Cris RioFlorido, received a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Computer Science, from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).
Now 31 years old, Cris works as software tester in an Australian investment bank with an office in Makati City.
Cris is a former sacristan, or altar server. He stopped going to church after parish leaders asked him to step down as president of altar servers because of a series of unfortunate incidents in his church.
My family didn’t go to church regularly on Sundays.
One time, when I was 12 years old, I wore white polo shirt and black pants to church. Noting my outfit, a parish worker remarked, “You could be a sacristan.”
Apparently, my outfit was the prescribed uniform for the altar servers in our parish. Hearing this, my mom later decided that I serve at the altar to overcome my shyness. I obeyed.
Since then, I regularly attended Mass on Sundays. With a role to play in the parish, I began to love the rites that used to bore me. I learned to pray to God when I needed something like to be able to pass my exams in school. I also prayed for my family.
From age 12 to 20, I served in the church.
In 2004, at age 20, I even became the president of altar servers.
Now, one Sunday, offertory envelopes were reported missing. Then, one of the offertory baskets also got lost. The problem continued and nobody could tell who was behind it. Accusations flew left and right. In the end, the blame was pinned down on us altar servers and since I was president, I was asked to step down.
The parish leaders said they believed my innocence but since the cases persisted, it meant I was not being effective in instilling good conduct among my members.
Hurt, I did not only relinquish my post, I stopped attending Mass altogether. I went to church only on important occasions, like Holy Week, Christmas, weddings, or baptisms.
I reasoned I was better off not mingling with the parish people. To me, they were not loving people. They found faults on people and gossiped about them at the sacristy at that!
Those years away from the church was not easy. I dealt not only with problems in the parish church. I also had issues with family.
Also, I had a girlfriend, and I had problems with her, too. We broke up in 2007.
I fell into depression and to escape, I got addicted to alcohol and pornographic materials.
Finding The Feast
At the time I was battling depression, I was already working in a software company. Things weren’t going well in my job, either. Because of the economy recession, information technology companies were either closing or cutting down on their staff. I struggled to keep mine.
Little did I know, it would be at work where I would find my way to my spiritual awakening.
In the office, I met and became best friends with Jaime Borromeo. One time, he decided to celebrate his birthday at He Cares, a home for street children in Quezon City. There, Jaime found out about The Feast of the Light of Jesus Family, then being held at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City, led by Bro. Bo Sanchez.
Curious, Jaime decided to check out The Feast and invited me to go with him. I didn’t mind him, but he kept on nagging me about going to The Feast. One Sunday in July 2008, to get Jaime off my back, I told him I’d attend The Feast. But, that was one Sunday Jaime couldn’t go. So I went alone.
Bro. Bo’s teaching that day was about the Catholic Church and the richness of our religion. God couldn’t have timed my visit any better. You see, around that time, I was thinking of giving up my Catholicism and checking out other churches.
Hearing Bro. Bo’s talk, I cried that day and vowed never to leave the Church.
I loved The Feast so much that I was at Valle Verde every Sunday, with or without my friend, Jaime.
I began watching Bro. Bo’s online video clip, Preacher in Blue Jeans. I read his books, Your Past Does Not Define Your Future, 7 Secrets to Freedom, and How To Find Your One True Love.
Bro. Bo inspired me to cut my addictions.
I also read Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life where I learned ways to deepen my faith. One way was to join a small group with whom I could share my concerns. I searched for one, and I found the Light of Jesus Family Caloocan chapter, headed by Bro. Albert Zabala. We met bi-monthly at the St. Gabriel Parish Church.
Albert became a servant at The Feast which also organized the participants into small groups, now called Light Group (LG). I joined the one with Albert as head. We met weekly discussing and applying The Feast talk in our personal life. In no time, Albert endorsed me to be an LG leader. So I led my own LG, and later, I became coordinator for LG heads.
Through the books I read and my regular attendance in the prayer gatherings, I eventually found healing and arrested my addictions.
What’s more, I received blessing after blessing, most important of which was meeting the girl I would marry.
I read Bro. Bo’s book, How To Find Your One True Love, where he recommended that singles come up with non-negotiables about the person they hope to marry. I came up with a list, and I also wrote that I want a fellow Feaster to be my future wife so that we would have the same values in life.
By God’s grace, I found at The Feast my one true love— Mary Michelle Mercado, a doctor by profession. After three years of being a couple, Mim and I entered into the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony in December 2015.
Back to the Church
At The Feast, I also found it in my heart to forgive and reconcile with those in our parish who hurt me.
I may have gone astray from the Church— like a lost sheep. But I’m glad that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came to hold my hand and led me back to the fold.
Today, attending the Mass every Sunday, if not at The Feast, in a nearby church, has become my bonding moment with Mim. We think it’s a good way to start our marriage, and keep it intact— with God in our center.