Treasured Memories with Columban Missionaries (TM with CM)

By Gloria Fallorina

Gloria was married to Leonardo Fallorina of Candelaria, Zambales. They have four children, all girls. She has been back from Japan to the Philippines since 2000. In her golden years, she is still actively engaged in church works in Valenzuela City.

I arrived in Japan on December 5, 1995. Adjustment in a foreign land was not easy. Language was one of the biggest problems. There was only one Person who could understand me completely, GOD.

Being a church worker for more than ten years, I missed attending Holy Mass in less than a week since I arrived in Japan. I tried my best to find a church where I could feel at home being away from home. I remembered what God said, "If you seek Me, surely you will find Me". True enough, with the help of the taxi driver and a few Japanese words that I managed to memorize, courtesy of some Filipinos living in that area, I was able to locate Chibadera Catholic Church. So beautiful, magnificently standing on top of the hill!

I saw a man going up the concrete stairs almost half-way to the church. He was a tall white man whose built and body movement called for a full respect. He was wearing a light-blue long sleeves shirt. I easily recognized him as a priest with the Roman collar he was wearing. Catching up from behind, I greeted him with a voice loud enough for him to hear me, "Good morning, Father. My name is Gloria. I am a Filipina, a catechist, and I am looking for a church where I can serve". Upon hearing me, he hurriedly went down the stairs and approached me with a big and friendly smile on his face. He gave me a big hug as if I was his long-lost child. And he said, "Certainly, you are very much welcome, Gloria. God and I have been waiting for you for a long time. Now look at that, you are here now. We are more than happy to welcome you at Chibadera Church". He was Columban Fr. Cyril Murphy, the Parish Priest.

On one occasion, the person in-charged of preparing the altar was absent. I had to take over. Ignorant as I was, I didn’t know exactly what to prepare. So, I went to see Fr. Cyril an hour before the Mass, but he was not around. Instead, I met a young lad whom I thought was Fr. Cyril’s younger brother. He asked me of my intention to which I replied by inquiring the color of the vestment to prepare for Mass. He said, “Pink!” chuckling. I got irritated and turned my back. He hurriedly said, “White”. Still tensed, I thanked Him though. The next thing I knew, as the Mass started, the priest to enter the altar was that young man whom I just met. Oh, he was a priest! To my shame, I felt like cold water was poured on me. Later on, I was to know him better as I saw him playing around with the kids. He looked a lot better with smiles on his face. He was Columban Fr. Tim Mulroy.

The author (1st row standing at the center) with Father Tim (seated front row at the center), Father Cyril (last row standing at the center) and the Filipino Community, Chibadera Catholic Church, Japan, 1999

Since then, the Filipino community in our area had frequent dialogues with Father Tim. After each Mass he saw to it that we would share a hot cup of coffee and tea with some cookies down at the church hall. A camaraderie of brotherhood and sisterhood was born.

After a few more weeks, Father Tim informed us that the church had no one to clean it. No janitor! With his friendly touch of gentleness, he persuaded us to clean saying that the Japanese people were already old, whereas the Filipinos were young, energetic, alert and seemingly wanted to show their prowess in cleaning. I was smiling secretly as I admired this smart priest on how to win his battle.

Every now and then we, Filipinos, came together to make plans and discuss things for the church. Father Tim was always good in eliciting from us what was in our hearts. He wanted to know us better. By this, we learned to be transparent, to be true, with our core value as “change for the better”. He came to know our dreams, our longings, our joys and sorrows, our strengths, weaknesses and our sufferings. He taught us many things about simplicity in action. We learned from him about building not only beautiful memories, but more of concrete things that we knew we would leave behind in favor of our host country. He empowered us. Little did we know that he was molding us to become missionaries, too, in our own little way.

Mass at Chibadera Catholic Church

Then came November. But Filipinos were more excited for the month of December. Father Tim took time to share with us a very wonderful and interesting insight about the month of November as a prelude to a more meaningful month – December. Let me share it to you in the words that I know:

The breeze is cold, as cold as the dead. The night is longer than day. It easily gets dark, as dark as death. And the leaves falling off the trees are quite noticeable. Brown, deep yellow, red, crimson red. Landing, they seem to dance on different beats, just as there are different ways to die. The leaves fall slowly, as if floating in the air and not wanting to land. Another leaf seems to be prancing as if playing with the wind before laying down its body to the soil. And there are those that fall in a straight and continuous descend. But no matter how one leaf lands, it is leading to but one direction – ground.

The leaf that falls off becomes dry, brittle and rotten. And as November passes by, the rotten leaves would now become fertilizer for other leaves to begin new life full of faith, hope and love.

The first cry of a newly-born baby brings great joy to humanity. Each sound coming from every new born babe brings forth a new healthy dream of the heart’s desire for peace, happiness and unity. It is a dream of a life that is whole, full and satisfying formed out of love brought by the Good News of a Babe in a manger on His birthing in December.

How fast or slow life passes us by is not of the essence. What is more important is the mark left in the heart and memory of the relationship built between the giver and the receiver.

We remember: At the center of the crucifix is the One who left a great mark, a mark of the greatest love.

The Japanese and Foreign Community of Chibadera Catholic Church on a Concert-for-a-Cause, 1999

The Japanese and foreign community of Chibadera Catholic Church joined their hearts and mind and began to sail in unison. Together the community explored the beauty of working for the kingdom of God with one vision.

The grace-filled guidance of the two indefatigable Columban Missionaries became our powerful source of inspiration, strength and hope as we journeyed in a world full of many challenges. Fathers Cyril and Tim served as our shining stars who touched our lives and taught us how to dream, empowered us to share our time and talent, and most specially to build treasured memories.

To all the Columban Missionaries, please accept my profound gratitude for everything. I pray, wherever you may go, that you will continue building, empowering, guiding and touching lives of people endlessly. You are always in my thoughts and prayers.

The Chibadera Catholic community loves you so much.