Mary Joyce, 25, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
She married Jo, her high school classmate who she met again in a class reunion. They now live in Melbourne, Australia.
Mary Joyce comes from a broken family. To protect the privacy of people involved in her story— especially the minor children— we are withholding her last name.
The pain of being abandoned by her parents was so excruciating, Mary Joyce strayed away from her Catholic Faith.
I WAS raised by my grandparents on my mother’s side.I didn’t think that was odd until when I was 8 years old.
Some classmates wondered why my parents were not around during activities requiring their presence.
They bullied me, lashing out, “Anak sa labas!”
I was born out of wedlock? I confronted my grandparents to know if that was true.
“Where are my parents?” I asked my Lolo and Lola.
Gently, my grandparents let it all out. They said my father already has a family of his own. He lives with his wife and children in a province far from our place. My mother married a foreigner, they have two children, and they all live in her husband’s country.
That night, I cried in my room, unable to fathom, much more accept, why my parents left me.
Am I not important to them?
My grandparents are well-off so I did not want for material things. But what I needed most— the love and care of my own parents— I just couldn’t have.
One day, my Grandma said my father was coming to visit me. Promptly, she prepared his favorite dishes. I was so excited, I trembled.
But my father did not come. He then promised again— several times— to visit me. And every time Grandma cooked his favorite dishes. He never came. And every time, I sobbed in my room.
As for my mother, she did come to visit me— with her husband and their two children— every two years, in December. I wanted so much to hear from her why she left me. But she was so busy attending to her family, we hardly had time to be alone together.
Apparently to make up for the absence of my parents, my grandparents and aunts and uncles always held a party on my birthday. My birth parents were never present. Again, after each party, I withdrew in my room and cried myself to sleep.
But despite my ordeal, I managed to do well in elementary school, always the first honor every final grading period, and I marched as valedictorian on Graduation Day.
I remember, a classmate received a minor award as Most Industrious, and another classmate was named Well-Mannered. And their parents were beside themselves with pride and joy, noisily cheering for their kids.
I watched them, struggling to hold back my tears. For there I was, with the top, most coveted award, but with no parents to share with me what could have been— or should be—one of the happiest days in my life.
That day, I cried — again— silently in my room. I couldn’t help asking God why He gave me such parents, why they couldn’t love me like how other parents love their children.
I went on to my teen years wishing my parents would come and care for me.
Then one day, as if God had heard my prayer, a breakthrough.
I was already in my senior year in high school. Suddenly, my father came to see me in my school. He said he had to go for some business in a farm near my hometown, so he decided to come and see me. He invited me for lunch during my break.
Surprised, I felt my heart thump. Finally, here he was in the flesh — a parent I so pined for, standing right before me.
It was strange, like a dream, as I walked with him to a mall just next to my school. There we had lunch and we talked. He talked telling me his side, why he left me.
“Your mother was 35 years old, and I was 55 when we met,” my dad started.
He said that before he met my mother, he already had three wives. He said my mom didn’t know— until I was born.
I began to shake.
He added that I have 10 siblings. His eldest child is almost the same age as my mom’s. His other children knew about me.
I wanted the truth but I didn’t expect the truth could be so painful. It hurt so much, I must have buried it deep in my consciousness, because I can no longer recall how the lunch with my father ended. All I remember is going home, and crying in my room for the nth time.
I was baptized as a Catholic. But I didn’t know much about my faith, as I hardly attended Mass nor did I join any religious community.
In my junior year, I became active in a Christian community and there, I received Jesus as my personal Lord and saviour.
I surrendered my anger and pain to God, and forgave my parents— or so I thought.
But still, I was bitterly jealous every time my mother would come and visit me with her family in tow.
Still, again and again, the pain would come back, every time my father said he’d visit me, but he would never come.
I hated my parents. I hated myself even more, thinking I was such a worthless person that my own parents wouldn’t have me.
Finding The Feast
In 2012, I attended a high school reunion and among my classmates, one of the boys— Jo— caught my attention. After the reunion, we started dating and after months of courtship, he became my boyfriend.
Jo is the best blessing I could ever have for he introduced me to The Feast in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.
During the Holy Week of 2014, Jo and I joined a pilgrimage held by Feast Cabanatuan to various churches in Pampanga and Bulacan— which renewed my interest in the Catholic faith.
Since then, our Feast Builder, Bro. Noel Tamin, has helped me to appreciate Catholicism. He explained Church doctrines to me, especially about the Sacraments, and he told me stories of the saints.
I listened with awe, amazed at the uncompromising faith of these holy men and women.
In 2014, for the first time in a long, long while, I made the sign of the cross. Tears welled in my eyes as I felt a renewed sense of being.
And before I knew it, I was already attending Mass week after week.
From darkness, I felt I had begun living in the light. But hearing The Feast talks about family relationships and loving people without condition, I realized I was not yet healed from the wounds of my past. Yes, the pain was still there, and I just couldn’t have it in my heart to truly forgive my parents.
As the Feast talks on Love put it, my Love Tank remained empty. I could not serve in any Feast ministry. There was no love in my heart, so how could I ever give love to others?
I confided my dilemma to Bro. Noel and he said something that simply blew my mind.
“Before you can forgive others, you must first forgive yourself,” he said. “Before you can love others, you must first learn to love yourself as God loves you so much.”
Back to the Church
It took a while, but gradually, one step at a time, I began to follow our Feast Builder’s advice.
In time, I learned to love and value myself. And I knew I had already enough love to give when I finally began to serve God as member of the Music Ministry of Feast Cabanatuan.
I also was able already to accept Jo’s offer of marriage. We tied the knot in 2015.
We have since migrated to Australia, where I now serve as worship leader of the Music Ministry of Feast Melbourne.
Best of all, I also hear Mass in parish churches, aside from attending Mass in The Feast.
I knew I’ve been healed of my pains when
one day, I just felt God telling me to visit my father. For the first time, I would be meeting my dad’s wife and my siblings. I was scared. I knew I would be encroaching on their privacy, so I feared they would snub me, if not totally spurn me.
With Jo accompanying me, I mustered enough courage to make the trip to the province where my father and his family live.
What I saw was for me beyond disbelief.
I had always thought that coming from a wealthy family, my father would be providing well for his own family and they would be living comfortably.
Instead, they live crowded in a small house. And they had to make-do with an old car.
In a snap, it became clear to me why my father could not visit me, much more support me. It was not because he didn’t care for me at all. He just couldn’t afford coming to my place often. That plain and simple.
The next second, my anger simply dissipated. In its place came guilt. All this while, I was so consumed by my pain, there was just no room in my heart for sympathy for my parents.
I felt so ashamed of myself, especially because in contrast to my fears that I would be rejected and disdained, my father’s wife and children spontaneously welcomed me, like I just naturally belonged to this family.
They hugged me, and almost simultaneously, they told me how much they longed to see me, how my dad talked about my achievements in school, how he was so proud of me.
That night, I hugged my father tight.
I’m sorry,” I told him. “I love you.”
Never in my wildest dreams that I could say such words. But as I learned at The Feast, with God nothing is impossible.
That moment, I knew God had just answered my longtime prayer. Not only did He give me a family, He also got rid of my hatred and He healed my pain. Now I am able to love and forgive — the way only Jesus could ever make me.