The following was written by Fabienne de Geofroy, a correspondent from the Philippines.
At the Foot of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
In Surigao City, at the northern tip of the island of Mindanao, the last two days of the mission will take place on the esplanade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, located at the top of a hill overlooking the city of Surigao and offering a 180° view of the sea. It is a splendid place, but exposed to all the winds that blow hard these days, accompanied by intermittent torrential rains.
This sanctuary was built in 1976 on the initiative of a group of faithful devoting great devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. One of the founders of the sanctuary confided to us that it once attracted many faithful who came every evening to pray the rosary there. On Thursday and Friday evenings, they met there as a family to recite the rosary of the five wounds with arms outstretched; every first Friday of the month there was a Holy Hour.
During the Santo Niño [Holy Child Jesus] feasts in January – one of the most popular devotions since the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century – there were crowds. One of the members of this Marian group, a Chinese Buddhist converted in his youth, is a devotee of Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer. It is thanks to him that we have access to this place, unfortunately deserted for years.
The city and its surroundings were hit hard by Typhoon Odette last December, ACIM-Asia was able to help the victims and particularly the inhabitants of the very poor district of Canlanipa thanks to the donations collected. They have enabled many families to find a roof… that is to say a piece of sheet metal.
Fr. Timothy has been leading an apostolic mission there, assisted by his catechists and by the Marian team of his faithful Chinese who visits families and teaches them to pray the rosary. The latter spared no effort and his purse to help the victims of the typhoon. This first day begins with an ethereal morning mass on these heights swept by the sea winds.
“O Mother of Perpetual Help, our hearts overflow with confidence in you, because of the Name you bear. Here we are at your feet to expose to you all the necessities of our lives and our death. Come to our aid, O charitable Mother!”
Saturday, September 17: The days flew by like Pacific winds, relentlessly sweeping the shores of Surigao City. On this last afternoon of the mission, volunteers go to the neighborhood of Canlanipa, one of the poorest in the city.
Its location by the sea could have made it a nice residential area, but its inhabitants are very low-wage dock workers at the port of Surigao whose large cargo ships can be seen on the opposite shore. We follow Fr. Timothy through the maze of alleys in the slum that are so familiar to him. The inhabitants have built a charming oratory dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary where children and adults gather regularly for catechism and the recitation of the rosary.
The mission ends with a procession which, following Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, leads us to the city center. It ends in the dining room of a large hotel, after crossing the hall singing Ave Maria, to the great astonishment of the new volunteers. They are not accustomed to this very natural cohabitation of civil and religious, still customary in the Philippines.
Under the maternal and benevolent gaze of Our Lady, in the place of honor on the podium of the dining room, the volunteers were generously thanked by a gala dinner, folk dances, popular nursery rhymes sung by the catechism school children, the farewell song Con te partiero by the catechists and, of course, the traditional “certificates of appreciation.”
The new volunteers have all been “infected” by the Rosa Mystica mission virus. They will undoubtedly return for the next one which should take place March 6-12, 2023, God willing.
Kentucky Missionary in Mindanao
Before we leave, we do not forget the care of souls lavished with immense dedication by our tireless missionary, Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer, who did not hesitate to leave everything, to go to the end of the world, and convert the nations.
“And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting,” (Mt. 19:29). Fr. Timothy, chaplain of our Rosa Mystica mission for so many years, has gone to the end of the world, in order to offer our Filipino friends the means of achieve that endless happiness which has been promised to men of good will.
Leaving everything behind... For me, having seen him at work during the five Rosa Mystica missions in which I have taken part since 2017, Fr. Timothy embodies the perfect image of the missionary that I was able to create for myself in my childhood, when Fr. Buliard, apostle of the Eskimos and another priest whose name I have forgotten, on a mission in China and then in Taiwan, came to school to tell us about their extraordinary lives.
Like them, Fr. Timothy chose this voluntary poverty which implies leaving everything, family, homeland, friends etc., but also wealth and comfort: for it is by living poor like the poorest who are the majority of Filipinos to whom he ministers that Fr. Timothy knows he will touch their hearts.
Let's hope that his health will not suffer from the life he has chosen to lead, crisscrossing the big island of Mindanao to serve its chapels or open others, sleeping in snatches (like the Filipinos) on a chair here, in a bus there, when a moment of respite is granted. He can be seen feeding on the daily bowl of sticky rice or whatever falls into his mouth without thinking about it. And he is often wearing sandals or flip-flops, like all Filipinos, with a threadbare white cassock.
To the end of the world... Is there a place farther from Kentucky than the Philippines? The sweet and nostalgic tune of the state song of his homeland, especially in the situation so close that led to the absolute closure of the borders and for months made a return to his country impossible. Fr. Timothy must sometimes hum it in his head: “We sing one song, for my old Kentucky home, far away.”
Far away: Fr. Timothy has forced himself to adopt the ways of the country, to learn the dialect, so different, and so distant from his own. His sermons, full of ardor, preached in Visaya (the language of the southern Philippines) go straight to the heart of this still Christian people, who are certainly deeply touched by such faith, and by such solicitude.
To convert the nations… In fact, during our missions, how many children and adults, men and women, have committed themselves in this way to the Militia of the Immaculata by listening to him preach. These are the fruits of a deep charity, one whose greatest concern is the salvation of souls, which made this American from Kentucky their true brother.
His deeply missionary spirit, which was indeed like that of Archbishop Lefebvre, in this way has convinced him of the apostolic dimension of our Rosa Mystica mission: to touch and raise souls to God through Mary, by focusing, like Jesus, on the poverty and the suffering the bodies, by striving to relieve them, and by accomplishing the works of corporeal mercy in fraternal charity.
What all our good and holy White Fathers, Holy Ghost Fathers, or Fathers of Picpus, like Damien of Molokai, did before him... We wish Fr. Timothy long life in order to continue his apostolate with our dear Filipinos and at the end of the road, where eternal life is promised to those who have given everything.