Maria Teresa Doctor-Lorenzo, or Tess, 56, was born in Manila and grew up in Sorsogon. A graduate of the University of the East, she has worked in the legislative branch of the government since the 1990s.
Her husband, Nichaelius Lorenzo, or Nick, 54, had been an Overseas Filipino Worker for more than 20 years. He is now a safety officer for a construction firm in Manila.
Tess and Nick met in college, where both were student leaders. They come from Catholic families, yet life’s circumstances made them stray away from their Faith.
Tess: I am the youngest in a family that’s Catholic.
My father, who served in our parish as head of the Family Life Apostolate, taught my siblings and me to appreciate Catholic practices. He led our daily family Rosary prayer, and brought our family to Mass every Sunday.
So it’s no surprise that one of my sisters serve in the parish as catechists. Me, I represented our parish and my school in Bible competitions, and became a member of the Legion of Mary.
Nick: Like Tess’s family, my family is typically Catholic. We went to Mass every Sunday. We also prayed the Rosary together daily and the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help every Wednesday.
Tess: I had to go to college in Manila and lived with my sister, who was working then and sending me to school. We lived in a compound among relatives. Away from my parents and exposed to urban life, I kind of strayed away from the Church.
I can name a number of excuses for not attending Sunday Mass.
One, my sister was always away on out-of-town work assignments. So I didn’t have anyone to go to church with on Sundays.
Two, I observed some people did not attend Mass because they had to attend to their business. I thought, if they were excused to go to Mass because they were working, I should be too, because I myself was busy with school work.
Three, I was a student leader in the tumultuous ‘70s so I thought I had better things to do like join student rallies.
In the midst of the protest actions, I met Nick, a student leader and an idealist like me. I got attracted to him because he and his family reminded me of my own household. Nick did chores like cooking, cleaning up, going to the market. And he and his family were practising Catholics. I was impressed.
Nick: Tess and I dated at Paco Park and attended Mass there and prayed the Rosary together.
Soon we tied the knot— twice. First, in civil rites on February 25, 1985, and then, in a church wedding on April 5, 1986. We were blessed with a son.
After our wedding, I worked abroad, in the Royal Palace of Saudi Arabia. Away, tired and lonely, I became unfaithful to my wife.
Tess: During my college days, I actually did not totally abandon my Catholic Faith. An aunt— single, pious— always reminded me to attend Mass. So I did, but not regularly.
Also, since Nick and his family were practising Catholics, I did endeavour to practice my religion too, especially when we were already married.
But then soon, I discovered Nick’s infidelity. I was angry, bitter. I began to question God why this should happen to us. I saw couples attending Mass, and they reminded me of Nick and his other woman. So I didn’t like going to Mass anymore.
One time, while Nick was with us in Manila for a vacation, I learned that he went out to see his mistress who was also in Manila at the time. And the woman had the audacity to call me on the phone and harass me.
I blew my top! I immediately sought a lawyer to file for legal separation.
Nick: I pleaded with Tess not to file for separation. I did something wrong, I hurt her. But I was not going to end our marriage.
And to my relief, Tess did not go through with the separation.
Instead, we attended a Marriage Encounter seminar.
Tess: Actually, one thing stopped me— the thought that if I remained Nick’s wife, his mistress would always remain a kept woman.
The Marriage Encounter didn’t help. I was so hurting, I couldn’t keep my pain from my son. So our son grew up hating his father.
I continued to go to Mass but it felt more like an obligation. I tried to seek God by joining prayer groups but still, I couldn’t shake off my anger.
Then, an unfortunate incident turned things around in our family.
Nick: In 2011, back in Saudi, I was accused of a crime I did not commit. A fellow Filipino identified me as an accomplice to a crime. I denied the act but I languished in jail just the same.
Tess: I found out that Nick got into that trouble because of his girlfriend. The more I hated them.
But still, I couldn’t just turn my back on Nick. So I asked the help of some of my friends, and we were able to arrange for the dismissal of his case.
