Father Ramonito Maata, a priest in the Diocese of Dumaguete in the central Philippines, became of devotee to the Divine Mercy in 2002, the year he started to manage a local church-run radio station.
The Divine Mercy is a devotion to Jesus Christ associated with the reported apparitions of the Lord Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in Krakow, Poland.
The venerated image under the title Divine Mercy refers to what St. Faustina’s diary describes as “God’s loving mercy” toward all people, especially for sinners.
Father Maata recalled that when he took over the radio station it was in a very bad shape, something the priest had to endure for several years.
He said his faith kept him moving, hoping that with God’s Mercy he would be able to reach out to more people through his radio ministry.
“Everything you see here is because of Him,” the priest said as he showed LiCAS.news inside the radio station where an image of the Divine Mercy is prominently displayed.
A group of Filipino migrant workers in Canada introduced that devotion to Father Maata during the World Youth Day celebration in 2002.
After a year, he was already celebrating with them the Feast of the Divine Mercy.
Upon his return to the Philippines, Father Maata started a program on radio to help spread the devotion in Negros Oriental province. The program still airs up to this day.
Despite the challenges in running the radio station, the priest persevered, and prayed harder.
“I prayed for each of those who came to work for us,” he said. “I asked God for a person, He gave me the right one for the job,” recalled the priest.
After 19 years, the church-run radio continues to evangelize through the airwaves. It now has a cable television channel and is present in several social media platforms.
On April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Maata shared how his dream of bringing the devotion to more people was fulfilled amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
“We were able to bring the message of mercy to more households,” he said.
As part of the celebration, the radio station held a motorcade around the city to bring the blessing to villages.
In the neighboring province of Cebu, a friend of Father Maata, Jayson Vergara, has also been sharing his devotion through other means.
Vergara said that he grew up knowing about the devotion through his grandmother in the village of Barili in the city of Cebu.
As a young man, however, he dismissed it and focused on his studies and his plans for the future as a graduate of a business administration course.
Sometime in 2013, Vergara had a heart attack while alone in a rented apartment. He called for help but no one answered.
At the brink of giving up, he heard a motorcycle passing by. With his last strength, he shouted for help.
The driver rushed him to a taxi terminal, but no one wanted to bring him to the hospital for fear that he would expire on the road.
He got to the hospital barely alive and was advised to avoid being “emotional” because of his condition.
When things were getting better, Vergara’s long-time girlfriend visited him, not to console him, but to break up with him. The young man recalled that he only smiled despite the pain.
It was during that time that he turned to God and to the devotion to the Divine Mercy. He promised to share the devotion to as many people for the rest of his life.
He later left his corporate work to build a small business and do mission works in the name of mercy.
He started driving a cab and became known as a “cab preacher” for sharing his devotion to his passengers.
Vergara now preaches weekly to at least 5,000 prisoners in a local jail and works as a catechist.
Last week, he led an online prayer marathon to the Divine Mercy.
On the ninth day of the prayer marathon, he was surprised by the people he led in prayer when they prayed for him, thanking him for his faith and dedication.
Pope Francis, in his homily during the celebration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy on April 19, said the Lord does not want his people to keep thinking about their failings.
“For when we fall,” said the pope, “He sees children needing to be put back on their feet; in our failings He sees children in need of his merciful love.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the canonization of Sister Faustina Kowalska, and the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope St. John Paul II.