By Fr. Scott Binet and Eric Dizon
I first met Eric Dizon in 2004 while on a medical mission in the Philippines that was sponsored by the Rizal McArthur Memorial Foundation.
This was the beginning of what would become a very fruitful collaboration between yours truly and Eric, the Filipino community in Wisconsin and my Camillian confreres in the Philippines. And that collaboration has to this day helped to promote the mission of the CTF very much. In fact, the largest supporters in the US of the CTF-SOS DRS response to the recent disaster in the Philippines (Typhoon Ketsana) are members of the Filipino community in Wisconsin. And Eric Dizon – a Filipino American – is a member of that community.
This is how Eric and I met. I left Milwaukee in January 2004 and traveled to Honduras for a collaborative medical mission and then to El Salvador to evaluate the local Caritas response to the earthquakes that shook the country in 2001. Then I went to the Philippines to join my fellow Camillian Fr. James Roa MD, MI and several other medical professionals from Milwaukee.
We then went by bus on a mission that took us to several cities in the Philippines. There we – including Eric, who would soon become a medical student – served the health needs (medical and surgical) of many people. And we also prayed, worshiped, ate and socialized together. There were about 25 of us. This was the beginning of a very fruitful relationship with the Filipino community in both the US and the Philippines.
The fruits of this initial encounter in the Philippines have been many: Members of the Philippine community in Milwaukee included Fr. James Roa MD, MI in their next RMMF mission; They started to give medical supplies and equipment for the work of the Camillians in Calbayog City, Philippines and elsewhere; Eric and I started to find ways to work together for the CTF.
Later that year in December when the 2004 Tsuanmi hit and I was already in Banda Aceh, Indonesia – Eric contacted me and asked if he could help in the relief effort. I consented and Eric flew to Indonesia and helped us for a month. It was a good experience for all concerned as Eric’s ability to work as part of a team and his trustworthiness, intelligence, wit and physical strength made him a very helpful part of the CTF response. After his time in Indonesia Eric returned to the US and continued his studies. Then during 2 subsequent summers he helped us during our MCP parish appeals as we traveled throughout the US. Eric has spoken in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, to name a few places – a missionary on a new mission! Well, here are Eric’s own words about his experience this last summer.
I flew out to Newark from Milwaukee on a very rainy June 12th but missed my connection to Scranton that night due to inclement weather. Making my way to a local hotel, I spent the night in New Jersey before flying out the following morning.
D’Ann, the CTF-SOS DRS executive assistant, pulled up to the baggage claim area with an affable, urbane priest in tow who introduced himself as Father Francis from Kenya. Loading my bags into the Toyota Sienna Van of SOS DRS, we headed to Our Lady of Victory Parish in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, my first parish of the MCP appeal season and part of the Diocese of Scranton (See Map).
Our Lady of Victory was a gorgeous church. Constructed with steel, glass, and wooden beams, the architecture was very modern and minimal yet surprisingly warm at the same time. Father Richard, the pastor, helped me lug my bags up to my room in the rectory. Leading me over to the church, he then helped me set up the CTF banners for the mass that evening. After the celebration he took me out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant where he regaled me with stories of his life in the Poconos. Then Fr. Richard showed me around town.
I had several more appeals on Sunday. Afterwards, a parishioner was kind enough to prepare lunch for me at the rectory while I waited for D’Ann to pick me up.
D’Ann arrived that afternoon; we drove over to the Fatima Renewal Center in Dalton, PA where we were later reunited with Father Francis. The facility was HUGE, but there were only four people staying there (myself, D’Ann, Fr. Francis, and a priest on sabbatical). Running in the peaceful mountain woods that evening, I encountered a family of deer. It was surreal…
The next morning D’Ann, Father Francis, and I drove to Canastota, NY to stay for several days at Saint Agatha’s Parish, Fr. Francis’ home away from home in the US. He turned out to be quite the chef (the man was like Wolfgang Puck) and offered us the experience of eating ugali and other Kenyan delicacies. One evening Father Cleophas, the representative in the US of the Diocese of which Fr. Francis is a part (Nakuru – See Map), invited us both to watch his soccer match in Syracuse and to have tea at the rectory afterwards. The following day Francis and I played golf with Fr. Cleophas at a local course. And Cleophas then came returned with us to Canastota to make dinner!
