Cebu, the Philippines, 10 May 2017 -- In DB Technological College, every Eucharist is also a chance for a good confession. Our school confessor, Fr. Liam James Mac Manus, just celebrated three important milestones in his life last April. This year is his 50th year as priest (April 16), 60th year as Salesian (April 10), and 80th Birthday (April 27). Except for his close friends, most of us only get to talk with Fr. Liam when we greet him or during confessions.
Young Fr. Mac grew up in India. It was during his childhood days that God introduced St. John Bosco to him through the Salesians in a DB institution. At a young age, he was greatly inspired by how the Salesians helped the young boys and the poor. "I realized that I would like to be one of them" he vividly recalls. At the age of twelve Fr. Mac entered a DB seminary and started his journey as a Salesian. "During my years of formation, I learned who Don Bosco is and what the Salesian life is all about. I tried to be like him and to love the young." After that, Fr. Mac proceeded to the final four years of theology. "On Sundays we would go out to the barrios in India. We were with the poor, played games with the children and taught them catechism." He adds.
STARTING HIS VOCATION
Fr. Mac’s first five years of priesthood was spent as a vice principal in a Swiss school. A quick Google search would reveal that these kind of schools are for the wealthiest students, perhaps something like Harvard. But money and comfort wasn’t Fr. Mac’s purpose for being a priest. "Every day, my desire to help the young grew stronger. I realized that I wanted to be a missionary."
IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES
This desire along with God’s will caused Fr. Mac to be assigned in the Philippines. His first assignment was a priest in Lourdes parish (Cebu) from 1972 to 1981. He occasionally visits the youth center in Buhisan – present day DBTC - to be with the boys. "I wanted to help the street children just like how Don Bosco wanted to help the young and less fortunate."
After a few years of living in the Philippines, he helped managed the old Don Bosco Boys’ Home at Liloan back in 1982. Back then it was still called Cebu Juveniles Homes INC. It was for the delinquents or boys who were put in jail because of their criminal acts and its aim was to rehabilitate those boys and try to help them live a better Christian life.
It housed about 14 children aged 12 and below. It wasn’t an easy job. "The boys liked to play rough, poking forks and pencils at us while being chased." Fr. Mac said. "Many times they would escape from the compound and would wander about the place, they would hide from the brothers and priests, steal from the people and gamble or smoke some cigarettes." Just like Don Bosco, the Salesians were optimistic that even the rugged street urchins can still become upright citizens and good Christians.
"When I see ‘basurero’ boys, I talk with them and invite them to the juvenile home. They won’t have to worry about clothes, food or shelter but they do need to study and to look after themselves so that they will have a good future." Fr. Mac said. It was during this time that they officially changed their name to Don Bosco Boys’ Home Inc. Fr. Mac was one if it’s pioneers.
LOVE FOR THE POOR
"After Liloan, I went to pioneer in Mati (Mindanao island) for 6 years. Then in 2000 I moved out to Pakistan, that time our new FIS mission. There I was unsuccessful because they don’t want people from allied countries like England and America (Fr. Mac’s father was British), so I came back to the Philippines after one year and was assigned to Pasil and the provincial house." By this time, our Fr. Mac was already more than seventy years old. "Life in Pasil was good because it was a slum area. I was close to and was working for the poor." It was then that he witnessed hungry and malnourished children roaming the streets every day. Like Don Bosco, he was convinced that something was supposed to be done. Together with his friends who shared a heart for the poor, Fr. Mac regularly organized feeding programs. One of the Bosconians in Pasil recalls that on Christmas Fr. Mac would dress up all red like Santa clause complete with a snowy beard and a bag full of treats. Then he would walk around laughing "ho! ho! ho!" to cheer up the children in the youth center.
GOOD OLD DAYS
Now Fr. Mac radiates optimism and peace at 80 years. "Now I’m relaxed, I don’t have to worry about getting money or managing the school. Those years were over. My job here is just to help in the confessional so that I don’t have any other stress or problem except to help the boys who wants to confess. That way, I help them in living a better Christian life. My life here is very peaceful, calm and without any problems. Now that I’m about to leave this world, I hope the Lord will give me my reward." Like the other Salesian, Fr. Mac is a living example of St. John Bosco.
Bosconians, young as we are, we still have very many dreams. We want to be prosperous and to have a happy and rewarding life. We want to be successful and be appreciated. Wherever our dreams lead us, let’s remember that life is all about loving God and loving others, especially those in need. Learn from the wisdom of others who have been there and have made it. Pray, love and smile. God has far greater plans for us than we could ever imagine.