Found A Heart of Gold

by Steve Ray on November 6, 2006

choir1.jpgWe met him three years ago and liked him from the start. He worked in the Aurelia Residence where we stay in Rome. He was a typical Filipino — friendly, courteous, and Catholic. We got to know him over the months along with the other wonderful folks that work there including Diana, Paula, and Genaro. All top notch folks.

Ferdinand Espinelli sings in a church choir in Rome. He invited us to Mass yesterday so we could hear his group sing. And sing they did! What beautiful voices and what beautitul people. Janet said that meeting this choir and hearing them sing was the hight of our week in Rome. The church was outside downtown Rome — in the "suburbs."

Ferdinand2.jpgIt was named after St. Silvia (mother of Pope Gregory). What we found there was a fabulous priest, a holy deacon and people very much in love with Our Lord and the Church. They welcomed us with open arms and we felt like celebrities! One lady told us she had been baptized Catholic but had left the faith — only to return with a passionate heart a few years ago. It is not only in America where conversions and love for the faith is blossoming.

(Picture: Jonas Kevin left, Ferdinand smiling.) 

We took Ferdinand out to lunch afterwards — to our favorite restaurant La Pilottas. Even though he looks 30, we found out Ferdinand is actually 40 years old. I asked him if he intended to marry and he said "no," he could not afford it — but he did have two children. I asked him how that came about (I know; I am a bit nosey!) He then told us the story.

Ferdinand.jpgFerdinand is from a large family in Manila in the Philippines. They have little in the way of material things but they all have big hearts — typical Filipino Catholics. He came to Rome to work so that he could help his family. For example, with us at lunch was Ferdinand's nephew Jonas Kevin Villacillo who we found out was studying at the Pontifical College — funded completely by Ferdinand. "But what about the children?" I asked.

(Picture: Steve, Janet, Ferdinand Espinelli, Jonas Kevin.)

He was shy and hesitant to say too much but we pried it out of him. Ferdinand discovered two children who had been abandoned in Manila. Eight-year-old Mary Theresa and one-year-old John Paul. Ferdinand decided to adopt them and gave them their beautiful names. He moved here to Rome to work so he could pay for their medical needs, education, and to raise them as his own children. They live with his family back home.

Mary Theresa is a tall a beautiful girl for eight years old. Had she remained on the streets she would have probably been forced into the sex industry as a child prostitute. Ferdinand saved her. She is now in the top of her class in school (paid for by Ferdinand's hard work), she wants to be a nun and is brilliant as well as beautiful. John Paul had drug addicts for parents and Ferdinand took him to the doctor, made sure he had everthing he needed and adopted him as his own son.

So, with this huge financial burden, Ferndinand has been unable to marry and has sacrificed his own peace, security and pleasure to care for others. This is true Christianity, true love, true service to God. Janet and I left our morning with Ferndinand and Kevin very humbled. We liked him before as a friend. We found out later that he was a genuine brother in Christ. But after yesterday we loved him for his sacrificial choises — a man close to the heart of God.

If anyone would like to help support him, let me know at I will gladly send any financial support his way. He has taken on a huge and overwhelming task of a lifetime and he could certainly use a little help.

God bless Ferndinand, his family and all our friends at Aurelia Residence. No matter what problems the world faces, or what troubles plague the Church, there are still saints walking about quietly and unnoticed. Thanks be to God!

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