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Egged on by St. Josemaria and later by his successor Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, Fr. Joe, as the Regional Vicar of Opus Dei for the Philippines and the rest of East Asia, mobilized the gradually increasing members of Opus Dei to put up some ambitious apostolic instruments for the good of souls, such as the Makiling Conference Center, the Center for Research and Communication (which later evolved into the University of Asia and the Pacific), the Tanglaw Residence for women, the Dualtech Training Center, the Punlaan Training Center, and a host of educational and cultural centers in various cities of the country and starting in 1981, in various territories of East Asia such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Macao. He knew how to inspire all of us to heed the advice of St. Josemaria when he said, “Dream and your dreams will fall short of reality.” When one less daring member of Opus Dei asked him how he was going to finance the building of the Makiling Conference Center without money, he replied: “Money? I don’t worry. I pray!” Indeed, he prayed as if everything depended on God. But he did not hesitate to work as if everything depended on him. Especially impressive were his efforts to literally beg for financial assistance from as many generous souls as possible so that he could recover from antique shops sacred vessels such as chalices, ciboriums, chasubles and other liturgical articles that had been sold for profane use so that they could be restored to divine worship. He championed the cause of giving to the Lord the most precious and beautiful objects that money could buy in the construction of chapels and oratories in the various centers where the apostolate of the members of Opus Dei is being carried out. The Sancta Maria Stella Orientis Chapel of the University of Asia and the Pacific is a testimony to the great supernatural outlook he had in never being stingy when it comes to divine worship.
Working closely with him in obtaining funds for the necessary instruments to carry out the corporate works of apostolate of Opus Dei, I never stopped marveling at his financial savvy. Some of us attribute this trait to his coming from a region of Spain famous for very enterprising merchants and financiers. He was able to combine supernatural daring with a very pragmatic sense of getting the most out of scarce resources. I cannot still get over the way he was able to convince the CEO of a conglomerate to lend us money to buy the property on which the Makiling Conference Center was built. When the gentleman asked him if we had the collateral to back up the loan, he innocently replied that with the money we were asking to borrow, we would buy the property and then use the purchased property as collateral for the loan. It must have been his prayers that convinced this experienced business man to agree to this very unorthodox financial transaction. Fr. Joe had the uncanny talent of parlaying the contacts he made through his personal apostolate to be able to raise funds needed for the apostolic projects of Opus Dei. Up to the end of his life, he was helping a group of us who were raising funds to put up the University Residence Hall attached to the University of Asia and the Pacific and a much bigger project of relocating our undergraduate programs to a larger campus outside of Metro Manila.
When he replied “Money? I pray!” he could have added “I offer sacrifices.” I know of very few people who have suffered more pains from sicknesses than Fr. Joe. Over a period of some thirty years, he underwent many operations in his spine, intestines (cancerous), and multiple heart operations. Throughout all these illnesses, he never lost his peace and joy, giving all of us an example of serenity in the midst of sufferings. These many bouts with physical pains did not stop him to continue with his pastoral work of helping many individuals in their struggle for personal sanctity. Up to the very end of his life, he was thinking of the future generations of people who would become members of Opus Dei to continue the work he helped start in the Philippines and all over Asia. He reminded some of us about the important apostolate of getting many young people to teach catechism to little children and to get them to make many visits to the poor. Imitating the example of St. Josemaria himself, he expressed the certainty that by involving these young people in these works of mercy, there will be abundant vocations that will come to Opus Dei and the whole Church. We could consider this as his last will and testament. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.