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A sibling gives his take on his late brother’s priestly vision

Fedelis Motiung (L) with daughter Michelle and son Christie

In a recent exclusive interview with Catholic Sabah, Fedelis Motiung, the older brother of the late Father Fundes Motiung, shares about his brother’s priestly vision. At the interview, he was accompanied by daughters Michelle and Christie, who had been the constant companions to their uncle during this important part of his life’s journey.

“I will work for Christ until I drop!” said Fundes. Words spoken by him remain vivid in my memory.

That’s exactly what he was – the priestly servant of God. During his sabbatical leave from August 2017 onwards, he still offered himself to serve God, serve the bishop, and serve the people whenever his strength permitted him.

The changes in his appearance as a result of his cancer treatment could be a good reason for him to turn into a recluse, but not Fundes. His disfigured face did not bother him or how it affected others. “What is far more important is what is inside,” said Fr Fundes.

He constantly hammered home to anyone who would listen, the three virtues of faith, love, and charity which he strove to live by and passed them on.

Faith – During the critical periods of his relapses as his illness turned from acute to chronic, he knew that hundreds of people were praying for his healing.

He consistently repeated that he did not want people to pray for his healing, but to pray for his faith, “Your faith will heal you!” he insisted.

He was open to visions…during his first ICU treatment, he saw Jesus beside him, at the foot of his bed, and finally Jesus walking toward him and covering him with His own body, saying “Your suffering is my suffering.”

As soon as he was discharged, Fundes filled with faith continued with his mission to the lost, the lapsed, and in particular to families and youths. There was no idle time. In between his medical appointments and medications, he rode through his pain and moved relentlessly on.

His mission to families led him to minister to his own family members as he gathered them constantly to instill good family relationship and values. For the parish, he was constantly gathering small groups of families to bring awareness and good stewardship of families. He worked hard to bring back the rejects, the broken and lapsed members of the families.

During his second critical ICU treatment, he had another vision of Jesus showing him ‘heaven and hell.’ Heaven is the most beautiful and serene place that you would want to be, while hell is a dark and cold unwelcoming place.

After this vision, Fundes repeated with a troubled sense of urgency to family members and all who visited him: “Don’t go to hell, go to heaven! All can go to heaven. The only thing to stop us is our sins. All that we need to do is to go to Confession regularly and repent, and say the Our Father and the Rosary regularly. It is that easy to go to Heaven. Why would we want to go to Hell?”

Love – It is Love that drove him to reach out to the rejects, the broken and the lapsed.

Some have shared with me at the funeral that it is because of Fr Fundes, that they have come back to church.

Charity – He had given away his priestly allowance to those in need. At St Michael, he had formed a Charity for those in need. He firmly believed in God’s promise: “The more you give, the more you receive.”

However, at the end of an intense eleven months, Fundes had to acknowledge that he could not fulfill his priestly duties anymore, that he had planted some seeds, and what would be next would be up to others after him. “I am ready to go…I am tired,” he acknowledged.

His final message to his beloved family members, friends and parishioners is 1) to be strong in their love and in their service for Jesus, God, and Church; 2) not to go back to where they were before; and 3) to move forward, for Jesus has promised that He will always be with us.

Aptly chosen by him, Fundes has left us words of comfort through the song entitled ‘Don’t cry for me’ by Libby Allen:

No need to fear
God spoke to me…my time has come
He made a way to bring me home
Don’t cry for me
My pain is gone forever
Don’t cry for me
My body’s been made whole
Don’t cry for me
We’ll soon be back together
Don’t cry for me
I’m well within my soul……
My soul lives on…to a better place
With all his glory, with all his grace

Beth Baikan journeys with Fr Fundes in his health journey

Beatrice Beth Baikan, who holds a doctoral degree in Turfgrass Science/Golf Course Environmental Management from Cornell University USA, writes on her journey with her cousin, the late Father Fundes Motiung, who died on 4 Sept 2017.

It was on Easter Monday of 2000, that I had the first of many conversations with my beloved little cousin brother, the late Father Fundes Motiung, regarding his state of health, the beginning of his journey of silent sufferings and pains.

It was customary for him to drop by my office whenever he was in Donggongon as he was now serving in the Penampang Parish. Though we had just reconnected several months earlier after years of going our separate ways during our college years and my long absence from Sabah due to my college years, the bond of our family’s closeness was never broken and we instantly reconnected as if we were never separated, reminiscing our childhood.

“Beth, I am dying” he said as he slumped on the chair in front of me.  I looked at this handsome young cousin of mine who was just ordained priest barely two years, right in the eye and asked him, “Why are you talking about death? Are you tired of living?”  He cast his eyes down and with a serious tone, he said, “Beth, I am ill and I am dying.” “What’s wrong?” I asked as I sensed the seriousness of his voice. “The doctor said that my white blood cell is very high” he said resignedly, and has confirmed that he has leukemia.

I felt a deep pang of pain in my heart and I was lost for words to comfort him at that moment. All I could say was a promise to journey with him in his pain and sufferings and in whatever I could do.

