his appearance) of "St. John Vianney." At first, I was skeptical of calling him that, since I do not want to embarrass him. But when, on the following day, we visited the poor people surrounding the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong City, I was convinced I saw the spirit of St. John Vianney. There, in the broken language of Tagalog, Fr. Mariusz was explaining the image of The Divine Mercy to little children. They flocked to him as he gave out images of Jesus and some candy or cookies.

As we walked, we found two caskets. One father and one mother had died. The family's way of collecting money for the funeral was to gamble with card games. Father Mariusz, Angelo (our postulant in Manila), and I prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and the Rosary for them. I was surprised, and glad, to see with my very eyes the Marians' special calling — or "charism" — in action:

• to spread The Divine Mercy message and devotion;
• to spread devotion to Mary as the Immaculate Conception;
• to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and
• to serve where the need is greatest in parishes, shrines, and missions.

All four prongs of our charism were brought to Manila that Saturday.

I used to have doubts about my vocation to the Marians. Those doubts have almost disappeared since coming here. I see the spirits of both Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczynski (1631-1701), the Marian Founder, and Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz (1871-1927), the Marian Renovator, in my fellow Marians here: Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC, and Fr. Walerian Pozniak, MIC. They both are intensely spiritual. They express their love for Christ through prayer, preaching, hearing confessions, and visiting the sick and dying.

What have I learned in the Philippines? That the Gospel is alive and effective, "sharper than a two-edged sword" (Heb 4:12). That Jesus Christ lives in His priests, enabling them to bring healing to His wounded sheep. And, that I am, for whatever reason, called to be a priest, too! Like Abraham, even my name has changed: "Joe" (from "G.I. Joe," in reference to the American soldiers who came to the Philippines during World War II). But it's close enough: I just tell them it's "Tadjio" (from the Spanish Tadeo). They smile at that, then a short conversation usually ensues, then laughter from the children. I'll see them again when I go running tomorrow.

When I see the faces of the Filipinos, I remember why I have come: to see and experience the Filipino way of living the Gospel. Many are very poor here, and so fasting has gained a new significance for me; not that I deny myself food for self-control, but I wish to give my food to those who have none. Our neighbors here at the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador sometimes go without dinner. So, I've learned to substitute a few "saging" (Visayan word for banana) for the rice, and give the rice to the Filipinos (which, to them, is like bread).

The Gospel is alive here, and I want to join in that life. I want to be free and joyful, like the children I pass every day who greet me as I pass by, "Father, Father!"

I want to be a "father," not a physical father, but a spiritual one. I want to spread the joy of Christ. But first, I must learn it from the joy of the poor here.

Please consider helping the Marians in our mission in the Philippines. Learn how.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Jing - Aug 17, 2011

Beautiful story...I know Fr. Mariusz from the Divine Mercy Shrine. Today he just celebrated Mass in Tagalog! Good luck to the spread of the Divine Mercy devotion in the Philippines and may you successfully be ordained a priest after some years. Keep the faith, the Marians may be few here but you are doing great work!

avargasdds - May 5, 2010

Br Thad-The picture above depicts the typical Filipino poverty and at the same time joy. Keep those innocent children away from television. Thank you for spending your time in my country. May God bless you and may you remain pure.

Jing - Apr 26, 2010

Br. Thad, through Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, I learned about the mission in Cagayan de Oro. I also became a Facebook friend of a local priest there. Now reading your experience makes me want to see the mission on my next rip to PI. I was truly touched.

N. D. Pascual, DDS - Apr 25, 2010

I am crying while I'm writing this comment. Your article about your thoughts and interaction with my countrymen is so touching and uplifting! I thank God for sending missionaries like you to the Philippines.You and your other missionary friends will always be in my prayers.God bless you for all the wonderful things that you do in His name....

Sara T - Apr 23, 2010

Br Thad - this is great! Wonderful hearing your story! God is evidently working in your life and the lives of those you serve! Thanks for all of your prayers!

Patricia Burton Victoria Australia. - Apr 23, 2010

Dear Br Thad,
Thankyou for sharing your journey, may Jesus and Mary continue to shower you with many blessings...... Your reward will be great !
God Bless You !

siony ponce-diaz - Apr 22, 2010

you are absolutely right in saying that the gospel is alive in the philippines.filipinos are very sincere,generous and GOD loving people.in the midst of their poverty you will still hear laughter and see joy in them for they trust in GOD so much.may you see CHRIST closely every day there and give yourself to HIM through the people around you...stay blessed!

Julie Lynch - Union, Missouri 4/21/10 - Apr 21, 2010

Thank you for writing your thoughts on arrival to the Phillipines. Your words are spiritually uplifting to me. Please write again for the followers of Christ back in the US. May God Bless you abundantly with his works through you!

Joan Maroney - Apr 21, 2010

We look forward to the day when our Brother Thad becomes our Father Thad! Keep up the good work. Our prayers are with all of you

Agnes Bukenya N - Uganda - Mar 12, 2010

Very good write-up. Its encouraging. Through the corporal works of Mercy you are encountering in Phillipine. I pray that Merciful Jesus graces you with your heart's desire Bro. Stay blessed with mother Mary and the Jesus who are Merciful.

winart adelantar - Mar 9, 2010

Nice article, bro thad... So touching...

Rita - Mar 5, 2010

This is a touching story and I wish you the best. I'm sure someday you will make a very good priest. God Bless you and keep up the good work. I will keep you in my pray.