The three of us drove back to the Fatima Renewal Center in Dalton that Thursday where we were reunited with Father Scott who had been making an MCP in South Carolina.
We headed into downtown Scranton the following morning for a meeting and interview at the Office of the Propagation of the Faith at the chancery of the Diocese of Scranton.
Deacon Ed Kelly (seen here between Fr. Francis and yours truly) was kind enough to take us on a tour of the rectory and the church, both of which were achingly beautiful. Delivering Father Scott to a local parish for his appeals, the rest of the team then headed for Ohio.
My parish there was much smaller than that in PA, which meant I only had three appeals that weekend. The parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, was in Youngstown (See Map). Father John Madden (not the football coach) took me out to dinner at the Amen Corner after mass that Saturday evening. Celebrating his 23rd anniversary as a priest that Sunday at a steakhouse lunch, we ate and debated whether Jim Brown or Walter Payton was the greatest running back of all time!
On Monday D’Ann, Fr. Francis and I headed back for Canastota via Niagara Falls, NY – spending the remainder of the week at Saint Agatha’s Parish. Another priest from Kenya named Father Chris was there to greet us upon our arrival. And Fr. Cleophas and another Kenyan priest named Father John dropped by one evening to make us dinner. What a deal…ugali again!
The group split up later that week to make appeals. Fathers Francis and Fr. Chris were off to New Orleans, LA to make appeals for their diocese. We dropped them off at the airport in Syracuse, and then D’Ann and I made our way to Newark, NJ; I spent the night at a local hotel. Retrieving Father Scott from a friend’s home in Yonkers the next day, we then dropped him off at JFK Airport in New York City. He was going to attend the CTF-Pastoral Centers 1 Conference in Madrid. I, instead, was off to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Montclair, NJ.
Greeting me in the rain later that evening, Father Tony Leonelli of OLMC helped me tote my bags into the rectory. The two of us went out for ice cream that night and had an interesting discussion about the differences between life on the East Coast and in the Midwest. We also went out for a lovely dinner with Father Tom. I had five appeals at the parish that weekend. Built in 1939, OLMC was created in the Italian Gothic style (very elegant and timeless).
D’Ann picked me up Sunday afternoon, and we headed for the rectory of Father Greg Uhrig at Saint Luke’s in Plainfield, NJ. We spent the week there, which gave me the opportunity to spend a bit of time in nearby New York City.
I went to Saint Jude’s in Paterson, NJ on the Fourth of July. Father Bob (a die-hard Red Sox fan) was very hospitable and teased me for wearing a (souvenir) Yankees hat. I believe I had 6 appeals at Saint Jude’s even though I was only there for a 24-hour span! Spending a bit of time at Lucky Garden next door, I met some of the rambunctiously friendly locals from the neighborhood.
D’Ann picked me up Sunday afternoon, and we made the long drive back from New Jersey to Wisconsin…uggh!
The following weekend D’Ann and I were off to the Diocese of Dubuque, IA. Assigned to the parish of Saint John the Baptist for three appeals, I stayed in the home of Hal and Sharon Dendurent. They were kind enough to take me to a local festival and concert, which gave me the opportunity to for the first time eat the famous Iowa State Fair Fried Twinkie! I had a lot of fun there.
My final series of appeals (three this weekend) was at Saint Anne’s in Ortonville, MI in the Diocese of Detroit (see map). Apparently, Kid Rock lived down the street from the parish, which I thought was pretty cool. Hosting me were Father Gerard Frawley (of County Limerick, Ireland) and his German Shepherd Sammy. The Church had an interesting configuration as the altar was placed in the very middle of the room. We went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant next door and then watched a documentary about poverty in Africa. Father Frawley made breakfast for me Sunday morning before my final two appeals…
Overall, I had great time this past summer doing MCP appeals, facilitating the Camillian Task Force’s mission to serve the neediest of the needy… I look forward to my next experience with the CTF…