Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Fr. Fernando Suarez. It was only while having dinner with a friend on August 1 when his name came up.
“He’s the real deal,” my friend insisted. “This priest is a miracle worker. I have personally seen him make the blind see and the lame walk,” he said with full conviction.
He spoke from personal experience as a witness, he swore. For years, my friend had suffered from a stiff neck that made it impossible for him to turn his neck without moving his whole body.
One day, he said, he attended a healing mass in Manila and a visiting Filipino-Canadian priest placed his hand over his neck and prayed. After the priest left, someone called my friend from the back and he turned his head without turning his body, the first time he had been able to do so in years.
The friend related that after this “miracle”, he became a “disciple” and started attending the healing masses of Fr. Suarez. In one event, he noticed a woman carrying her blind daughter in her arms, patiently waiting in line, praying for that one touch from Fr. Suarez that would heal her child. When it was her turn, Fr. Suarez placed his hand gently over the child’s eyes and prayed. After the priest left, the child opened her eyes, my friend said, and she could see.
My friend contacted the girl’s mother and visited her family at their modest home. He promised he would take care of her education all the way through college. The family told him that blindness had been only one of her many medical problems. Fr. Suarez had cured them all. The child’s doctors could not understand how she was healed. It was a medical impossibility, they said. But my friend was a witness that it happened.
Another friend at our dinner table related that she had gone to see Fr. Suarez the last time he was in San Francisco at St. Anne’s Church in the Sunset District. The church was packed and the line for those wishing to be personally touched by Fr. Suarez stretched for blocks.
If I wanted to personally see Fr. Suarez, she said, I was in luck because he would be passing by San Francisco on his way to Australia to co-officiate a mass with his friend, Fr. Mark, at St. Matthew’s Church in San Mateo on August 3. It was my regular tennis time, but this was clearly more important; I accepted his invitation.
That Sunday, my wife and members of the family with medical afflictions accompanied me to St. Matthew’s to see Fr. Suarez. Before the mass began, we went to a room behind the altar where Fr. Suarez was already surrounded by people waiting to be touched.
He was younger than I had imagined, of slender build and Malay-skinned (kayumanggi) – no hint of any mestizo blood – the salt of the Philippine earth.
I joined the queue and when it was my turn, Fr. Suarez placed his palm on my forehead, closed his eyes and prayed. He then placed his palm on my heart and prayed again. And then he placed his hand behind my neck and pulled me over gently as he whispered in my ear “Continue what you are doing to help people.”
How could he know this? Does he whisper this to everyone?
Other than my diabetes, I didn’t have a physical ailment that needed healing. My friend explained that Fr. Suarez regularly reminds people that God heals but not always in the form we expect, which is usually physical. We also need healing on the spiritual and emotional aspects.
After touching a few more people, Fr. Suarez asked to be excused but assured everyone that he would see them after mass, when he had stronger energy. After he concelebrated the 10:45 a.m. mass with two other priests, he went outside and a long line quickly formed.
As I observed Fr. Suarez, I was touched by his incredible humility, grace and indefatigability. He had just traveled from the East Coast, celebrated mass and now there he was, standing patiently and devoting as much time as was needed to touch people and pray for them and with them for long as it would take.
When I Googled Fr. Suarez on the Internet, I learned that he was born in 1967 at Barrio Butong, in Taal, Batangas, to a driver father and a seamstress mother. He attended public schools until college where he earned a chemical engineering degree at Adamson University in Manila.
According to the Wikipedia encyclopedia, “Father Suarez discovered his gift of healing at the age of 16. He saw a crippled woman and upon feeling sorry for her, he sat and prayed with her. During this, he literally started to feel bones growing in her legs, and due to shock, he ran away. He tried to keep this a secret for as long as he could, and agreed to pray with the sick as long as they didn’t tell anyone about him.”
Chemical Engineer Suarez immigrated to Canada in 1996 and a year later, felt the call for the priesthood and joined the Companions of the Cross, a Catholic religious order based in Ottawa, Canada. In 2002, he was ordained a Catholic priest and served as the associate pastor of St. Timothy’s parish in North York, Ontario until July 2003 when he was assigned to the Mary Mother of the Poor Healing Ministry in the Philippines.
Even as Fr. Suarez travels the world, his heart remains in his home province of Batangas where he plans to build an oratory to the Blessed Virgin Mary on 20 hectares of land overlooking Batangas Bay in a place called Monte Maria or “Mountain of Mary.”
On that site, he plans to erect a statue about as high as the Statue of Liberty, high enough to serve as a beacon for sea travelers.
The center at Monte Maria will feature chapels, prayer gardens, Stations of the Cross, retreat houses, campsites, lodging houses, a center for the poor and even a replica of Mary House in Ephesus (ancient city in Turkey). The site is meant to draw pilgrims who want to renew their faith.
In June of 1981, six children in the little town of Medjugorje, in what was then Yugoslavia, received apparitions from the “Queen of Peace” where in one of them, the Philippines was mentioned as a global spiritual center. (More than 30 million pilgrims have visited Medjugorje since then to pray to the Virgin Mary). Could Fr. Suarez’s MonteMaria in Batangas be the site of the center mentioned in the apparition at Medjugorje?
For more information about Fr. Fernando Suarez, visit fatherfernando.com.
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