CAMP SIONGCO, MAGUINDANAO, January 24, 2004 (STAR) Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Virgilio Angelo said that after being stranded in Saudi Arabia for months, 16 Filipino workers are scheduled to return home this weekend.

"OWWA has already issued pre-paid tickets and they are expected to return home anytime this weekend," Angelo said.

He explained that the repatriation of the 16 Filipino workers took a long time because certain laws in Saudi Arabia had to be considered and compiled with. The 16 Filipino workers, who ran away from their employers last year, went on hunger strike in front of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to demand their immediate repatriation. The protest action was settled after weeks of negotiations. — Mayen Jaymalin

Gift of the Virgin Mary

AT 3:00 A.M. By James B. Reuter, S.J. The Philippine Star 01/24/2004

On Wednesday, February 11, we will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. When she appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes in France, in 1858, she seemed to be a beautiful young girl, about seventeen years old. She said to Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception.."

This was long before the Immaculate Conception was declared a dogma by the Catholic Church. And the principal patron saint of the Philippines is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. On Calvary, Our Lord said to his mother: "Behold thy son." And to John he said: "Behold thy mother." John represented all of us. Our Lord was giving the Virgin Mary to us, as our mother.

The Virgin has certainly taken this seriously. She has answered many requests that Filipinos, and Filipinas, have asked of her. And she goes on, answering! Only recently a young married woman wrote to me, from a province in the Philippines. This is what she said, exactly as she said it:

"Let me tell you my story. I had problems with my menstrual cycle even when I was single. I was married in 1997 to a wonderful husband. But I would only menstruate one to three times a year, due to hormonal imbalance. And we wanted so much to have a baby!

"My aunt dropped by our office and gave me a zeroxed copy of the address of Our Lady of Lourdes, France. At first I was hesitant to write to Our Lady of Lourdes. But I thought: ‘Why don’t I give it a try?’ I wrote her. I had been married and had been childless for six years. Unexpectedly, my cycle became regular.

"I became pregnant for the first time in January of 2003. My tears poured down when I heard the news that I was in the family way. I was not being treated regularly by my doctor. I just came to her due to discharges I am experiencing. I had no idea that I was pregnant! My last treatment was in 1998. For five years I had not gone back to her. But in March of 2003 she confirmed the discovery that I was pregnant in an ultrasound. I could feel symptoms of being pregnant earlier, yet I did not realize that I was carrying life in my womb!

"I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful, bouncing boy, through Caesarian section. Our little bundle of joy turned three months on December 1, 2003. His name is Sean Kyle and he has changed our lives. All the specifications stated in my letter to Our Lady of Lourdes for our son’s physical, mental, and other good personalities, really came true. He has a dimple. So cute! I can see that he is really going to be a smart kid, and a smart young man when he grows up. I hope and pray that he will also be God-fearing and will live a very simple, peaceful and humble life.

"My husband and I wrote a letter to our son, and we read it aloud in the short program honoring his baptism, and our thanksgiving. Everyone was so alive that night! Surprised by the miracle, they gave us a standing ovation. We just can’t believe that God has been so good to us! Here is a copy of our letter:

"To Our Beloved Son,

After six years of marriage, by surprise, you finally arrived. You just don’t know how much we had wanted you. . . . and how much we had waited for you. . . . . .

Now, you’re finally here, for us to hold you dearly. You’re a gift from heaven to earth . . . . . formed and fashioned from above . . . . you’re a cherished token of God’s love.

With your angelic touch, we thank God with all our heart. Having you is more than having all the treasures on earth. . . . we can’t give you anything as it pleases. . . . . but one thing for sure we can give and offer you, our UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, OUR SON.

From this day forward. . . .we are pleased to have you baptized and become one of God’s children. All of us – your family, relatives, friends, and people whom you may be with as time goes by – are happy to welcome you.

And for all of those departed, who had once touched our lives, how we wish they had the chance of meeting you, and you meeting them. Your Lolo would have been a proud grandfather, had he been alive today. Yet we know that, even in spirit, he is protecting and guiding you in every way.

Tonight, at this very moment, we proudly present you to all these people who are gathered here, as we welcome you to our generation . . . . . Welcome to our generation, Kyle . . . . . We love you dearly.

Lovingly yours,

Daddy and Mommy

"We are so happy to have the address of Our Lady of Lourdes. We thank God, the Father Almighty. In his time, he understood what we have been asking for so long – a miracle. No words of gratitude can possibly express it, but deep in our hearts we are very grateful. I have been giving out copies of the address of Our Lady of Lourdes, so that other women may take advantage of the loving, generous, motherly heart of Mama Mary."

For those who might be interested, this is the address:

Monsieur L’Econome de L’oeuvre de la Grotte

65100 Lourdes, cedes

Lourdes, France.

The letter is not opened. But it is placed before the image of Our Lady, as she appeared to Bernadette Subirous, in the Grotto beside the River Gave, in Lourdes. After 24 hours, the letter is burned, before her statue. The letter crystallizes the prayer that is deep in the heart of the one asking the grace. It is amazing how consistently Our Lady has been answering these requests. She grants exactly what is asked of her, even to the dimples. She seems to have a special love for the Philippines, and for the Filipinos.

* * *

Tomorrow, Sunday, January 25, the Jesuits will conduct a seminar for college students, and for young professionals, who are interested in bringing God to man, and man to God, as a priest or a Brother.

The seminar will include:

• Discernment of vocation. God has a special job for every man. What is God calling you to do?

• The stages of formation. How long does it take to become a priest or a Brother? And what does the candidate study?

• Apostolic works. What is a priest, or a Brother, expected to do? What are the hardships? What are the Graces that come to you from God?

• How much does it cost, to be a priest or Brother? How do you apply? How do you start?

The seminar will be held from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at Loyola House of Studies, on the Campus of the Ateneo University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

No cost. Lunch and snacks will be served.

• Call telephone number 426-61-01, local 3408

• E-mail: vocprom@vasia.com

• Website: www.ignaciana.org

The Virgin Mary answers all requests. But so does Christ our Lord. And He has said, of those whom He wants to follow Him as priests or Brothers:

"You have not chosen Me,

But I have chosen you!"

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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