HospitalityBy Randy Figuracion
Cebu Daily News
It was just a chance encounter. After my mass with the Filipino Community in Vienna, members of the Legion of Mary invited me to join them in their family day celebration. Their event took place in the grounds of the chaplaincy. Others were also invited. Among them was a group from outside Vienna many of whom were bisaya. One senses a strange affinity when you hear the sound of your own tongue in a distant land. I was instantly drawn to the group though they were strangers to me as I was to them.
We had some introductions and small talk over lunch. From their stories, I learned that many Filipinos were also living in their place. Because of the distance, they have become like ‘sheep without a shepherd.’ It was then that Mara Seger and her husband Horst invited me to visit them in their mountain village in Schneeberg, Lower Austria. We made arrangements for a visit to bless their home.
Their place is 65 km away from Vienna. I had to take a train for an hour to reach their town of Wiener Neustadt. I was at first anixous over the thought of what would happen to me with no food and little money in my purse. But from the train station, I was fetched by car. We we had to drive up the mountain for about 30 minutes to reach their village named Grunbach in Schneeberg. Schneeberg is translated in English as “snow mountain.” It is the highest mountain in Lower Austria with an elevation of 6,811 feet. I was welcomed by the Seger Family into their big and spacious home surrounded by flowers and pine trees.
Mara comes from Leyte. Her husband Horst is originally from Berne, Germany. They have an only daughter, Mary Ann, who is taking a college course major in History. Some of Mara’s friends were already in the house when we arrived. Food was ready. I felt encourage by the words of scripture “whatever house you find yourself in, stay there until you leave the locality.” That evening, we had a warm, family meal together. I felt at home with the Filipino-style hospitality extended to me. On the table was rice and humba, pansit and ginamos. The meal was shared with laughter while they indulged in nostalgia for home in the Philippines. Horst, at the end of the meal, gave me a glass of white wine. Raising his own glass with mine, he roared in his deep Germanic voice: Mabuhay! Yes, life is a gift. And many other blessings come with life such as friendship, family – even faith in the goodness of God through the instrumentality of people.
The next morning, many more Pinoy-friends with their husbands came – invited by Mara – for her house blessing. It gave me the opportunity to share scripture with them. As we “broke bread” together the night before, now we nourish ourselves with the “bread of life” for man does not live by bread alone. I spoke to them of the importance of family, prayer and the practice of the faith. Since most of them were bisaya, I shared with them about our soon-to-be-saint Pedro Calungsod who will be canonized this October. I challenged them, after Blessed Pedro’s example, to witness to their faith in their own circumstances. Faith is a necessary ingredient of daily life.
After lunch, we exchanged addresses and telephone numbers as the other guests started to leave. I was still treated with a memorable tour of their village. I took pictures of their poster-perfect scenery, a closer view of the “Snow Mountain,” their beautiful park and a snapshot of their waterfalls. Most of all, I took a mental picture of these beautiful people whose kindness and hospitality was overwhelming. God alone can repay them for such generosity. From this experience, I realize that God can get us involved in his ministry of love. Some as his ministers, others by their ministry of hospitality. In the great scheme of things, there are no chances in God’s plan. They are just meant to be.