Father James Chia writes from Buffalo, USA at the invitation of Catholic Sabah to share about Fr Fundes Motiung, whom he talked with in his visit to Kota Kinabalu in August 2017. Fr James Chia of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, also known as The Mercedarians, hails from Kota Kinabalu, was ordained in Philadelphia USA in 2012, and currently serves in the Diocese of Buffalo USA as parochial vicar.
BUFFALO, USA – In Matthew 16:24, we hear Jesus saying to His disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” As Christians, we are called followers of Christ. Following Jesus always involves the cross. When Fr Fundes picks up his cross and follows his Master, he also follows his Master all the way to the Cross, that is, Calvary. This is our journey too!
What I am sharing with you is not so much from my conversation with Fr Fundes about his sickness and suffering but rather, but a witness account of what Fundes spoke with his life and actions that evening on Aug 17 during the Stella Maris CWL Golden Jubilee Dinner.
Many might have read and can read about his achievements as a priest. My sharing is about my priest-friend named Fundes, in particular how he preached the Joy of the Gospel in the final months of his life focusing on the evening of Aug 17.
Fr Fundes was always very welcoming to me whenever I “revisited” Stella Maris during my vacation. He was a pastoral priest – one that has a merciful heart who always thinks of the salvation of souls in his priestly ministry when he administers to the souls Jesus sends him. He was not clerical but rather informal and approachable. He also had a good sense of humor!
Prior to going back to KK this vacation, I had wanted to visit him since I knew it would probably be our last meeting. So, when I arrived at the table for the CWL golden jubilee event, I saw Fundes and he recognised me when I spoke to him although he could not see me clearly. I sat next to him and we talked amid streams of teary-eyed faithful visiting him. That evening was a gift from God Who knows our heart.
During our conversation that evening, I said to him: “Fundes, in my opinion, if Jesus were to call you back to Himself and to the Father, you would go straight to heaven!” His humble response was: “That is what we all hope for.” This is to say as Christians, we all hope to go straight to Heaven when we die.
For most people when they are sick and near death, they would probably recluse themselves and disappear from the public.
However, not Fundes! He was living his life to the fullness amid his sickness and suffering. He was preaching the joy of the Gospel with his life. What he did that Aug 17 evening spoke so much louder than what he actually spoke. His appetite was good and he was not picky about what he ate. He was eating just like anyone else that evening.
Throughout the evening, Fr Fundes was jovial and he was the one consoling the teary-eyed parishioners who went to see him. I believe, that evening, Fr Fundes was thanking and appreciating all the gifts that our merciful God has given him. It was his – Fr Fundes’s – farewell gift to us!
That evening, there was a youth who is also an altar server at Stella Maris. He went to Fundes, knelt down, wrapped his hands around him and began to sob unceasingly. Fr Fundes embraced him and said to the young man: “It is OK bah! I am OK!” There, the man who was called to be the priest of Jesus was consoling one of his sheep who was deeply saddened by fact that his shepherd was dying. At the moment of this writing, I cannot stop seeing the image of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
At the end of the Jubilee dinner, we parted ways. I took with me that image of Fr Fundes who was living his life to the fullness, carrying his cross and following his Master all the way to the cross (Calvary), and not giving up the cross designated by Jesus from all eternity. No doubt, it was a heavy cross but God also sent many Simons of Cyrene helping Fr Fundes carry his custom-made cross. Jesus was walking with Fr Fundes through the gift of the Holy Eucharist.
Fr Fundes showed that life is worth living and that our sufferings, when united with Jesus’ suffering, has values and can do wonders by God. The world we live in does not like suffering but Fr Fundes showed that our suffering is redemptive in nature.