Nick: After three long months in jail, I was set free and I came back home to Manila long-haired and scrawny.
I went into a hiatus. I slept, I woke up, went to market for our day’s meal, ate, then hibernated in the bedroom again.
Tess was frustrated with me. So I could find a job, she prodded me to attend a skills training seminar. I did but I could not find a job I wanted.
Tess: It seemed like he lost interest in life. I got totally impatient with him. I lashed out at him on the littlest thing. But he never fought back. He just kept quiet and moped in bed.
Nick and I lived under the same roof but we hardly spoke to each other. But, deep in my heart, I longed for us to get back together as in the old days.
It was a prayer God was simply ready, willing, and able to answer.
Finding The Feast
Tess: Yes, I believe God opened opportunities for my prayer to be answered.
In 2013, while channel surfing, I came across The Feast on television. Soon, I was watching it every Sunday.
At the time, officemates were also giving me copies of The Feast bulletin and Kerygma magazine. I liked reading them.
Then, in the summer of 2015, I heard that there was this Feast near our house— at Marketplace in Kalentong, Mandaluyong City. So I went to check it out.
I kept going back.
At The Feast, I received a copy of the Novena to God’s Love, a booklet with a prayer for abundance and spiritual growth, and a seven-page space where you can write your top seven dreams. My Number 1 dream of course was about my relationship with my husband. I bargained with God that if it wasn’t possible for us to get back together, at least just let us have respect for each other. I also prayed that God heal my wounded heart.
But my anger and bitterness did not disappear overnight. Until one Feast day, tired of my burden, I finally, totally, surrendered my relationship with my husband to the Lord and let Him take over our marriage.
Nick: Every Sunday, Tess would leave the house before 10:00 a.m. I didn’t know where she was going but I had an inkling she was attending church. I got curious and so asked to join her one time. I thought it was high time I reconciled with God.
Back to the Church
Nick: The Feast was such an eye-opener for us, that Tess and I attended the gathering together regularly. Little by little, I saw the changes in us. We actually began talking— without spite, that is.
Eventually, we found friends at The Feast as we joined the Couples Ministry. And now we are part of a Light Group which meets every Friday.
Tess: February 14, Valentine’s Day this 2016, fell on a Sunday, so The Feast gave out long-stemmed roses to the ladies. The Couples Ministry also held a Valentine’s Day fellowship prior and also gave roses to the ladies. That Sunday, I had two beautiful, fragrant red roses. But the best treat was going out on a date with Nick again, our first for a long while.
Nick: We are ever grateful for The Feast. I’ve learned a lot from the life-changing talks. It’s also great to find acceptance and support from our Light Group.
Soon, by God’s grace, I got a job as safety officer at a cousin’s firm. While it is a blessing to be working again, my job also became a hindrance to my attending the prayer gathering weekly. But The Feast has made such an impact in my life that I cannot go on without hearing Mass and listening to the talks. So sometimes, I ask for a change of my work schedule so I can be with my wife in our faith community on a Sunday.
Tess: By the way, as I said, I so ranted about my husband’s infidelity in front of our son that he harboured hatred against his father too— to the point that he hardly called his father Papa, and instead simply referred to him as The Other One in our conversations.
In March 2015, our began to work in Saudi Arabia. Before he left, I tried to persuade him to make amends with his father.
I told him, “Your Papa may had been unfaithful to me but he was always a good father to you.”
But our son left us still angry with his father.
The Number 2 Dream I wrote on my copy of the Novena to God’s Love was for my son to be reconciled with his father.
On December 1, 2015, my birthday, God granted my other prayer.
Our son called me up long distance to greet me Happy Birthday. After our usual chitchat, he asked to speak to his father— the first time he did so since he left for Saudi. The two spoke for about an hour. My heart swelled with happiness.
Our son has also joined a faith community in Saudi and he always encourages us to keep attending The Feast.
Yes, God is healing the three of us all at the same time. We are back as Catholics in the true sense of our beloved Faith.