The email that did not come: Brother recalls times shared with slain priest

ARAKAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews/24 October) – In the last five years, slain Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio had been consistently writing emails to his family back in Leco, Italy every week.

His elder brother Felici, who arrived in this town on Saturday, told Mindanews that he usually wrote emails to Fr. Tentorio on Fridays or Saturdays. And the priest would usually reply on Mondays. But when Felici checked his emails on October 17, Monday, he was wondering why there was none from his brother.

Felici Tentorio, brother of slain missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio, his wife Julie and son Matteo attend the mass for Fr. Fausto Tentorio at the Notre Dame of Arakan in Arakan, North Cotabato on Sunday, October 23. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday More Soon after Felici received a call from Fr. Giovanni Re, Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) regional superior, that Fr. Tentorio had been gunned down.

Fr. Tentorio, was gunned down on October 17 while about to leave his convent here for a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City. Police were yet to establish the motive for his killing.

Felici arrived in Davao City late Saturday afternoon along with his wife Julie, sons Andrew and Matteo, and a childhood friend of his brother. They traveled straight to Arakan later in the evening of the same day.

In their recent email exchanges, Felici said his brother had never mentioned anything regarding security issues.

Instead, Fr. Tentorio wrote him about the agriculture situation in the country and some things related to his program in the communities.

“We were supposed to visit him this December,” he said, adding that the last time they were together in Italy was in June to September last year.

Felici said the last time his brother shared to him stories concerning some security issues was in 2003, when armed Lumads threatened him while he was in a remote village.

He also recounted that he was able to visit his brother in March 1985, just a month before Fr. Tulio Favali was killed in Tulunan town, also in North Cotabato.

“We actually slept for the night in Tulunan. But we were worried for Fausto after that incident but he loved to be here,” recalled Felici.

Foundation for Fausto

Asked for his message, Felici urged to the people in this town to continue what his brother had started.

“We are planning to put up a foundation to help support the work of Fausto that he started in Arakan,” he disclosed.

Felici is also hoping that the PIME will immediately send another missionary who will continue the work of his brother, adding Fr. Giovanni Venttoretto, who served as Fr. Tentorio’s assistant parish priest, needs a partner while working in the communities.

He said that he has already asked the PIME to send his brother’s replacement as soon as possible.

The mahogany tree

Like the parish workers and the priest’s friends, they too in Italy had been told by Fr. Tentorio about the mahogany tree that he planted 20 years ago to be used as his coffin.

“He told us about 10 years ago that when the mahogany tree shall have grown bigger, it will be enough to be made as his coffin. I know he was telling us in jest but we told him too that the tree will not grow bigger for him to fit in the box,” Felici recalled.

He further recalled that his brother was a happy person even in their childhood years.

Fausto entered the seminary in the Diocese of Milan when he was 12 years old, said Felici, adding they later learned that he wanted to go the Philippines when he joined the PIME.

“He is a happy with what he is doing here in Arakan and he loved the people so much,” Felici concluded.  (Keith Bacongco/Mindanews)