Many were not prepared when the government declared a lockdown all over the Philippines to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19. Some were adjusting while many were hoping to go back to their normal ways of living. However, the worst situation was yet to come as businesses were forced to close down due to the economic crisis.
For Rev. Fr. Jerald Pinay, a 28-year-old priest in Cebu City, COVID-19 and the global economic crisis were not the only things that tested his capability and faith in the time of the pandemic. In his two years of priesthood, Fr. Jerald has been managing Catholic schools in Cebu while working on his doctorate degree at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Hence, the sudden lockdown meant great adjustments for him.
However, little did Fr. Jerald know, a bigger challenge was coming his way as his faith was about to be put to the ultimate test. In 2020, amid all the fears surrounding the pandemic, he was diagnosed with a rare disease that affected his skin, joints, intestines, and kidneys. (Read: How This Woman Copes With Her Lung Disease, One Grateful Day at a Time)
Fr. Jerald shares with My Pope Philippines his struggles with his disease and how he was able to pull through amid the crisis.
What was the worst situation you experienced when Cebu was put on lockdown?
I was administering a school when the lockdown started, hence a lot of pressures were put upon me. There were a number of nights when I couldn’t shut my eyes because I was preoccupied with questions like how to handle the school staff, how to manage the employees’ salaries, and how to accomplish all the paperwork for my online doctorate classes.
Considering these combined with stress, my health started to deteriorate. I was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura (a disorder that causes the small blood vessels in the skin, joints, intestines, and kidneys to become inflamed and bleed) and an open-wound infection in my buttocks.
How did you feel when you learned of your condition?
Honestly, I entertained the thought that I might die because the rashes were really clotting all over my body and I couldn’t look at them as they got worse every day. I was so afraid of what might happen to me because I am the only one whom my family depends on. (Read: How Long Does a Pandemic Usually Last?)
The funny thing was I did not tell anyone in my family about my situation because I knew they would all collapse if they learn about it. Still, I was thankful for some school staff and friends who helped me during my recovery period. That time was both physically and emotionally painful for me.
How did you cope with your illness?
First, I accepted that I was in pain and I was in a struggle. That’s what I learned after I decided to see a psychiatrist for the first time ever. I used to think that meeting a psychiatrist is only for those who are insanely mad at the world, but I was wrong. Reaching out to a psychiatrist helped me cope with my illness.
How did your faith help you in your healing?
Faith is there and important. It is where we go whenever we got nothing else to hold on to. I prayed to God and asked for Mary’s help. (Read: Miracles of Poong Nazareno: Devotees Share Their Amazing Stories)
Also, when I learned of the Blessed Teofilo Camomot and how he would help his fellow priests who are in crisis, I found myself becoming devoted to him. Now, I believe, I am healing and my health has become better.
How do you understand the healing process then?
Everything is connected— from physical, emotional, social, to spiritual. If one of them is defective, there creates an imbalance in life. Take for example my physical health; the more I think of my disease, my emotion would also be affected and my self-esteem would decline. This is the truth of life— the more we endure in pain, the more we seek God and his grace.
Has your faith changed from when you were in good health to when you were ill?
I have a lot of realizations about faith that I never had before. I think God used this disease to help me deepen my understanding of sickness, fighting for life, steadfastness in faith, and being dependent on God.
There’s truly a reason for everything that happens to us. That gives me the strength to recover for the sake of my priesthood, faith in God, family, and friends.
What are you most grateful for in this time of a pandemic?
The fact that I’m still breathing, that there’s an improvement in my health, and that my relationship with God and the people around me have deepened— all of these make me feel happy and grateful. (Read: 3 Secrets to Sustain a Grateful Mindset)