In the first part of our interview with Patrick Napal, the future priest of the Atyrau Apostolic Administration, we learned how he was called and how his way to the priesthood began. What happened after his three-year break and what brought him to Russia?
Part 2. Russia
– You were firmly established in the desire to return to the monastery, but why did you switch to another one and how did you find yourself in Russia? This is so far from the Philippines.
– Yes, at that moment I talked about, I decided to return to monastic service. After I left the previous monastery before the eternal vows, I started a relationship with the monks of the congregation of regular canons of the Lord Jesus. They invited me to come to their monastery in Vladivostok in Russia.
– But why Russia? Did you speak Russian?
– To get to Russia for me was like being born again, because I did not know a word in Russian, although I knew many other languages: English, Italian, my native Cebuano and Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines. I learned to speak Russian, just as little children learn to speak. My teacher even had to hold my hand, leading it to teach me how to correctly write Russian letters. But I have a gift for learning languages, and I quickly mastered Russian, after three months I was able to communicate with people fairly freely. Although the whole process of learning Russian language at the FEFU (Far Eastern Federal University) lasted one year. But with the monks themselves, before I got to Russia, I spoke in English, as both priestmonks who served in Vladivostok were originally from the USA.
– Despite such difficulties, you chose Russia. There must be good reasons for it.
– As a child, when I prayed, I told the Lord that I would like to go to different countries, not to earn money, as many Filipinos do, but in His name to be His servant. Later, at the age of 15, I became a catechist, the youngest in the Archdiocese of Davao. There are catechism classes in Philippine schools, and I gave lessons to students in grades 1 and 2 – I had a total of about 13 groups. I really liked it. So, since childhood I had a craving for evangelization, but I was increasingly asserted in the feeling that I wanted to serve precisely where there are few Catholics and few ministers, where not many want to go to serve because it is not so interesting there, or the flock is little. Russia turned out to be just the place for me.
– You had almost reached the eternal vows in the previous monastery. Did you have to start the journey again?
– I first came to Russia in October 2009. I was allowed to skip the postgraduate program and the postulate, and I immediately began with novitiate. A year later I took the first vows. Periodically I had to travel to the Philippines in order to receive a theological education. In March 2014 I took my eternal vows.
– And you continued to work in Russia with
young people, as in recent years in the Philippines?
– Partly yes, I worked a little with orphans. But it was not a shelter at the monastery, unfortunately, as we didn’t have one, so it was the usual state shelter which we visited from time to time. Basically, I focused on serving the elderly, the frail, and the dying, helping them in the hospice. There lived elderly people who were left alone, those whom the children refused to care for, as well as those who were dying. I helped, for example, to feed those who could not cope.
– Did you work directly with the Catholics?
– On the contrary, there were no Catholics there. Well, one of my wards later became a Catholic – a very touching story. This woman’s name was Lena. I had been acquainted with her for several months. At that time, she was more than 80 years old. She wasn’t a believer, but she knew, of course, that I was a monk, because every day I came to feed her. Before she died, I asked her if she wanted to go to the Lord. To which she replied in the affirmative. Then I wondered if she wanted to prepare for this. To which she also replied in the affirmative. Then I asked: “Do you want to be baptized to be with Jesus?” She replied: “Yes.” At that moment I baptized her, lying exhausted in bed. Three days later she went to the Lord. Lena was the only Catholic in that hospice, and she is already with the Lord.
– So, your ministry was mainly with the
physical care of the weak. They did not approach you for spiritual help?
– Judge for yourself. There was another woman Maria, a Ukrainian, who came to Vladivostok. She had three daughters with the names Vera, Nadezhda and Lyubov (can be translated from Russian as Faith, Hope and Love). At that time, one of them had already died, the remaining two were also elderly and could not provide their mother with proper care. I called her Baba Masha. Baba Masha had problems with her right hand. I knew how to massage, and when I did it to Baba Masha, she felt better.
Once I talked to her about life after death. It turned out that despite the fact that Maria was baptized in Russian Orthodox faith as a child, she considered herself a non-believer. At this time, she was very sick, suffered and kept on saying that she wanted to end her torment. To which I told her that she shouldn’t allow even a single thought about it to arise, that we Christians believe in life after the worldly one. She did not agree with me. I replied that if it weren’t so, then Jesus would not have talked about it. Then she asked about what would happen in heaven. I replied that I do not know for sure, but I am sure that everything will be fine there, that there will be no pain, but only peace and love. She looked at me and asked me how to get there. I said that one must believe that there is life after death, and offered her the possibility to confess. She wanted to do so. I called the Orthodox priest, but unfortunately he did not come. Then I asked my parish priest to hear her confession, and he did. And even after that she doubted that she would be in heaven. And I told her: “Do not be afraid, at the end I will get there too, and I’ll see you there”. She asked me: “Really? And when I see you there, will you give me a massage?” Although I already told her that there will be no pain, I answered ‘Yes’ to cheer her up. And she said: “Then I will go to heaven and wait for you.” I replied that if she didn’t believe that there is life in heaven, she would go to hell, but I don’t want to go there, and then we would not see each other. Baba Masha called me a son, and every time I came to her, she told everyone that her son had come to her.
– In our post-Soviet society women usually are still more drawn to God. Were there any men who accepted not only physical assistance from you?
– There was one old man Vladimir, a sailor. He had three children. His wife had died already. He entered the hospice, because no one wanted to care for him. He was always very serious. When I passed by, he looked very sternly at me and did not want me to feed him, but it was obvious that he needed help. On the first day he refused to accept my help, on the second day too, and on the third day he was silent. Then I took a plate and started feeding him porridge. He asked me: “Why are you here?” I said I want to help. He asked me, why I want to help people. I replied that I was a Christian, and my Lord taught me to help people in need. “And who is your Lord?” Asked Vladimir. I said – Jesus. He fell silent and did not want to continue the conversation.
After that we became friends. I came every day to help him shave, get dressed, and eat. One day he asked me if I had a wife. I answered no. And he said that I needed to marry so that there would be someone who would take care of me. But I explained to him that I am not worried about this, because we, the monks, help each other. If you help others, then God will always help you. But he did not back down, saying that I should get married, find a girl. And I told him: “Imagine, if I had a wife in the Philippines, I could not be here to help you. Would you like this?” He fell silent and began to cry. Then he said, “Patrick, thank you for not getting married.” So, recalling these cases, I cannot refrain from tears either, just like now.
– For how long have you served in Russia? And how many monk brothers, whose help you can count on, do you have there?
– In Vladivostok there are only two priests, both of them are Americans, they are from the order of the regular canons of the Holy Cross in America. Now there is also a deacon, a Russian, the first one called to our order from Russia, he will also be ordained soon, on April the 10th. I served in Russia until 2016. There were so many wonderful moments in my life during that time, and indeed, when I wanted to give people something from myself, in the end I received much more from them.
It is hard to imagine, but from Russia Patrick did not get straight to Kazakhstan. In what other country Patrick served before it happened, learn from the next part.