DEACON BEN – A MAN OF EXCELLENCE
By: Jesse Consunji
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
This verse perfectly illustrates how Deacon Ben, who was also my Ninong, has lived his life. His selflessness was immense and incomparable, and as one of his disciples, I am grateful to have experienced and witnessed his life firsthand. Countless times, I have seen him give financial aid to those who were in need. But far more important than material blessings, Deacon Ben ministered spiritual healing and gave guidance and counselling. He was after the spiritual well-being and salvation of people—a fisher of men—hence the hashtag #DiscipleshipIsLife. This is why he has established a relationship of ministry with me and with hundreds of other people. His sermons about evangelizing and ministry are always remembered and are etched in my heart. One of his shirts states “DEEDS, not words,” which is very much lived out by him, because he always shared God’s life, not through mere words, but through actions.
Deacon Ben was not a man of a few words. He made certain that every word he said was put to heart. His words were often misinterpreted as too frank and harsh (with matching eyes wide-open), but later we his disciples would realize that those words surely helped us become the best version of ourselves. He always ensured that our actions showed excellence since God is an excellent God. Deacon Ben lived this out in his ministry. As anyone may have observed, the altar in our church sanctuary beams with excellence and precision, as he would always say that the altar reflects the glory of God. He made sure everything—from the longest tapestry down to the smallest detail—should be prepared with excellence. His passion for his ministry has always been a model for the youth.
Ninong Ben’s passing was a tremendous loss to our family, and I am sure the feeling and sense of great loss is the same for everyone whose lives he has ministered to and touched. I will surely miss the random moments when I would crave for wings and pizza, when suddenly an angel in the form of Deacon Ben would invite me, “Tara, kain tayo sa Yellow Cab.” Our traditional photo-ops with Ninong every Christmas and his random and frequent selfies with us will be missed as well. And, how could anyone forget his famous mechado and adobo?
Deacon Ben, your legacy of servanthood, evangelism, and giving will be continued. Rest well and enjoy serving at the most glorious altar there ever is.
I love you, my dear Ninong and discipler. You will be missed.
by Luigi Pepino
I was inside the sacristy on a Saturday morning. It was cleanup time once again for the acolytes. After doing my assigned task, I was just staring at the vessels inside the cabinet when suddenly Deacon Ben came inside with his usual cleanup attire – white t-shirt and shorts. He was about to get his bag and go home. He stayed with us for a while and to my disbelief, what he said was different from the usual admonishment. He became emotional and started crying while saying, “Alam mo ba sinabi ko sa mga deacons 'nung meeting namin kanina? Sasabihin ko na rin sa inyo. Kahit kalian, hindi ko hinangad ng magarbong simbahan. Kahit hindi ko rin nga makitang tapos ‘tong simbahan eh, gusto ko lang naman na pag tiningnan ng tao ang altar, kahit sobrang liit niyan, makikita nila ang glory ni God. Basta maganda at kaaya-aya ang altar at napapabago sa buhay ng tao, masaya na ako dun.”
We were in shock after hearing this. In my 11 years as an acolyte, this was the first time I have seen him cry in front of us. I tried to ignore what he said, so I wiped vessels that were already clean as if nothing happened. But it was hard to do so. Little did I know that our conversation with him at that time was going to be the last.
Everything he mentioned to us in that conversation described his whole personality. That was the moment I knew he really had a heart of a servant. He will put his life just to proclaim the greatness of our God by making the altar as clean as possible. Deacon Ben was a hands-on person. He was everywhere when it came to prepare the altar. In my stay here in the acolyte’s ministry, not a day goes by when he does not get irritated over small and tiny details, and to be honest, it was something we would not want to hear. He was like this, every Saturday and Sunday. He would call out on us whenever we would come in late. Even if it seemed like everything was okay, he would still find a small error on our part. But then I realized, he was doing those for us after all. He just wanted the best for us. In simple terms, he cared. As his famous line goes, “God is an excellent God that is why He deserves an excellent service.” I even tried to impress him this one time when we were transferring vessels from one place to another. I made a checklist of vessels to transfer the day before. The following day, as usual, I arrived late but confidently holding my list. To my surprise, Deacon had his own list and the packing of the vessels was almost done! No one could really match his attention to detail. He was always one step ahead.
Even though the acolytes perceived deacon as someone to be feared when it comes to the ministry, we always respected him. We respected his dedication to work and his love in everything that he did. He might seem this grumpy type of person, but there was a side of him that was way beyond that. He would leave his “grumpy” attitude in the ministry and show us that he was a light and fun person after all. He would make his special menudo and adobo during our Christmas parties. He would always make it to a point to treat the acolyte who served at the 6 am mass on weekdays with food at either Aling Lydia’s or Starbucks. “Pag medyo galit siya sayo, kay Aling Lydia’s ka lang, pero pag favorite ka nun, sa Starbucks!” as what we would always joke. I got a treat once at Jollibee, so I guess I was in between! Whenever he sits next to anyone of us during mass, he is in for a special treat because he would quietly whisper his insights about making the altar better. His constant but fun criticisms would keep me awake during the mass. Regardless, he was consistent. He even gives allowances to some acolytes so that they can go home safely. There was this one time when Joshua, Migs, and I were bubble-wrapping the Christmas figures when he suddenly gave us PHP100 each and said, “O eto, pang-uwi niyo.” What seemed to be an hour’s worth of wrapping became 20 minutes! His nature was that of a giver.
Anyone might see him every Sunday with his loud laugh and overpowering voice, but behind that cheerful and light attitude is a heart dedicated to serving the Lord with excellence. If only one would have seen him as early as 4AM on a Sunday morning, ironing the linen cloth, working hard just to make sure everything looked perfect. So far, none of us beat the record of going earlier than Deacon Ben for a Sunday mass, and now, there is no more chance of doing so. I never thought that I would one day write an article about him. I even doubted writing this because I said, “Why would I write about a person who’s not dead?” It is so hard to accept the fact that he is gone just like that. I am writing this with pain, but at the same time, gladness, as I can share about Deacon Ben’s life from a different perspective. It will never be the same. Thank you, Kuya Ben. You have done your part. it is time for us to continue the #SevialLegacy you left us. There will be no more scolding and reprimanding, and your acolytes will carry on. You can rest now. Farewell to you, my friend.