by ROWENA OREJANA
GORE — When Fr Fredy Permentilla joined the Mission Society of the Philippines, he knew he was going to be sent to the ends of the Earth.
He was sent to Gore, not exactly a hardship post, but a challenging one nonetheless.
“I was sent here to look after the Filipino community and help the diocese of Dunedin,” he said. “Ministry in the rural areas can be hard and stressful, at times.”
Fr Permentilla said he was brought up in a farming family. “I didn’t regularly go to Mass until I was in high school. My mum, though, was devoted to praying.”
Fr Permentilla heard God’s call after he joined the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Philippines.
“We would go to the remote areas in the Philippines. Once we set a coconut palm alight so we can see our way,” he recalled with a grin. “That is when I realised I wanted to be a missionary, living with the people, talking to the people in the remote areas.”
He met a seminarian who introduced him to the MSP (Mission Society of the Philippines). “The society sends priests overseas to proclaim the Good News. I thought I should give it a try,” he said.
He took the exam but kept it from his parents. He asked God for a sign that would tell him if he was doing the right thing.
“I went home one day and my mum was carrying a letter. She was crying. She got quite upset because I didn’t tell her. I didn’t ask her permission,” he said. “I am the only son.”
His parents are now happy with his vocation, he said.
Fr Permentilla said he already had a degree in industrial technology and even worked for a year before he studied for the priesthood.
He said he is happy in priesthood.
Religious people, he mused, are needed to inspire people. The saddest part of his ministry, he said, is going to rest homes and seeing the elderly just staring out of the window.
He said one can almost touch their loneliness.
“They are just sitting there. You can feel their loneliness,” he said. “ Every Friday, we visit them and give communion to sick and elderly. That is our pastoral activity,
that is where it’s focused. These people are the dedicated Catholics.”
He said especially in this age, when young people spending more time in cyberspace, the
world needs priests who will lend an ear or give the human touch.
“We need inspiration that will give hope to those who are broken, to people who have stress
and suffering. We need people who will listen to people who are in pain,” he said. “We need people who will reveal God’s presence among us.”
by ROWENA OREJANA