Fil-Am parishioners to honor priest who helped PH poor

Fr. Ernie Norbeck and the Oikos Sisters of Borongon, Eastern Samar: a common love for the poorest of the poor.

CHICAGO—A Catholic priest affiliated with the Joliet Archdiocese in the southwest area of this city will be honored by the local Filipino American community on September 27 for his work with the poorest of the poor in the Philippines.

Fr. Ernie Norbeck has, for many years, engaged his parishioners in churches where he served as a pastor in helping provide decent housing, affordable health care and other assistance to needy people including informal settlers in Quezon City and orphans in Eastern Samar.

As a parish priest of St. Elizabeth Seton of the City of Naperville, he raised substantial amount of money to build homes in a Gawad Kalinga (GK) village in Sto. Domingo area of Quezon City. When he was transferred to St. Mary Gostyn in Downers Grove, Illinois, his parishioners fully supported his advocacy.

“What is remarkable is that parishioners who heeded his call to serve the poor are mostly non-Filipino Catholics,” noted Ella Ibay, a member of the “Pamanang Lahi Foundation,” a para-church group that organizes annual “Simbang Gabi” in the Joliet Archdiocese.

“Poor Household of God”

Fr. Norbek’s passion to alleviate the condition of marginalized people resulted in building a Gawad Kalinga Village in Borongan, Eastern Samar where Filipino nuns who run a rescue home for women and children in Borongan named Oikos Ptochos Theou became invaluable partners in his mission.

Oikos Ptochos Theou which was founded in 2000 is the Greek name for the “Poor Household of God.” The sisters, inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi, are committed to live a life of prayer, holiness, and service to God's very poor.

Many of the children at Oikos were removed from homes that included an abusive parent. Others were abandoned by family members suffering from mental illness. Still others have parents who may be in prison or simply don't have the financial ability to properly care for their children.

The sisters also provide temporary food and shelter for women who might be unwed mothers or perhaps in need of lodging for their family as they escape an abusive husband.

For many years, Fr. Norbeck visited Samar annually—bringing medicine, clothing and other basic essentials which were efficiently distributed by the Oikos Sisters. In 2010, he was with 30 volunteers of the Joliet Diocesan Missions who went to Borongon for two weeks.

"Lived the gospel"

The missionary-physicians and nurses cared for over 500 patients. Approximately 200 patients received surgical procedures including cleft lip repair, hysterectomy, goiter (thyroid) surgery, cataract surgery, hernia repair and a variety of other procedures.

Many more were seen in the medical clinic seeking treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes and various other conditions. The Eastern Samar Provincial Hospital assisted them in their work.

In the past year, Fr. Ernie was not able to travel to the Philippines due to his deteriorating health. Recently, he agreed to retire from being an active pastor in order to devote more time to his health care.

The “Pamanang Lahi Foundation”—an area non-profit group-- is spear-heading an appreciation dinner in honor of Fr. Ernie Norbeck.

Pita Rina, a long-time GK advocate, said “Holding this event is a fitting tribute to a man who lived the gospel through his care and concern of the poor, especially those in the Philippines. This is the least we can do to express our gratitude to Fr. Ernie.”

To join the formal dinner-tribute on Sunday, Sept. 27, 6:30 pm at the Carlisle Banquet, 145 Butterfield Road, Lombard, Illinois, call or email Ella Ibay: 815-267-3585 or ellaibay@gmail.com; Lu Coson: 331-472-6299 or lucianocoson@yahoo.com ; and Pita Rina: 773-934-3386 or rosauro.rina@sbcglobal.net.

Donation of $50 covers dinner cost and gift to the honoree.


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