Thursday, February 6, 2020

Filipinio healing priest does so 'many miracles like in the Bible'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/FEATURES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo  Page A1
(Father Fernando Suarez passed away suddenly on February 4, 2020. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1224035/healing-priest-fr-fernando-suarez-collapses-dies

Here is my article on him published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on December 31, 2007. It is also included in my book "You Can't Interview God: Church Women and Men in the News, Anvil 2013 )

2014 photo by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

December 31, 2007

Page A1

HE COULD NOT BELIEVE HIS healing power. He wanted to run away from it.

A Canadian woman declared dead eight hours earlier, her organs ready to be harvested and donated, suddenly opened her eyes after Filipino priest Fr. Fernando Suarez prayed over her.

Suarez, who was then a seminarian, was stunned. “Let me out of here,” was all he could say, ready to

He was supposed to go and see the woman earlier but he was not able to make it in time. When he arrived at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in Canada, it seemed too late. But Suarez went to see her anyway and, surrounded by doctors whom he requested to be present, he prayed over the woman. The miracle happened.

The woman is now well, Suarez says, and has resumed her normal life.  That case, which happened almost nine years ago, is probably the most stunning of all, but Suarez continues to amaze, baffle and bring hope and joy through his ministry that has seen the healing of countless sick and infirm in many parts of the world, including the Philippines.

“It is not me,” he says casually. He is convinced that he is just a channel for God’s healing power.

The soft-spoken Suarez, a 2007 TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men) awardee for religious service, projects an ordinariness that is both pleasant and endearing. His boyish looks do not easily reveal “what God has wrought” through him. He does not have an electrifying aura nor does he shriek and shout to slay evil lements like some Bible-thumping televangelists do. Suarez goes about it gently, in his own soothing way, touching, praying over people, pleading for healing. And because he wants everything centered in the Eucharist, he always begins with a Holy Mass.

Like in the Bible

Miraculous healing continues to happen. People who have been assisting him for some time have witnessed the impossible.

Businessman Greg Monteclaro of Couples for Christ-Gawad Kalinga has seen it all. “Except the raising of the
dead,” he says. “But the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk—all that is told in the Bible—I have seen it happen.”

In Bulacan, Monteclaro narrates, there was this young boy who was born with practically no bones. “He
was soft—like jellyfish. I was holding him in my arms when Father Suarez prayed over him. I myself felt the bones grow inside the boy’s body and suddenly there he was—walking.”

How does one explain that?

“My own problem here is that I have seen so many miracles, it has become so common to me,” Monteclaro says.

Not that he is complaining.

Journalist and documentalist Bernardo Lopez has his own share of miracle stories to tell and he continues to
use his video camera to capture moments that he hopes would convince many of what God is doing through Suarez. He has avidly followed the priest and has uploaded images on YouTube which have been getting thousands of hits.

Boy from Butong

Born in 1967 (he turns 41 in February) in Barrio Butong in Taal, Batangas, Suarez grew up like most boys. (Taal’s antique basilica is touted as the biggest in the Far East. It is also known for the miraculous Virgin of Caysasay.)

His father, Cervando, drove a tricycle and his mother, the former Azucena Mortel, was a seamstress. The
eldest of four children (he has a sister and two brothers), he attended public schools.

“We weren’t a particularly religious family,” he says. “Our family attended Mass maybe three times a year.” At an early age, Suarez already knew how to earn a living. At 12 he rented out inflatables at Butong

Healing at 16

Something happened when Suarez was 16. He came upon a paralyzed woman and took pity on her. “Naawa lang ako (I took pity on her).” He found himself praying over her and suddenly the woman was walking. He did not know what to make of it and did not talk about it much. It must have been discomfiting to a lad his age. Looking back, it all seemed so natural. But at that time, announcing it to the world was far from Suarez’s

What was beginning to concern him was the call to the priesthood or religious life. “I didn’t respond. I
didn’t know a priest.” How, where, when? He was waiting for cues and signs, but until they came, he just lived one day at a time, pursuing what needed to be done. He kept the call to himself, nurtured it “until lumago (it flourished).”

