Pope Francis in one of his homilies, particularly addressing the message to all priests throughout the world indicated, among others, that a true priest is one that brings the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need…..the priest that stays close to the marginalized and acts like a shepherd living with the “smell of the sheep”. The Holy Father also mentioned that when a priest “doesn’t put his own skin and own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks” from those he has helped”.
Similarly, Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter during the Proclamation of the Year for Priests, indicated that “a priest hold the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods…. Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there … The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.
Aah, who would forget Rev.Fr. Dominic Curto’s missionary works in Laguna, specifically the Catholics in Calumpang where he initiated the construction of a new Catholic church and the first Catholic School in the said place. How can we not pay tribute to his apostolic labors and his tireless service? How can we not praise his accomplishments and be grateful for the moral and spiritual services provided us, even amid problems and difficulties.
Fr. Dominic, whom we fondly called “Lolo”, truly exemplified the qualities of a true priest, one who experienced how a sheep smells, so to speak! He had more direct and visible contact with the locals. He was a priest who smiled easily and readily mingled with everyone, from all walks of life and in all corners of the barangays, particularly the needy and the disadvantaged. He was deeply appreciated and admired especially by the kids who used to follow him wherever he goes, probably mesmerized by his foreign looks and towering height!
While Fr. Dominic appeared quiet and composed, he was a good communicator to his parishioners using his English with an Italian accent. Fr. Lolo was loved by many, making him more “at home” in our place. That is why he loved staying in the Philippines, and tried to adopt the Filipino culture so much that he even wore most of the times his “barong-like” polo shirts whenever he visits the nearby towns of Sta. Cruz, Laguna, especially Calumpang where he had learned to speak Tagalog words.
Fr. Lolo was a loving and generous person, even if he had nothing in his pocket. He will really go out of his way to help those in need and make something worthy and noble happen. He did not forget to visit the sick and perform the necessary sacraments.
Even if Fr. Lolo was not feeling well, he pretended to be well performing his priestly and sacramental duties. When he was seriously ill and weak, he tried his best to get involve as the founder of the St. John Bosco School by whispering to and encouraging his parishioners to go on and live in accordance with God’s teachings.
Unfortunately, God the Father called Fr. Dominic at the age of 92 on August 1, 2014, the feast day of St. Peter in chains. His parting during this feast day of St. Peter may be a sign that he was ready to knock the doors of heaven and that St. Peter would be there to welcome him. Fortunately, however, Fr. Lolo was privileged to have served God and His followers for such a long time on earth.
Now that Fr. Lolo will no longer be able to visit us physically, his memories and good works will be engraved in our hearts. Let us thank God for giving us a priest like Fr. Dominic who was instrumental in one way or another developing and nurturing our faith and spiritual lives. Indeed, Fr. Lolo was not only a priest for himself but a priest for everyone, a priest for Italians, Indians and most of all for Filipinos!
Fr. Lolo, if he were still around, would surely thank all of us in return for the love that we have shown him and for the prayers that we have offered for him. We will surely miss our dear Fr. Lolo but we can always rely on his continued help by praying to him (in Jesus name) that we will be able to cope and bear the struggles in life and be at least Christians or at most Saints-in-the making!
Eternal rest grant unto the soul of Fr. Dominic, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.