Cheerful Givers

Cheerful Givers

Woman Ironing, Edgar Degas, c.1869 Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany [Wikipedia]

‘Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’, St Paul tells us (2 Corinthians 9:7). God reveals himself through ‘cheerful givers’, who can be found on opposite sides of the world.

Cynthia Empleo of our Mission Office in Manila tells us the story of the long involvement of Mrs Leonor A. Tomines, now 93, with the Columbans, for many years as a laundry woman like the woman in the painting by Degas above, and for many more years as a benefactor.

On the other side of the world, in Ireland, Columban Sr Mary Nolan tells us the story of Kathleen Hogan, who grew up in difficult circumstances and was a great supporter of the Columban Sisters. Kathleen has now gone to her reward. Whenever we meet persons such as Leonor A. Tomines and Kathleen Hogan we can say with Sister Mary, ‘I had the privilege of coming to know the greatness of one of God’s little ones.’

Fr John Blowick, Co-founder of the Missionary Society of St Columban and Founder of the Missionary Sisters of St Columban, used to say that the pennies of the poor were more valuable than the pounds of the rich. He welcomed both but understood the power of God’s love in the cheerful generosity of such persons as Leonor and Kathleen.

Please remember all our benefactors, living and dead, in your prayers.

A Missionary Encounter in Dublin

By Sr Mary Nolan SSC

Sale of Work volunteers

The author has served as a Congregational Leader of the Missionary Sisters of St Columban and was missioned in Peru for many years. She is presently missioned in Ireland.

Some time ago we got word that a regular visitor to our Sale of Work had died. [Editor’s note: A sale of work is a sale of goods and handicrafts made by the members of a club, church congregation, etc, to raise money. Such sales are common in Ireland and the Columban Sisters hold one in Dublin every November.) Her name was Kathleen Hogan and she lived in Leixlip, west of Dublin.

I happened to be free and was able to attend her funeral. I knew nobody there but was soon befriended by Kathleen’s friends. The funeral Mass was a joyful celebration and gradually Kathleen’s story was told. She seemed to have had a great devotion to ‘Sales of Work’ and bought/gathered up all she could so that she’d have Christmas gifts for all those she knew – and didn’t know.

As a child she was taken into care by the Good Shepherd Sisters in New Ross, County Wexford, in the southeast of Ireland, in what was called a ‘Magdalen Home’. Contrary to the many horror stories that have emanated from those homes, Kathleen never had a bad word to say about her treatment there. And we know that her memories were happy ones because she asked that her ashes, following cremation, would be buried by the Sisters in the grounds of the home where she was raised. True to her custom of giving out gifts, her dying wish was that all who attended her funeral would be treated to a ‘proper’ lunch in the local hotel.

I had the privilege of coming to know the greatness of one of God’s little ones. May she rest in Peace!

New Ross, where Kathleen is buried [Wikipedia]

‘The Lady of the House’

By Cynthia Empleo

The author was a Columban Lay Missionary in Fiji from 2000 until 2003. She now works in the Mission Office at St Columban’s, Singalong Street, Manila.

I was at the Mission Office in Singalong for my job interview on 24 March 2014 when the phone rang. That was Mrs Tomines asking if someone could drop by her house next day to pick up her donation. So my first job on my first day of work was to pick-up the quarterly donation of Mrs Tomines. Armed with pen and receipt, I navigated my way to her home and met a fine lady with a motherly smile. After enduring the heat of the sun in the traffic of Metro Manila I found her welcome refreshing.

As a Columban Lay Missionary who was sent to immerse myself in the lives of people other than my own, in Fiji, I have always seen the value and importance of making stories like that Mrs Tomines heard. So I took it upon myself to pay her a visit on 1 September 2015 not just to collect her donation but most of all to get to know her story and experience of working for the Columbans.

It was a pleasure to listen as Mrs Leonor A. Tomines reminisced about how she had started working with the Columbans. ‘There was a flood and all their things and cabinets were soaked in water and mud. Back then, all their laundry work was done in Cavite on a weekly schedule. After the flood, they looked for a laundry help. I was recommended because I could speak good English. That’s how I met the Columbans.’

Mrs Tomines was the ‘Laundry Lady’ (as she worded it herself) of the Columbans back in the 1970s when the Columbans working with Student Catholic Action had a house in Santa Ana near La Concordia School. She worked with them for seven years and only left because the Columbans were leaving the Santa Ana house. When they asked her what she planned to do, she said, ‘I would like to put up a small sari-sari store in front of my house.’ She was a widow with ten children. Her husband had passed away when the youngest child was 8.

The Columbans’ response was a great surprise for her. ‘How much do you need for you to start a sari-sari store?’ asked Fr Sean Connaughton. ‘It was through them that I was able to acquire that store’, she narrated, pointing at the front of her house. ‘This helped me in my struggle to raise my children. I will never forget what the Columbans did for me and my children. They treated me as their equal and would introduce me to their visitors and relatives as “The Lady of the House”. Sometimes they would tell me, “Leonor, you have made this place livable” because I was also the one cleaning their rooms’. She said giggling with this recollection.

When asked about her fondest memory of the Columbans, Mrs Tomines said, ‘When they came to the wedding of one of my children. All my neighbors were in disbelief that our humble house, (lupa pa ang sahig namin noon), was visited by many white priests’. She continued sharing, ‘That old mahogany cabinet was also a gift from them. They wanted to give me the pair but my house is small so I only took one. Also, when my husband died, three Columban priests concelebrated the funeral Mass with our parish priest. They really touched my heart with their kindness. They were Fr. Sean Connaughton, Fr John Keenan and Fr Nicholas Murray.”

I was curious as to why she donates such an amount when she needs money to buy her maintenance medicines. Her response moved me a lot. ‘Ah, don’t worry. Every time my children send me money for my medicine, I keep some and call the Columbans. They know about it. This is my chance to repay the Columbans for their kindness to me’.
What Mrs Tomines said next was both a consolation and a privilege for me. ‘About 2003 or much later, Fr Keenan visited before my birthday. I took that as a birthday gift from God. And now, you and this interview are my birthday gifts for this year. The previous staff who would pick-up my donations had been telling me to write my story for the magazine but it’s hard for me. I thank you for making this come true; it’s one of my wishes’.

Mrs. Leonor A. Tomines is enjoying the fruits of her labor having all her ten children working and with their own families. At 93 though, she finds it hard to walk around the house without the help of her walking chair. A week before this interview, she called me about her regular donation and requested me to hurry because she had been feeling very weak lately. Worried about her wellbeing, I suggested ‘an interview with photos for the Magazine’ which she took very positively. For the interview she wore a bright colored dress with her hair up and done. No sign of the previous weakening that she had told me about. I guess I made a good suggestion that time.