CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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An unexpected Christmas visitation

It all began on the afternoon of December 13 when Sister Josefina, accompanied by a novice, Sister Jemfe, went to a poor area of ​​the parish called Garahe, for the usual catechesis with the children. 
 
Halfway there, a burly young man on a motorcycle stopped, approached them and asked: “Sisters, what is your mission as religious? I know some of them are dedicated to bedridden patients.” They responded, “Our mission is to help the poor and needy.” 
 
Upon hearing this, the anonymous Good Samaritan (whose name we could not find out, but who is known in the area as the gay) was encouraged and said, “You have to come with me immediately on my motorcycle because there is a prostrate person in bed who is in great need of help.” 
 
The first reaction of the sisters was naturally of suspicion and fear. “We thought it was a strange person,” they said later. 
 
Seeing their instinctive reaction, the stranger insisted: “Sisters, I’m not a bad person. I am telling you the truth. This man is very sick, he has been in bed for more than a year. When you see him, you are going to cry. God himself guided me here to meet with you because I was not thinking to go down this street, but I felt that someone was pushing me to do it.” 
 
The sisters looked at each other not knowing what to do. “Do not be afraid, sisters,” said the stranger, “I have no bad intention. Please, come, it’s urgent. The man is dying and he just wants to feel the joy of Christmas and New Year for the last time.”
 
The sincerity with which this this good gay Samaritan, convinced them to follow him to the sick man’s house. 
 
As they were both small, the sisters rode on the back of the motorcycle. The stranger told them: “Do not worry, sisters, I will go slowly.” While driving, he told them the story of Marvin, the name of the patient, and how he helped him as much as he could. He told them, “He can still speak; he will tell you.”
 
They came to the house where Marvin lived with his father, a 71 year old tricycle driver, who had already suffered two heart attacks, and his stepmother who did laundry. The stranger knocked on the door and shouted: “Marvin, you have a visitor. Sisters have come to help you.” Marvin’s father opened the door and let the sisters in. The stranger stayed outside because there was no more space in the small room where there was only the mat on which Marvin lay prostrate and little else. 
 
They approached the 33-year-old Marvin, greeted him affectionately without being able to hold back the tears when they saw the  state he was in. He was extremely thin, almost all bones. He lay in the middle of a pile of dirt that gave off a strong odour.
 
In a very weak voice Marvin thanked them and told them his story. 
 
He said, “I am like this because the police tried to kill me, shooting me six times on 8 October 2016, because I was involved in drug issues. Giving me up for dead, the cops threw me into a nearby river. I thought that was the last day of my life.”
 
He continued, “When I opened my eyes I saw people around. They took me to a nearby hospital in Valenzuela. There they operated on me and they removed five bullets from my body. I still have a bullet lodged in my leg. The doctor told me it was dangerous to take it out. Due to the wound I received in the intestines, the doctors made me a colostomy and since then I have the (colostomy) bag that I myself empty and clean as I can with the help of my father and my stepmother.” 
 
He went on the recount, “After a few days, I had to leave the hospital against the advice of the doctors due to lack of financial resources. At first I could walk although with difficulty but, little by little, due to lack of medical care, my wounds got infected and I lost the ability to stand and walk. I’ve been lying here for several months as you can see.”
 
Marvin said, “On December 8, my father took me to Quezon City General Hospital because I could no longer stand the pain and discomfort. He had to work many hours on the tricycle to rent a truck because I cannot bend. At the hospital they did not want to treat me ... so my father had to take me home again to wait for death. I had hoped to be able to get to the New Year before I died.”
 
While Marvin was telling his story, the sisters were already considering how to help him. They said goodbye and told him they would return as soon as possible. The unknown Samaritan took them back to the same place where he had picked them up.
 
Upon returning home, Sister Josephine and Sister Jemfe told Sister Judith, the head of the community, Claretian Father José Ruiz Márquez and the others what they had seen.
 
It was unanimously decided that everything possible should be done to help save Marvin’s life. While the rest of the community prayed during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, those in charge along with student nurses immediately set to work.
 
It must be said that the community is used to dealing with similar emergencies. Mother Paola, a physician, founded the Manila Mission of the Franciscan Daughters of Saint Elizabeth 20 years ago. Since then, with the foundation of the community’s medical mission, The Good Samaritan, and thanks to the help of our great priest-benefactor Don Francesco Bazzoffi, contact with patients is constant and they receive free treatment in our doctor’s office.
 
From the beginning, Mother Paola taught the sisters to act calmly and professionally in dealing with many emergency cases that the mission has faced, especially when the maternity section functioned in what is now the novitiate.
 
Sister Josephine, Sister Jemfe and Sister Celine, a student nurse, along with two other sisters, headed back to Marvin’s den with food and everything necessary to provide first aid, clean his wounds and whole body, as he—according to the stepmother—had not been able to wash himself, apart from some alcohol rubs that she gave him. Dirt was stuck to his body like a second skin.
 
Shortly after, the mission van arrived with Sister Zelinda, also a nursing student, and two other sisters, to bring Marvin to the General Hospital located in Muñoz, the same one that had turned him away only days before. With the help of the father and a neighbour, they were able to place Marvin on the floor of the vehicle. 
 
At the hospital, a security guard recognised Marvin. People who came to emergency area to see went away immediately due to the strong stench that poor Marvin gave out.
 
Sister Celine accompanied Marvin and his father into the emergency ward. The first doctor said that they should have brought the patient earlier. Sister Celine firmly pointed out that only a few days earlier he had been rejected. The doctor asked if the patient was her brother. She said no, but that the sisters would take care of him as if he were their brother.
 
Word spread in the emergency room and the medical staff assured Marvin’s father and Sister Zelinda that they would do everything possible for him.
 
The sisters remained until 4.00am, when Marvin, after a series of medical examinations, was transferred to a room. It was perhaps upon seeing the sisters’ interest in him that the hospital reduced the cost of the exams to the minimum. The next day, some sisters donated blood for transfusions.
 
The sisters continue to visit daily, bringing him food and taking charge of the medicines. Marvin will have an operation to remove the bullet that is still lodged in his leg as soon as he is strong enough, since his present physical condition is deplorable and the infection he suffers is serious.
 
Since the community learned about Marvin’s situation and the almost miraculous encounter with the good motorcycle Samaritan, the sisters felt that it was Jesus himself, in the person of Marvin, who had visited them at Christmas time. This visit from the Lord has been the best Christmas gift that the Manila mission could have received.... “I was sick ... I was in jail.” 
 
The joy of all the 80 sisters who make up this large community is manifest and contagious. The Lord never comes empty-handed. Will Marvin live? God willing, but if he does not, the memory of the affection, love and care he received from the Franciscan Daughters of Saint Elizabeth of the Manila Mission will be taken to heaven.
 
On December 19, the parish priest visited the community and upon learning of Marvin’s case, invited Sister Josephine and Sister Jemfe to give their testimony at the 3.30am Simbang Gabi Mass at the parish church, in front the largest congregation of the year—all of whom were participating in the nine-day series of dawn Masses to prepare for the coming of Jesus.
 
 
Postscript: Marvin is still in the hospital awaiting an operation to remove the last bullet and is slowly recovering. 
 
The Franciscan Daughters of St. Elizabeth (FSE) has been running a charity medical mission programme under the title, Good Samaritan of the Holy Angels, for the most needy of the society in the diocese of Novaliches, in Metro Manila. With the help of generous benefactors, the sisters provide free medical care for the poorest of the poor.
 
 
• Father Jose Ruiz Marquez CMF
7 January 2018