Going to the seminary was not an immediate option. Suarez went to Manila and graduated with a chemical
engineering degree at Adamson University which is run by the Vincentian Fathers.

Mary appears

After college, Suarez entered
the Franciscan Order (Conventuals). “After one-and-a-half years, I left. Then I joined the SVD (Society of the Divine Word) but I was asked to leave after six months.”

It was there, at the SVD Christ the King Seminary that, Suarez says, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to
him. “She told me that I would go to a far away place which was cold and windy, and there proclaim the word of God.”

Suarez was in his late 20s when he met a French-Canadian student and tourist named Mark Morin who invited him to Canada and even paid for his fare. They could have been partners in a business venture but Suarez wanted to pursue the priesthood. That was 1996.

He again tried the Diocese of Winnipeg to study as a diocesan priest but again, it did not work out and he
was made to leave.

“I was an expensive venture, they said,” he says, chuckling. “They’d have to spend four-and-a-half years on
me.” They preferred already ordained Filipino diocesan priests who were seeking a life abroad.

Companions of the Cross

And then he met priests of the Companions of the Cross (a Canadian congregation founded in the 1980s) and here he has stayed since. Because he had had previous religious formation and studies in philosophy and theology, it did not take long for Suarez to be ordained.

“I was ordained in 2002 when I was 35,” he says, “and I am the only one who was assigned to go worldwide soon after ordination.”

His superiors were aware of and recognized his gift and set him free to reach out to the world.

“I was nonchalant about all these. There was no pressure. I acted upon obedience and not on what I wanted.

Remember, I had kept this gift for 20 years,” he says.


Suarez’s gift of healing first became known abroad and only later in the Philippines. He has visited many
countries, some of them poor, like Uganda where he walked among refugees, orphans, people sick with AIDS, malaria and yellow fever and afflicted with evil spirits.

Fr. Jeff Shannon who accompanies Suarez on his trips recalls their bout with restless orphaned girls
in Uganda.

“As they approached us for prayer after the Mass, they rested in the Spirit for hours, then cried, wailed
and screamed as the Holy Spirit moved in to free and to heal [them]. After three hours of struggle they were delivered and they became as peaceful as doves, full of love. As they sang and danced their way back to their residence, they witnessed their dormitory light up inside, even though it was late at night and
there was no electricity. One girl was healed of blindness.”

Miracle stories are recorded in the newsletter of Mary Mother or the Poor-Healing Ministry, a foundation Suarez established to help the suffering poor.

Mary Mother of the Poor

Eight years ago, while praying, Suarez had a vision where he saw Jesus pouring on graces upon him. He
also saw poor children asking for help. He couldn’t understand the vision’s meaning at that time.

During a visit to the
Philippines some years ago, 10 poor children approached him to ask for support for their studies. Suarez sent them money and as time went by, more support came from friends who shared his vision. Support came from Austria, Canada, USA, Germany, Japan, Italy, England, Switzerland, Uganda and the Philippines.
This gave rise to the Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation (MMP) which aims to help the poor through better shelter, counseling and other programs, by coordinating with health and social services in order to help the sick and the aging, by teaching the tenets of the Catholic faith and by providing programs to help the youth become good citizens.

As high as Statue of Liberty

Soon to become the center of Suarez’s healing ministry is Montemaria (Matuko Point) in the outskirts of
Batangas City. Set on a hill on 20 hectares of land, the center of the Oratory of the Blessed Virgin at Montemaria will have chapels, prayer gardens, Stations of the Cross, retreat houses, campsites, lodging houses, a center for the poor and even a replica of Mary house in Ephesus (ancient city in Turkey). The place is meant to draw pilgrims who want to renew their faith.

The Montemaria centerpiece is the 33-story-high statue of Mary Mother of the Poor which will be about as high as the Statue of Liberty and higher than Christ the Redeemer of Brazil. It will
face the sea between Batangas and Mindoro, known to be one of the world’s
richest in marine biodiversity.

