Being a Catholic is not just about going to church. It is not about priests and bishops. It is about following the teachings of Jesus Christ, and living it every day, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Almost all of his life, Marcelo Vistro, 83, has been serving at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in the northern Philippines.
During his younger years, he dreamt of becoming a priest, but that dream was never realized. A sister, however, became a nun.
Not becoming a priest did not prevent Marcelo from performing “priestly” tasks.
Members of the clergy in the archdiocese would joke that if only Marcelo could celebrate Mass he would be a good priest. They call him “Bishop Mar.”
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan later started a program allowing lay leaders not only to serve in churches and chapels but in communities.
Build communities and build churches of Christ among the people are the archbishop’s marching orders.
Since then, Brother Mar has become more active and alive in serving the Church, even going out to far-flung communities to hold catechism classes and to spread the Word of God.
All these, however, came to a stop when the new coronavirus pandemic broke.
Since the start of the community quarantine imposed by authorities, Brother Mar and his wife Zita, both “senior citizens,” have been confined inside their home in the city of Dagupan.
For Zita, the situation is nothing new because she has been staying home for some time already because of her failing eyesight.
She is, however, worried about her husband, Mar, who is still very active.
Living with Brother Mar and Zita is Simon, the youngest of the couple’s four children. Simon lives with his wife and four children.
The strict quarantine imposed by authorities to contain the coronavirus pandemic has become an opportunity for the elderly couple to bond with their grandchildren.
It is a challenge, however, for everyone to overcome the long period of being together, especially with the uncertainties brought about by the global health crisis.
In Brother Mar’s family, faith played a role. He started teaching the children to pray the rosary. It was difficult for the children to get interested immediately, but Brother Mar’s persistence paid off.
Today, more than a month after the lockdown, the Vistro family prays together, especially in the evening before everyone goes to bed.
The children have been eagerly taking turns leading the prayers, bringing a smile to Brother Mar’s face.