Meeting Christ at Tala Hospital

Manila – Ever since the second day after my arrival in the Philippines seven months ago, when Fr. Charlton informed me of several possibilities for a week of immersion with different groups of poor, I had been eagerly awaiting the experience that we (Br. Joseph and myself) just participated in from January 27th to February 1st, 2013: an encounter with and the opportunity to minister to those who suffer from the effects Hansen‘s disease (the name now used for the disease commonly known as leprosy) at Tala Hospital, Caloocan City. What I did not realize until later is that this experience would turn into a double blessing because besides our time ministering to the Hansenites from 8 am- 5pm each day, we also lived with an impoverished family from Tala during the other hours of the day.
These experiences touched me profoundly on many levels—in fact, I am still struggling to put into words and am unable to adequately share what happened during that grace-filled week. But suffice it to say that I was keenly aware of the presence of the Lord in and among the Hansenites, and through kindness shown us and the extreme sacrifice made on our behalf by our host families. When we arrived in Tala on Sunday afternoon we met our host families, and right from the first minute they welcomed us and made us part of their family. My host family was a bit larger than most families in the USA. In fact there were 15 members staying in a house approximately 15‘ x 20‘. Although the house was small, the love was great. Throughout the week, the little children played and prayed with me, the older ones and the parents told me their stories, and they all sacrificed so much in order to share their meals with me. I was filled with admiration at the hard work done by the mother and father—most days they were taking care of the needs of their family from 4:00am-11:30pm. The little bit of work I offered was really quite meager in comparison. Likewise I was filled with respect for those persons with Hansen‘s disease who are permanent residents of Tala Hospital. During my experience among the Hansenites, I was reflecting upon the Gospel passage from Saint Mark that says, “A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” Although Jesus willed to heal that particular person with Hansen‘s disease, I often wondered why He did not will to heal them all. While I still don‘t know the answer, after meeting and getting to know the men and women at Tala Hospital I think I have a little better understanding why. First, so that Christ could manifest Himself to His followers through them; thus giving us an opportunity to give ourselves to the most abandoned and suffering persons. Second, that we may become Instruments of God‘s Providence—awakening the virtue of Hope in them and revealing the love of the Father to them. It is certainly true that Hansen‘s disease can be a debilitating and devastating disease; and that there is still a stigma attached to (and a great misunderstanding of) the disease by many people—even by the family members of those who suffer from the disease—that is why many of the residential patients at Tala Hospital have been completely abandoned by their families. One of the most common myths is that Hansen‘s disease can be caught just by touching a person infected with it. While at one time the disease was easily spread from person to person, now the disease is easily treated, and the only way to get it is through continued and prolonged exposure to untreated patients, or by inhaling the airborne bacteria from an untreated patient. In fact, many of the healthcare professionals at Tala have been there for more than twenty years, and have been in constant contact with the Hansenites, and have not caught the disease.
In closing I would like to offer as a reflection the following quote from St. Francis of Assisi and then to encourage you to take time to visit and meet Christ in Tala: “This is how the Lord gave me, brother Francis, the power to do penance. When I was in sin the sight of lepers was too bitter for me. And the Lord Himself led me among them, and I pitied and helped them. And when I left them I discovered that what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness in my soul and body. And shortly afterward I rose and left the world.” (Bro. Bob Neimeyer)

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8 thoughts on “Meeting Christ at Tala Hospital

  1. Hi my name is Ralph Hall i am from the USA. I read the articals about how you take care of the homeless disabled children. I run a homeless operation in America. I am coming to your country this month and i would like to visit your place. What is your address and phone number.

    1. I looked at your website. It is to the point about what you do, but perhaps you could give some more details about where you are. It would be very helpful. I pray that Divine Providence will always take care of you and your beneficiaries.

  2. Dear Ralph, will you be traveling in Manila? We also have a place in Legazpi City. In the USA we have homes for children and adults with developmental disabilities and you are also welcome to visit us there. Let me know where your Filippine travel itinerary will take you; I will make sure to contact the director to let them know you are coming. Our province also includes Vietnam and India if you are making a trip to either of those countries.

    Manila Address:
    Guanella Center
    Centerville, Pinkian Road
    Pasong Tamo, Tandang Sora
    Quezon City, 1107 Philippines
    tel: 0063/2/4568550

    Legazpi City:
    Harong Kan Sagrada Familia
    PO Box 98, 4500 Bogtong
    Legazpi City, Philippines
    tel: 0063/52/4373966

      1. Fr. Charlton knows that you will be calling and if he is unavailable, Fr. Dong or Fr. David will be happy to assist you. If you cannot reach anyone at the Guanella Center number above, you may call the seminary: 9315549.

      2. I made a mistake. I will be arriving on 3/4/2013


  3. Dear Ralph,
    I will let them know to expect your call. The Superior of the Community is Fr. Charlton Viray. The Director of the Guanella Center is Fr. Eduardo Cerbito. The other collaborators are Fr. David Anburaj and Fr. Vincent Selvaraj. Please let me know if you require further assistance.

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