The scale model was unveiled last August with Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Lipa
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles in attendance.

There are claims that the stones on Montemaria have caused healing for the sick and people have started
going to the place to find out for themselves.

40-hour-vigil Jan. 11-13

Nestor Mangio, one of the architects and an avid supporter of Suarez, says the oratory is scheduled to be
finished in September 2008. The project is not wanting in donors. In July, the Companions of the Cross, the congregation to which Suarez belongs, will put up a foundation in the Philippines.

A 40-hour vigil is scheduled from Jan. 11-13 and pilgrims are expected to come in droves. Suarez will be there.

And how does the healing priest relax? “I do sports, I love nature, I love talking to people. I read the
spiritual classics—St. Augustine, Francis de Sales. I also like Thomas Merton,”
he says.

Has the surge of the crowds affected him? “Wala sa akin ’yun. (That’s nothing to me.)” He thinks people can
easily approach him because “I am not threatening.” After Mass, he says, he
prays and “this saves me.”

“I would like to think that after I’ve passed through this world, I’d have made a dent.”

For now, the words of Jesus to the suffering are enough to inspire him. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). #

7 'deadly plagues' from China

With countries closing their borders, repatriating their citizens and stopping air flights to and from China, the world’s second largest economy now looks like a pariah among nations, an ailing dragon in intensive care, all because of a homegrown microscopic organism.
“A microbe versus a giant bully nation” was to be this piece’s topic and title, but I changed my mind. I opted for even stronger language.I am no racist or “sinophobe,” so if I am using harsh language here, it is to echo the sentiments of many Filipinos (including Chinese-Filipinos or “Tsinoys”) who are worried sick and angry. This is because of the Duterte administration’s servile and falling-all-over-themselves stance, if you may, toward China, or what some observers call a “China First Policy.”

Among Filipino citizens, there is a rising bias against Chinese nationals who have/had been coming in droves and bringing in with them—in a manner of speaking—plagues, pests, and pestilences.
You could balk at the “in a manner of speaking” as soft-pedaling because, indeed, we must admit that there is reason for these 3 Ps to be literally not far from the truth. “Plagues, pests, and pestilences”—it serves cadence and rhythm in language, and there is a biblical, apocalyptic ring to it. I am not being whimsical or facetious. The words also serve as a wake-up call.

Here, the “seven deadly plagues” from and by China that are bedeviling the Philippines: diseases (the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease or nCoV ARD that is spreading across nations, SARS, etc.), gambling, prostitution, crime, drugs, kabastusan (rude behavior), and grabbing of Philippine territory. You can add more based on your own personal knowledge.
How the nCoV threat has been handled these recent weeks again exemplifies how our nation has sunk low in the eyes of the world and most especially in the eyes of the main protagonist, China, with its covetous, moist-eyed desire for our territories and, like a malevolent spirit, for the soul of our leaders.It is not racism when we ask Chinese nationals to stay away because of the nCoV. If their intention is to seek refuge, why, their country should be better in dealing with their own homegrown virus. Unlike the case of the Jewish and Vietnamese refugees whom we had hosted—whom bleeding hearts now hark back to—the Chinese are not being persecuted in their homeland.

It is not racism when we tell Chinese nationals who abuse their stay to go away and not come back. I agree that there should be no singling out on the basis of race, skin color, or surnames. But ask Grab drivers who pick up from newly sprouted casinos and brothels besotted Chinese, and who have to put up with vomit and malodorous feet on the dashboard.
It is not racism when we decry the preferential treatment given Chinese drug dealers and the burgeoning of casinos and prostitution dens that are exclusive for them.
When suspected nCoV carriers arrived in our territory from Wuhan in China where it spawned, the government’s hesitancy to act swiftly was so apparent that there was indeed cause to be furious. Only after the first nCoV in a woman from Wuhan was confirmed (and, later, the death of a man also from China) did Philippine officialdom categorically tell non-Filipino travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau to remain where they are.
What about the Chinese patients under investigation (PUI) and quarantine? Who are paying for these PUIs’ hospital stay? So spontaneous of the Chinese ambassador to remind us to “take good care” of them PUIs. So spontaneous of the Chinese consul in Cebu to jump the gun and announce that there is no need to bar entry, prompting netizens to derisively call Cebu the new province of China.Filipinos are a compassionate lot, but…
Reports say the nCoV originated from a Wuhan wildlife market. A circulating report also says that “virus-hit Wuhan has two laboratories linked to Chinese bio-warfare program.” Sounds intriguing enough for a sci-fi movie script.

