Ex-junkies find new life serving church in Caloocan
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — At a parish church in Camarin, Caloocan City, former drug dependents recovering from their addiction have found a place they can call home.

Three former drug dependents now find themselves serving the church as an errand boy, a sister butler, and a lay minister, in their second chance in life to mend their ways.

Halos magpatayan na kami (We nearly killed each other),” Marie quipped when The STAR visited her and her husband Joey on Friday at the parish church, where she serves as sister butler. Their names and the church where they serve were withheld for their safety.

They joined the program when the parish priest called on them to keep themselves busy at the church, and call it their home.

“The parish priest told us, ‘make this your home,’” Joey, who got hooked into shabu as a construction worker for eight years, said in Filipino.

He beamed with pride as he pointed at the bulbs he set up to light the church altar.

He said he goes to the church at 6 a.m. on the dot everyday, just so he could avoid doing drugs.

It all started when, three months since he joined the rehabilitation program in November 2016, his friends knocked on his door and invited him for a shabu session.

He gave in, Joey lamented, and he realized that it was about time he turned his back on drugs.

He considered his chores, which include painting and decorating the church, as healthy distractions.

“You get preoccupied. Your body is not the only thing being cleansed, but your spirit too,” Joey said in Filipino.

Joey said he does not consider himself a drug addict, but just someone who tripped and fell but now has a chance to get up.

Joey later looked up at the grotto of Mother Mary fronting the church.

He said he bought the paint needed to give color to the image.

“But how do I get to her crown?” Joey asked himself, of the Virgin Mary’s crown in thas if it were his only problem.

Stone heart

Marie said she looks forward to applying for a utility worker’s job at a school in the area after she graduates from the rehabilitation program.

She took drugs in November 2016 when her father died. “I have a stone heart when I get high,” Marie said of her addiction.

“I sometimes forget I’m a mother of two,” Marie added, recounting the times she sneaked off to enjoy gambling with her friends.

She even sold the things her siblings sent from abroad to her just so she could afford her fix.

“I now clean the church, and even iron the clothes of the priest,” Marie said of her life now, her face brightening up.

“We’re happy at church. Here, we can avoid turning back to our vices. Our lives were pointless then,” she added.

Lay ministry

Francis, a tricycle driver, is one of four lay ministers who are part of the church’s rehabilitation program.

When this reporter arrived at the church Friday, Francis was serving a priest who married a couple that afternoon. Holding the white frock of a lay minister, he gave a toothy smile.

He first got a chance to be a lay minister when the parish priest invited him to serve the church after seeing his progress at the rehabilitation program, which he joined upon the prodding of his sister butler wife.

Asked about his realizations as he helps priests during communion, Francis said he feels good serving unfamiliar persons.

“Even though I’m not related to them, I still got to serve them, to pray for them,” Francis said.

“You can say that I committed a grievous sin against the Lord. But now I get to serve Him,” he added.

At 6 p.m., Francis was again in front of the altar, back in his white frock, serving the priest.

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