Fr. Roel is not just an ordinary friend, to have him means you have a complete package of an older brother and a doting father wrapped into one. I recall that when he went to Australia for a business trip, he made sure that all of us in the seminary would receive presents. Later on, he would complain in jest that he failed to buy anything for himself.
Few of my seminary companions might not be aware of this, but when the lights had been switched off and when almost everybody was fast asleep, Fr. Roel would make a quick route in the dormitory, making sure that each seminarian is safely tucked in.
Five years ago, when we received the bad news of his dad’s passing away, he did not go home immediately, not until all the liturgies lined up for the Holy Week celebration had been settled. And that very Easter Sunday, he was back in the seminary to witness our acceptance rite to the postulancy.
I am not sure if any member of the group stepped forward to thank him, if there were none, let me take this chance to thank you and tell you how we were all touched by that thoughtful gesture from a Salesian priest who professed to live his life for the young.
As a rector I gathered that he wanted only the best for his confreres. This is most true for the healthiest food served in the refectory of the community. He challenged the confreres to explore their possibilities and develop their potentials. He has always been fatherly, and relates with each of us with respect.
I can go through the entire evening enumerating the many traits of Fr. Roel, but I hope that the message is clear: we love you, Fr. Roel and we shall definitely miss you.
We fondly call you Paparu. That name of endearment sounds paru-paru in Filipino, which literally means, butterfly. And I guess you are exactly like one. To bid you goodbye is painful. But then, we believe that you belong to the Church and specifically, the young people own you.
We have seen your colorful wings, and you’ve spread sweetness in our lives. But we know that your flight goes on. The young people of Cambodia are now looking forward to meet you.
May your life continue become a colorful sign and a radiant bearer of God’s love to the young.