Fr Mari: The Singing Priest and Disciple of Hope

My father-figure, respectable confidant, genuine well-wisher, and dear friend… “Starter problem”, a catchphrase of mine which had amused him.

Sep 27, 2018

Dear Editor,
My father-figure, respectable confidant, genuine well-wisher, and dear friend… “Starter problem”, a catchphrase of mine which had amused him. At this point, that laughter of his seems to be echoing, as I struggle to choose the right words to express the emptiness within.

A journey from the parish of his patron, St Anthony’s, to Our Lady of Assumption, from that little girl in red whom he had called to sing in his choir to the daughterlike woman I have become, steered my discernment that he was a man of compassion. A simpleton who valued strong bonds more than anything else, let it be family, friendship, or spiritual as he prized the dropping of ego.

Having known him for the last 20 years, I can vouch for his leadership which had promenaded along the paths of empathy, where he had effortlessly related to and connected with people while inspiring and empowering our lives with hope. So profoundly, had he seen with the eyes of another, listened with the ears of another, and above all felt with the heart of another.

They say how you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you. As for Fr Mari, he observed the light in others and in turn, became the torch. He had so much more conviction in us than we had in ourselves and built us with his gentle heavenward affirmations meant for a lifetime.

If only the pillars and walls of the church could speak; it would cry and mourn the loss of Father Mari’s ringing voice and gifted homilies. Attention and involvement of the entire congregation during mass was pivotal to him, for he believed that all are chosen. He upheld traditional hymns and tunes so that all, the young and old, regardless of their backgrounds, could join in the praise and worship, though the sung “Blessed be God” and “Come, let us Adore Him” stood unique during his Liturgy of the Eucharist.

A very admirable quality in him was that he had never failed to show up, despite his circumstances. He had always been determined and found a way to be present and partake at feasts, celebrations, and other events, near and far, where his presence made a difference.

Like all of us, he had his share of anguish and pain which he chose to seal with his humble and jovial personality. During my last few interactions with him in recent times, I had sensed his longing for concern calls, fellowships, messages, and visits which he had readily reached out for, but most notably, a return ticket to the Lord.

And in line with Fr Mari’s unshakable faith, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, it was proved once again that Mary loves each of her children, giving particular consideration to those who, like her Son at the hour of His passion, who are prey to suffering, she loves quite simply because they are her children, according to the will of Christ on the Holy Cross.

Just a few days before his flight to heaven, he had called me – only to give his blessings and say that he would catch up with me sometime. Never did it cross my mind that it could have been a goodbye call.

Truly, I am unable to digest that the person who had kept asking, “Are you with me?” is no longer with us, an irreplaceable soul who is deeply missed. The vacuum of his absence will continue to linger till the recital of our rosaries roll out another selfless care-giver and protector.

On a personal note, thank you for the love you had shown, Fr Mari. I am grateful to the Almighty for all our priceless sharing. I will always treasure your gems of wisdom and consolation that resonates the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds, especially your “Smile. It’s just a bend, not the end.” As I continue my knee-mails, may you rest in peace, Father…

Angela Rumina
Leo Petaling Jaya

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