“I don’t know why God put you through this but there must be a reason… I will journey with you in this. You will not bear this alone,” I promised him.

It saddened me that a young priest who wanted to dedicate his life to the service of the Lord was given such a heavy cross to bear before he could see the fruit of his service. Having been just ordained priest, he was at the beginning of his prime years; how could this happen to this young vibrant priest? I wondered.

The Church and the Bishop, in their wisdom, decided that it was best for Fr Fundes to get treatment in Rome where medical facilities were advance and medical specialists in the disease were readily available. Hence he left for his year-long treatment in Rome.  But a year later after he began treatment, he was told to try a new drug for leukemia in Singapore.

So he returned to Sabah and began his arduous travel to Singapore on a monthly basis for his treatment while carrying out his pastoral duty in Sabah.  His frequent travels to Singapore were not without glitch as there were many instances of fainting and collapsing due to his weakening body.

Despite all the pains and sufferings that he was going through, he soldiered on tirelessly to minister the flock God has entrusted him. He soldiered on preaching the Gospel of Christ and bringing the lost back to Christ. In the four years after returning from Rome and while undergoing treatment in Singapore and administering the medication on himself, he never complained.  He never slacked in his priestly duties. He carried on his pastoral duties silently and obediently, always uniting his sufferings to the wounds of Christ and accepting wherever he was posted, even forgetting that he was ill.

He never showed his sufferings and pain to others but carried on his pastoral duties with zeal and love for the people and the Eucharist.  When it comes to pastoral duties, there was no arguing with him.  He was determined to carry on, whether he was in pain or not. He spoke passionately of his vow of obedience.

But as the years went by, the pain at times became too much and unbearable, and he was getting weaker and weaker.

A week before we gathered to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2005, he pulled a chair in front of me and said “Beth, please help me find a cure. It’s too painful and I can’t bear the pricks of the needles anymore – there is no part of my body that has not been pricked by the needle and I can’t bear the pain.  Please Beth, help me.”

I was determined to bring him for treatment in the USA and was preparing for the trip.  But the trip to the USA wasn’t to be as just two days later, on his birthday, he collapsed while celebrating a wedding Mass at Stella Maris.

He was only a few days in the ward and with streams of people and parishioners coming to see him, he contracted a lung infection and turned for the worst with serious case of pneumonia that he was then admitted to the intensive care unit.  It was the most critical stage of his health and he wasn’t able to breathe.  Families, friends and parishioners were keeping vigils for him; thousands of faithful were united in prayer for his healing but his condition was getting more and more critical.  By the third day in the ICU, the doctor asked us to prepare for the worst.

Receiving the news that Fr Fundes was out of danger was one of the greatest miracles that I have witnessed of how God, in His great mercy and compassion, heard and answered the fervent and united prayers of all the faithful to give him reprieve from his sufferings.

Eight days later, he was discharged.  Though he continued to go for treatment in Singapore and taking his medication on a daily basis, his health continued to improve to a bearable level that he was able to soldier on in his priestly mission…never complaining, always joyful, always loving his duties.

For the next ten years, he often joked that his body had now turned to chemical due to the medicine he has to take on a daily basis.

As his health continued to improve, I retreated back to my own chores, only journeying with him from behind the scene, knowing that he would know where to find me when he needed to.  Journeying with him also meant that I must let other people who equally love and care about him the chances to care for him.

On 30 Oct 2016, Fr Fundes was re-admitted and I fell on my knees and prayed the same prayer I had prayed 12 years earlier before the Blessed Sacrament.  I pleaded with God to spare his life once again.

A week later, I flew back to be with him in the hospital.  It was the last heart to heart talk we had on his condition.  He talked about his readiness for death and that he had already accomplished what he set out to do.  Though, he said, he hoped that he would be able to do more, he was aware that it wasn’t going to be.  “Beth, it has been 16 years.  I am thankful that I live for 16 years with these sufferings,” he said.

Although in my most selfish heart I prayed and wrestled with God that he would be well again and stayed longer to continue to minister, but God knew and saw that he was tired and needed an eternal rest.

Even in the last few minutes of his life, I tried to wrestle with God, pleading Him to revive Fr Fundes, but deep within my heart, I heard Father [Fundes] say to me, “Beth, I can’t bear the pain anymore – no part of my body that has not been pricked with needles and I don’t want the needles anymore” and painfully and with aching heart, I watched him breathe his last.

Mercedarian Fr James Chia writes his take on the late Fr Fundes

Seated L-R: Sr Rita Chew fsic, Fr Fundes Motiung, Fr Moses Lui.  Fr James Chia (the writer)  is standing behind (2nd from L).

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.

KKIP Divine Mercy pilgrim experiences mercy at St Peter’s Holy Door Kudat

 

pilgrimage

KUDAT – Below is a personal account from pilgrim Stanley Petrus, chairman of the Divine Mercy Apostolate who led his group from KKIP Church of Divine Mercy on a pilgrimage to the Holy Door of St Peter’s Chuch here on 16 Apr 2016.