Watch Netflix’s “Pandemic” true-to-life docuseries and hail the scientists and health workers, the hidden heroes who put their own lives at risk. #


Thursday, January 30, 2020

75 years since Auschwitz

Jan. 27 marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland in 1945. The Embassy of Poland reminded me of this. If not for the so-called Holocaust movies from Hollywood and Europe, we would not have the visual and aural feel of the unspeakable crimes the German Nazis of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler committed against European Jews and other “undesirables,” Christians among them.
Let me name some concentration camp movies that come to mind: “Schindler’s List,” “Playing for Time,” and “Life is Beautiful.” Recently on Netflix was “The Photographer of Mauthausen,” which can show our selfie generation the historical importance of photographs.

I have the book “Deliverance Day: The Last Hours at Dachau” (with shocking photos, I must say) by Michael Selzer. Germany’s Dachau camp’s 75th is in April 2020.
Some six million Jews were killed in Hitler’s genocidal campaign during World War II that was carried out in concentration camps with gas chambers for mass extermination. Not only Jews but Catholic Poles were killed as well, tens of thousands, priests among them, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps in Poland.

I do not understand why four US Jewish rabbis would protest and argue for the removal of a Catholic church inside Auschwtiz-Birkenau where more than a million Jews were tortured and gassed. A Reuters report in the Inquirer said that “the rabbis argue the church should not be on the site of one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world and it violates a 1987 agreement between European cardinals and Jewish leaders that there will not be any permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz or Birkenau camps” because it “attempts to portray it as a place mainly of Christian martyrdom.
”But why not a church, when people of other faiths were also exterminated there? The Auschwitz-Birkenau camps are in largely Catholic Poland. The protestors are American rabbis. Should martyrdom be an exclusive claim?
I remember some strain in Jewish-Catholic relations regarding the 1998 canonization of philosophy professor and spiritual writer Edith Stein, a Polish-born German-Jewish convert to Catholicism (she was an atheist at some point) who became a Catholic contemplative Carmelite nun (Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). An intellectual, she was inspired by the writings of St. Teresa of Ávila. Stein was among those killed in Auschwitz. Was Stein’s canonization by Pope John Paul II about her conversion and martyrdom in the Holocaust, a church recognition that did not sit well with the Jews, or, was Stein without doubt a saintly person, a mystic in fact, in whatever category and in every sense of the word? I have read some of her stuff. There is a movie about her life but I have yet to find it.

In contrast, there was no furor over the sainthood of prisoner Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life in place of someone else at the camp.
From the Embassy of Poland came the signed statement of the members of the Presidency of the Council of European Bishops Conferences that says “no to anti-Semitism and political manipulation of the truth,” a repudiation of racism and xenophobia.
Recently, Pope Francis himself said to a delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (for Holocaust studies): “May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago, serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent.”
To pause, to be still and to remember. I like that.
Three Popes had visited the death camps. Polish John Paul II, of course, who spent a moment in the prison cell of Kolbe. German Benedict XVI who called the rulers of the Third Reich, his own kababayans, “vicious criminals… who wanted to crush the entire Jewish people… and tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and replace it with a faith of their own invention, faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.”

Argentinian Francis, unlike his predecessors, did not speak a word. On the memorial book, he wrote: “Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, we ask pardon for such cruelty.”