Deepening Friendship Seen at St. Ignatius
Six years after first contact, the relationship between members of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Annandale and their sister parish in the Philippines continues to deepen. After the initial team of visitors from St. Ignatius visited mountainous Pacuan in 2009 returning members voiced a goal of sending some of St. Ignatius’ youth to the Philippines, as well as bringing individuals from Pacuan to Annandale.
Over the past two summers, those goals have been accomplished. In 2013 St. Ignatius hosted a pair of Filipino visitors for the first time, and this past August an eight-member group, including four youth from St. Ignatius, made the church’s fourth visit to Pacuan.
Annandale High School sophomores Austin Mehr, Connor Magrum and Dominick Braun, along with AHS graduate and current St. Cloud State University student Randa Glazier, made up half of the St. Ignatius group and mostly focused on forming friendships and connections with the Filipino youth during the three-week trip. “Our trip, for us as youth, was to connect with their youth to keep the relationship going between the youth at St. Ignatius and the youth at St. Vincent of Ferrer,” said Magrum.
Four adults accompanying the Annandale youth included Connie Glazier, Dennis Arfsten, Jessica Magrum and Gary Miller, the group leader who was making his third visit to the Philippines. According to Miller, the continuing effort to sustain the connection has helped deepen friendships. “As you go back it’s more of a personal relationship. You’re seeing old friends. You’re just more comfortable each time,” he said.
After last year’s departure of Fr. Victor Valencia from St. Ignatius, a native of the Philippines who was instrumental in establishing the relationship, the congregation has been challenged to take full ownership of the sister parish goal. “Fr. Victor was always our tie. So we wanted to get phone numbers and emails so we could continue (communicating) without him,” said Jessica Magrum. “He’ll still help us when we need, but we needed to get organized to take on more ourselves.”
Aside from Miller, each of the other St. Ignatius members were making their first visit to Pacuan. Arfsten’s wife had traveled there in an earlier visit, and he said he was already familiar with many of the people there from photos and her stories. “When I got there I felt like I knew everybody already,” he said. “We felt like we were already family. Gary is a hero there. You walk down the street and everybody is saying, ‘Hi, Gary.'”
Connie Glazier said that despite the stories from past visitors she felt a bit unprepared when confronted by the reality of the heat, inadequate restroom facilities and at least some aspects of the meals. “The food was different – pig eyes and chicken heads on your plate. I couldn’t eat it, but those boys … we were lucky to have a group of daredevils who will dare each other,” she said. “You could hear them crunching on the pig eye.”
There was also plenty of familiar fruit and rice, however, and the visitors were overwhelmed just as those before them had been by the enthusiasm of their hosts. “There is no experience like walking down the street there,” said Connie Glazier. “Everybody is hanging out the windows saying, ‘Hi, hi.’ When we left town, I felt like we were royalty. They’re chasing you and waving and hugging and crying. It’s amazing.”
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