MANILA, September 28, 2014—A Catholic priest of the Opus Dei prelature fondly recalls his encounter with Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, the former Opus Dei head, who was proclaimed “blessed” on Saturday, September 27 in Madrid, Spain.
An anecdote Fr. Francis Ongkingko shares, presents del Portillo as someone who “had set his heart and mind on the expansion of Opus Dei in Asia” that he considered the knowledge of either Mandarin or Cantonese indispensable in order to win the continent for God.
Himself of Chinese blood, Ongkingko, who knows not a single word of Chinese despite his surname, regards the prelate’s observation as something both “serious and urgent”, especially after he read a detailed biography of the del Portillo.
Del Portillo told the young priest, “You are, as we say in Spain, like a teacup without tea!”
But that first meeting with “Father Álvaro” was not to be his last. Ongkingko was fortunate again to greet del Portillo in person when the latter visited the Philippines in 1987.
“I had just known Opus Dei then. Listening to him opened many horizons, especially the mission that we, his children in the Philippines, had in the whole of Asia,” shared Ongkingko.
“He also reminded us about our role in the Church, as we had to be vital supports for the Pope, the bishops and our other faithful. His personal meetings with then Pope John Paul II helped us to pray more and accompany closely the Holy Father,” he added.
Another anecdote Ongkingko tells involves a late afternoon audience del Portillo had with then Pope, St. John Paul II.
Noticing that the pontiff came in very tired, almost dragging his feet, Father Álvaro, concerned, said, “Holy Father, you are very tired.”
John Paul II promptly replied, “If I’m not tired at this hour of the day, then I’m not doing my job.”
“This and many other stories from Father Álvaro filled us with a richer outlook in our faith and also with greater optimism to carry out our apostolic mission,” said Ongkingko. (Raymond A. Sebastián)