Remembering Fr. Noordermeer, MSC

Teenage recall seems to be the order of the mind momentarily. The sweet truth in Megastar Sharon Cuneta’s undying song line “high school life, oh my high school life” always tugs our hearts to the sensations of our yesteryears. The recall itself revives the past and in memory mode, “the past is made alive in the present,” said theologian Paul Tillich. Sometimes, it takes some philosophic mood to sense that we are also but a mass of our accumulated pasts and potentials – both the past and future contained in the present. Living the best and worsts of the present, like savoring lollipop with my right hand while charting my long term plan with my left – this is often, in symbolic terms, the best gift I can give to the present. Honestly, I’m finding out relishing a lollipop or two a day in the office is not only a stress reliever of sort; it also triggers some childlike joy, rekindling the memory when I had only a few cents to buy my favorite gum or caramel at the neighborhood retail store but then fished contentment out of my cheap confections.

Of childlike joy – the late Fr. Noordermeer, or Fr. Wim to avoid the tongue twist, had a brim of it. His Dutch family name may sound demanding as Vladimir, or bloody myrrh, but he had one of the gentlest hearts one loves to cherish like lollipop, the childlike spirit one would love to swing around with. His manner of speech, in our dialect, was always unhurried and conversing with him always gave me the impression that he always took the time to listen. He was a little introverted, loving the silent time in his room-cum-office while preparing his sermon or reading or listening to his favorite music. But once he was out with people on non-sacramental functions, his gentle presence was infectious making those around him as calm and at ease as … savoring lollipop. I remember him as an organized person, his room bedecked only with the barest essentials. Nothing was extraneous, unnecessary. Presiding over a mass with an un-prepared sermon would make him nervous.

Being the nicest missionary that he was, I also had a glimpse of his vulnerability. Before and after the mass, and while dressing up or un-dressing at the church’s sacristy, he would show me his sweaty palms. He would admit that facing a big crowd always made him nervous but not beyond control. He did not explain why. He felt it was his cross and in retrospect, the admission to me was very childlike. When he was tensed, he smoked … and smoked … and smoked till his death. The cigarette could have been displaced with lollipops. But it seems that our personal crosses and childlike joys are so intertwined we cannot actually have lollipops 24/7. Tensed or tender, he was the same to me – a loving man of God.

Thank you Fr. Wim for introducing me to the music of Simon and Garfunkel 20 years ago – when I heard for the first time about Central Park and even memorized the ‘thank you’ notes of the duo where NY Mayor Ed Koch was booed and the NY Fire Department was wowed. Everytime I play or hear The Boxer, it is always a good time to remember you. My faith tells me Heaven abounds with lollipops. Wish it rains with those at our open-mouthed surprise.

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