The Ministry of Friendship
Feast Magazine|April 2020
I’ve never had a priest friend before,” a college student once told me. I cherish working with college students because I was once like them.
Marj Duterte

Early Seeds of Love

I am the second of four siblings. My parents are now retired and they spend most of their time helping NGOs and livelihood development programs in Mindanao. My eldest sister is a university professor. Our youngest brother just graduated from college, while the brother next to me will soon be ordained a priest in the congregation I belong to, the Legionaries of Christ.

People often ask us how two of the four children followed the path of priesthood. I don’t really know. Every vocation is a mystery. But God knows. My brother Jaime and I are quite opposites in personality. But we do share a common love for our Lord Jesus and His Church—and this we got from our parents. Ever since we were little, they taught us to love God above all things and to show that love through service.

Encountering Jesus

I started being open to the priesthood at age thirteen. The priests and seminarians I knew were so joyful, and connected to their joy was their kindness. Part of me wanted to be that person in the future—someone who was kind and enthusiastic in life.

I remember traveling to school one day on EDSA when I saw this naked man covered in dirt, his hair disheveled, his eyes wandering up and down, as though he were drugged or suffering from severe hunger. The first thing that came to my mind was: “How can this be a reality? This shouldn’t be.” He was suffering from so many things: hunger, rejection, social inequality, indifference, and pain. I stopped, took my change of clothes, and gave it to him. Continuing on my way to school, I wondered, “What if it was Jesus hidden in that man?”

I realized then that the cause of his suffering was not material. Following what St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, deeper than material poverty is a spiritual poverty of love. Maybe I could have fed that man with “a million pesos,” but if I don’t give him human and divine love, his heart still remains empty. It was at that moment when I decided that I couldn’t just live for myself. I strongly felt a call to serve our country in the best and most lasting way possible.

A Radical Yes

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