Her birthday was fast approaching when nine-year old Marsy Irinco decided to ask her friends and family not to give her gifts but instead raise funds that would be donated to help work being done on the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart’s rafters.

“I kind of thought of doing something that might be generous,” said the Sacred Heart Cathedral School pupil. “When I heard about the roof, I thought I might donate it [to that project].”

The cathedral parish priest, Fr James Lyons, said Marsy donated $225.

“What great generosity and thoughtfulness. Such a selfless act by such a young person deserves great applause,” he said in a newsletter.

“A birthday is time to indulge yourself, to have people fuss over you and give you presents!  But something different happened at a birthday party this week. A nine-year-old parishioner had heard of the earthquake problem in the cathedral rafters and asked that, instead of birthday presents, those coming to the party should bring some money — to be given to Father James to help repair the cathedral roof!  How amazing is that?”

It was not the first time that Marsy, whose birthday was on May 12, donated her birthday gifts to a good cause. Last year, she donated them to Caritas.

“I just wrote on my invitations that I would appreciate cash instead of gifts so I can donate them to the cathedral,” she said. “Some people still brought me gifts.”

Her mother, Geraldine Irinco, said it is almost a tradition among her children to raise funds on their birthdays for a charitable cause.

“My eldest daughter did the same thing when she was around Marsy’s age. So did my two boys,” Mrs Irinco said.

Mrs Irinco said she and her husband migrated to New Zealand where all their children were born. The couple were originally from the Philippines, but their work took them to Australia and then New Zealand in 1998, where they eventually settled.

The couple also encouraged generosity in each child by partnering them with a World Vision child.

“When each of them was born, we sponsored a child from World Vision and wrote their names as donees,” she explained. “Through the years, they have been exchanging cards with the (World Vision) children.”

Mrs Irinco said that school was a great influence on Marsy, too.

“I recalled around the time of her birthday last year — her school class was discussing the works of Caritas — thus she decided to ask for money instead of presents on her birthday and gave them all to Caritas,” she said.

The self-effacing mum thought though that praise should be given to those who gave the gifts. “It wasn’t our money after all,” she noted.

Besides, she said, the more important thing for Marsy was hanging out with her friends on her birthday.

Marsy said the gift really was seeing others happy. “I feel happy when I see others overjoyed,” she said.

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