Fr Fausto PIME (Pontifical Institute for Missions) was killed on Oct 17 by a man who shot him with 10 bullets. On Oct 25 his remains were laid to rest beside the grave of Fr Favali, PIME also murdered. 10,000 mourners joined the procession in a four km route. Present were his brother, relatives and in-laws, Fr General of PIME, Italian Ambassador, 80 priests, three bishops and government officials. This is the Bishops homily at his funeral.
Father Fausto disliked ceremonies; especially ceremonies that drew attention to himself. He was quite content to labor in relative obscurity as a priest for thirty years in North Cotabato, first in Columbio, and then in Arakan. But the attention Father Fausto managed to escape from in life, he must now endure in death.
In death, he is now called an environmentalist-priest, a human rights defender, the anti-mining activist, the protector of cultural minorities.
But there is a tendency, even by well-meaning souls, to enlarge the life of one who has met a high-profile death.
We do not have to boost to mythical proportions Fr. Fausto’s life in order to make sense of his tragic death. He should be remembered simply as a good and faithful priest, who loved his people, and sought to serve them as best as he could, even in the face of danger to his own life.
How did Fr. Fausto want to be remembered?
In his last will and testament, Fr. Fausto wished that his tombstone to contain the following: “You were told, O Man, what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah)
That is what Fr. Fausto did. He showed mercy, especially to the least of God’s children among his parishioners, the lumad. He sought justice for them, when they were dispossessed of their land, when they were harassed by men with arms, when their own government seemed to abandon them. But doing that—even in a quiet and humble manner —can earn you enemies, enemies that go after even the kindest of men, like Jesus of Nazareth, whom Fr. Fausto followed all the way to Arakan.
And Fr. Fausto knew that.
Twenty-six years ago he saw what happened to Fr. Tulio Favali, PIME, who was gunned down by paramilitary assassins. He could have changed course then, packed up his bag, and head for a safer and kinder place on the missionary map. But he did not. He had fallen in love with his people.
In his last will and testament, he wrote this, in Bisayan, to his people: “Your dream is My dream, Your struggle is my struggle. Therefore, You and I are one; companions in constructing the Kingdom of God.”
When his assailants felled him with bullets, Fr. Fausto was exactly where he chose to be—with his people. When he met death, Fr. Fausto was doing exactly what he had been praying for strength to continue doing: ministering to the people he now called his own. He would not have it any other way.
So it can be plainly said without a doubt, that Fr. Fausto’s death is nothing less than a fulfillment of what St. John says in the gospel: “Greater love than this no man has than he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” Stripped of all editorializing, social commentary, and propaganda literature, Fr. Fausto’s death is simply an emulation, a following and imitation of Jesus’ own death on the cross.
And we gather here in this liturgy because we do not want to lose the essential meaning of Fr. Fausto’s death. More accurately, we are here to be caught up and enlivened by his death, now united with, and suffused by, the saving power of Jesus’ own crucifixion and death. And because Fr. Fausto faithfully began the pattern of the paschal mystery, some form of the resurrection for us will not be far behind. What will it be? We do not know.
But this we know. After Fr. Favali was killed 26 years ago, something like a resurrection followed and is now reflected in the number of priests of the Diocese. Fully one half of their number comes from the Tulunan-Mlang area where Fr. Favali met his martyrdom. So, even as we shed tears today for the loss of a well-loved priest in Fr. Fausto, we are not without hope for the kind of resurrection heaven has in store to surprise us.
Today, then, as we bring Fr. Fausto to his final resting place, we should say “thank you,” first, to his family for allowing him to come and stay with us, for giving him to us. His brother and his sister-in-law and nephews are here with us, all the way from Italy.
Second, we should thank the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and all Fr. Fausto’s confreres. Their General Superior from Rome, the Very Reverend Father Gian Battista Zanchi, PIME and local superior, Reverend Father Gianni Re, PIME, are here with us.
It is said that the Colliseum of Rome, though outside Vatican City, is still considered as belonging to the Catholic Church for the earth on which it stands has been soaked by the blood of countless Christian martyrs who died there in the olden days. In a similar fashion, the local church of the Diocese of Kidapawan is like that. Long after the PIME Institute shall have deemed the Diocese no longer a mission area for its members to be sent to, we shall forever remain yours, for we are marked by the blood of Favali and Fausto, two of the finest missionaries the Institute has ever produced.
Our last word of thanks goes to Fr. Fausto who, though he lies there in silence, must be fidgeting in spirit, unable to wait for all this to end. So, I shall be brief.
“Fr. Fausto, rest in peace. Your labors have ended. With your prayers, we will take up and continue your work.”
+ Romulo de la Cruz, D.D.
Kidapawan City, Cotabato, Philippines
October 24, 2011, Feast of Anthony Mary Claret