Elena Venzon Wood pays tribute to Amparo Abalos (1927-2021), the first Columban Lay Missionary to join the Society, who died recently.
Amparo, you have passed over to the other side of life. I know I will see you again but in the meantime, I know you will continue to look after me as you always did. It was you who told me about the Columban Lay Mission Program when we both represented our Dioceses in Vigan City (Philippines) where Fr. Ludger Fieldcamper, SVD, spoke about revising the handbook, ‘How to Pray the Bible.’
It was you who met and welcomed Zosing Mecasio and me at Heathrow Airport when we arrived in Britain in 1983. We were pioneers of the Columban Lay Mission Program with Columban Fr. Ray Collier guiding and inspiring us. You were assigned in Whitby for a while, then you moved to Mary Immaculate & St. Gregory in Barnet where you enjoyed a very fruitful ministry.
Zosing also experienced a fruitful ministry at St. Francis of Assisi, Pottery Lane, Holland Park and at St. Joseph’s, Hanwell in West London. I was assigned in White City, Upper Holloway and East Ham, in London, where I enjoyed a fulfilling ministry. Our various ministries were mostly focused on social issues and supporting local communities. We had our difficulties, but we persevered.
You helped me settle down. You welcomed me at your place in Whiteby. You showed me how to live outside my own culture and integrate and listen to the local people. It was you who introduced me to the London Underground – what an experience! We sat opposite each other on the Circle Line munching noisy pork crackle while other passengers looked at us. But we didn’t care! We also secretly ate Columban Fr. Maguire’s cooking apples with our precious salt.
You supported my projects at my assigned parishes and even when our contracts expired we still supported each other. You made my wedding memorable by decorating the church and organizing the liturgy. You were always there for me in my ups and downs. You always welcomed me at your accommodation in Barnet, and we did bits and pieces with your projects and mine. We had good laughs and sad stories about home and family in the Philippines.
We enjoyed each other’s company. Amparo, you shared your talent, time and treasure with me and the rest of the Filipino community, with the parish community, the wider Barnet community and with many others we do not know. You deserve a special place with the Divine Master. Go now in peace to the Divine Master my friend. Till we meet again.
Elena Venzon Wood is a former Columba Lay Missionary now living in Britain. Columban Frs. Ray Collie and Fr. Bernie McDermott attended Amparo Abalos’s funeral at Mary Immaculate and St. Gregory’s Church in Barnet. An estimated 120 people attended, half of whom represented the Filipino community and the rest represented the parish and the wider community of Barnet.