My name is Fr. Phillip Bloom. I am pastor of St. Mary's in Monroe. For fourteen years I was here at Holy Family - over half of them with Fr. Ramon Velasco as my parochial vicar.
I begin by expressing condolences in a public way to Rose, Carlos and Jose on the death of their brother, Fr. Ramon. We ask them to extend our condelences to their six brothers and sisters in the Philippines, two dear aunts, 17 nephews and nieces. Please tell them, that on a beautiful Seattle morning, people filled Holy Family church to remember and pray for their brother.
On behalf of the Velasco family, I want to thank Archbishop Brunett, Bishops Elizondo and Tyson, my brother priests and deacons, religious sisters, parishioners of Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parish - especially the children.
Children were fond of Fr. Ramon. For example, he would be there when school let out. The Philipino children taught the Vietnamese, Hispanic and Anglo students how to receive a blessing by touching the priest's hand to their forehead. I thank the parents for bringing their children today - and all of you for your presence. It means a lot.
The funeral homily has two purposes: The first and most important is to invite us to the pascal mystery - the mystery of the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is important especially when a person dies young and vigorous - as was the case with Fr. Ramon. Last night and this morning, many people told me that Fr. Ramon's death brought back memories of the death of a child or a younger brother. Their death, like the death of Fr. Ramon, stuns us. We ask, why? The only answer is the cross. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that he goes before us. He is referring to his passion, crucifixion and death. He tells us plainly, "No one comes to the Father except through me." Only in Jesus do we find peace and healing. The funeral homily invites us to Jesus, his pascal mystery, his death and resurrection.
The funeral homily has a second purpose: to thank God for the blessings a person received in this life. In the Old Testament reading we hear that God has a time and purpose for everything that happens: a time to laugh and time to cry; a time to fight and a time to make peace; a time to be born and a time to die. Even though God has put the "timeless" into our hearts, none of us can see time from beginning to end - but God does. In that context, I would like to tell you about Fr. Ramon's life:
Fr. Ramon was born 50 years ago in Manila, the 8th child of Clemente and Rosa Velasco. He did elementary, high school and university studies under the auspices of the University of Santo Tomas, where he received a degree in Civil Engineering. Subsequently, he attended the National University, receive a degree in Sanitary Engineering.
He was poised for prosperous career, but God had deeper plans. He startled his family by announcing he wanted to become a priest. He gave his savings to his parents and entered the Divine Word Seminary. On December 8, 1990, at the age of 31, he was ordained to the prieshood. He served in Colombia, then back in the Philippines as a "roving ambassador."
In the late nineties, he visited his sister and brother here in the U.S. Seeing the needs here, he offered himself to the Archdiocese. I was happy to receive him as parochial vicar. He served at Holy Family for seven and a half years, until he was assigned to St. Alphonsus, July of last year.
I asked family members and friends for favorite memories of Fr. Ramon. Rose and Carlos mentioned how their little brother would attend daily Mass with their grandmother - even when it was pouring rain. "We are not salt," she said, "We won't melt."
As a child and young man, Fr. Ramon had the ability to motivate people. Once some priests entrusted a sum of money to him to buy shirts and shoes for the poor. Instead of purchasing them, the got stores and people to donate clothes. He was able give the money back - along with the shirts and shoes.
We saw that enterprising spirit here, when Fr. Ramon went back to Philippines. Deacon Ted announced that he was bringing a surprise with him. He joked that he hoped the surprise was not a wife! Well, he brought back a beautiful tabernacle, made of narra wood (Philippine mahogany). The tabernacle is in the Blessed Sacrament chapel here at Holy Family.
People at Holy Family and St. Alphonsus remember Fr. Ramon for his upbeat personality. Once when I was gone, Fr. Ramon celebrated all seven weekend Masses, a wedding, quinceañera Mass and confessions. What the person remembered was that not once did Fr. Ramon get irritated. He made it seem not a burden, but a joy and privilege to serve people.
The greatest change is Fr. Ramon's life came on November 23, 2002, when his mom died. Then eight months later, on July 7, his dad followed. Fr. Ramon returned from the Philippines with a new resolution: to make himself available 24/7 to visit the sick and dying. Many of you are here out of gratitude to Fr. Ramon for bringing the sacraments to their loved ones when in the hospital or home-bound.
Along with ministry to the ill, Fr. Ramon made himself available for funeral services. He always responded when a funeral home called. Today, in gratitude to Fr. Ramon, Yarington's Funeral Home is donating all its services, free of charge.
As I indicated in the beginning, Fr. Ramon worked right to the finish. Last weekend he celebrated Masses in Mount Vernon and when he returned to Seattle, Rose told him about someone ill in the hospital. Afterwards, Rose had a commitment, so she dropped Fr. Ramon off at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, where he prayed for over an hour.
On Monday at St. Alphonsus, he led a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration before the morning Mass. That Mass, by the way, was the Feast of St. Bartholomew. Jesus tells the Apostle that he is a true Israelite, with no guile, no duplicity. (What an appropriate quote for Fr. Ramon!)
That day Fr. Ramon had a few appointments in the rectory. In the evening he collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage. Fr. Derek Anderson found him on the floor about 9 p.m. He opened his shirt, gave him CPR, but when Fr. Ramon did not revive, Fr. Derek - realizing that his inner core was still warm - gave him the anointing, absolution and the Apostolic Pardon.
Many people have said to me, "Fr. Ramon is in heaven." I am reticent, not because I do not believe Fr. Ramon was a good man, but because canonizing someone is beyond my pay grade. I will say this: Fr. Ramon is like the servant Jesus describes, hard at work when his master returns.
I also know that Fr. Ramon (like you and me) had his demons. Sometimes, by God's grace, he overcame them. Sometimes not. The best thing we can do for Fr. Ramon is what we are doing now - pray for him, especially at Mass. He offered many Masses and rosaries for his own mom and dad. Those prayers never go to waste.
I would like to conclude with a short poem by the Philippine patriot, Dr. Jose Rizal. It is appropriate for two reasons: Like Jose Rizal, Fr Ramon had a deep love for his home country. He kept up with the news and made sacrifices to help his nephews and nieces - and other in the Philippines to have a better life. In death his body will be taken to the Philippines, to be buried near his mom and dad.
There is a second reason why the poem of Dr. Rizal is appropriate. He loved the Virgen Mary and the poem is dedicated to her. The rosary was Fr. Ramon's favorite prayer. He prayed the rosary in the chapel, when he went for walks and when we driving somewhere he would lead a rosary. When we went a longer distance - for example, to Ocean Shores - he would pray all twenty mysteries, sometimes with short meditations or intentions before mysteries. Fr. Ramon loved the Virgen Mary and had great confidence in her intercession. With that in mind, I would like read you the poem by Dr. Jose Rizal.
To The Virgin Mary Mary, sweet peace, solace dear Of pained mortal ! You're the fount Whence emanates the stream of aid, That makes fruitful our soil. From thy throne, from heaven high, Kindly hear my sorrowful cry ! And may thy shining veil protect My voice that rises with rapid flight. Thou art my Mother, Mary, pure; Thou'll be the fortress of my life; Thou'll be my guide on this angry sea. If ferociously vice pursues me, If in my pains death harasses me, Help me, and drive away my woes !Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.