The pilgrimage to the Holy Door has been an extraordinary experience for me and I believe it is not a coincidence but God’s will.

There were 72 of us participating in the pilgrimage to St Peter Kudat’s Holy Door.  Speaking for myself, I truly experienced peace in my heart and felt the love of God through His mercy. Before entering the Holy Door, I was of the old-self and worldly. After entering the Holy Door, I felt God’s mercy through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit on me. I experienced God’s Presence through the Divine Mercy of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Now, I feel I am emboldened to go out and  proclaim the mercy of God and to do the works of Mercy during this Year of Mercy. Jesus, I trust in you.

I believe my fellow pilgrims experienced the same mercy of God, if not more.

How one mom balances Faith, Family and Work

working momIs it possible in today’s world to be a faithful Catholic, loving wife, devoted mother and a successful businesswoman?

Paige Barry of Atlanta strives to do so each day. Barry is a 43-year-old working mother of two who has been married for 15 years. She is a senior vice president with a Fortune 500 global technology provider serving the financial services industry. In addition to her career and busy home life, she is actively involved in her parish and runs the successful career ministry at her church.

How has your Catholic faith affected the way you handle your career?

My Catholic faith is instrumental to every aspect of my career. I read my Magnificat to centre me for my day. I use prayer to prepare me for difficult conversations. I pray for the individuals who work for me who are struggling in their jobs; and I ask God for guidance in my big career decisions.

As a Catholic business leader, I feel I have a responsibility to see God in everyone I work with, especially the people I find most difficult. I enjoy sharing prayers with my staff who I know are open to a relationship with God; and I find myself in frequent conversations answering questions about our Catholic faith.

As a wife, mother and Catholic, how do you balance life’s demands?

I believe that God expands time to allow us to serve him, and I look for ways to integrate my family with my ministry work. I have invited job seekers to our home for one-on-one coaching, which allows me to be present to my children and show them one way we can love our neighbour. One of my favourite ministries is playing Bingo at a nursing home. The kids and I do that together. The balance comes by limiting my time away from home to no more than one night a week and preferably only one night every other week. When work requires my time and focus when I am scheduled to serve others, and it has this past year, I have leaned on volunteers and God to provide in my absence. He always does.

Does your team know you are Catholic? How does this affect their interactions with you?

I wear my Catholicism on my sleeve. I am immensely proud of our faith. I try not to be overbearing, and I am always looking for ways to preach the Gospel without words. I find that using well-known Scripture verses or saying something like, “God always provides” or showing gratitude by saying, “Praise God!” sometimes opens a door to discussing faith in the workplace. Sometimes people just hear it as mere words. I can’t think of a single time anyone has ever questioned or objected to the way I insert my faith into the way I approach work.

The key for me living my Catholic faith in the workplace is to maintain my humility at all times while being open to being God’s instrument. This is not easy for me, as I struggle with self-sufficiency and pride daily. There is a prayer to the Holy Spirit I use every day to help remind me of the need to be humble and to let God use me for his purposes. I keep that prayer posted in my office right behind my phone; and it is also saved to my cellphone if I need it while I am away from my desk.

I have had the occasion to share that prayer twice recently with two non-Catholic Christians. One works for me and is a woman of prayer who is all about love and giving. The other is a fellow job-search support volunteer who, like me, believes that a strong relationship with God is the best (and first) job-search tool anyone in transition needs. They love the prayer, use it and have shared it with others.

With a hectic job, enormous demands on your time and typical life stress, how do you find time for prayer?

Some days I am much better at it than others. I try to start every day with prayer and at least 10 minutes reading my Magnificat with my first cup of coffee. I am not a morning person, so this is a difficult discipline. If I am running late, I take my Magnificat to work and try reading it while my laptop is booting up or I’ll read it when a conference call ends early. My husband is a musician, and, for my birthday, he made me a CD of him praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I keep it in my car so I can pray it during my commute. In the past year, I have improved and increased my night prayer by praying intercessory novenas; I use the “Team Novena” app on my iPhone. And I try to pray at least four novenas concurrently. For me, night prayer has been an easier discipline than Morning Prayer. The first 20 minutes I am in bed at night I devote to prayer.

I absolutely love to read, and, as much as I can, I read everything on my Kindle, so I can take several books with me wherever I go. I am always reading more than one book at a time, and I don’t pressure myself to finish faith-formation reading in a specific period of time.

What legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered by family, friends and co-workers?

I hope people would describe me as generous, loyal and prayerful. I pray my family remembers me as a woman true to herself who loved well. I pray my friends remember me as someone who would offer prayers for them and actually prayed them. I pray my co-workers remember me as someone with exceptionally high standards who worked hard to encourage the growth of others.

What I want most of all is for God to be pleased with how I used the many, many gifts he has given me: my marriage, my children and all the blessings that have allowed me to enjoy such a terrific career. I am eager to hear him tell me some day I got things right and followed the path he chose for me. – Randy Hain @ www.ncregister.com

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