By Felix Carroll (Feb 16, 2010)
She didn't know much about the Philippines. She didn't know much about the message of The Divine Mercy. So perhaps it goes without saying that Marie Buffoni didn't know anything about the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception's new mission in the Philippines to spread the message of The Divine Mercy.
Then, Fr. Kazimierz "Kaz" Chwalek, MIC, director of evangelization and development for the Marians, visited her parish this past summer to celebrate Holy Mass.
"In his homily, he spoke about how he had just returned from the Marians' new Divine Mercy missionary site in the Philippines," explained Marie, a parishioner at St. Mary's in Lee, Mass., which is a short drive away from the Marian-administered National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge. "He spoke about the Filipino people and how much faith they have, and how, although it was very hot, they worked so hard, climbing the mountain to build a statue of The Divine Mercy."
She's referring to the 50-foot-tall Divine Mercy statue in what is known as Divine Mercy Hills, in Mindanao, where the Marians have established a Divine Mercy beachhead in that island nation. The Marians are official promoters of the message of The Divine Mercy.
Marie was so moved by the joy and excitement shared by Fr. Kaz during his homily that she decided to do something about it.
"He spoke from his heart," she said. "He was so sincere. I was captivated, and so I wanted to give a gift that would be meaningful."
After a couple months, she was finished. She presented Fr. Kaz with a beautiful painting she did that depicts the 50-foot-tall Divine Mercy statue.
The painting is now displayed prominently in Fr. Kaz's office.
'Had No Idea'
After Fr. Kaz's homily, she couldn't get the Philippines mission out of her mind.
"Finally, I said to myself, 'I should paint that statue,'" she said.
She brought up the idea to Fr. Kaz.
"Of course!" he said.
"Well, Father, the painting I do will be what the Holy Spirit wants," she told Fr. Kaz. "I had no idea what it would be," she later said.
She visited the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge and was given photos of the statue. Then the process began. She likes to paint while listening to spiritual music. She sings to it. "I don't have a very good voice, but that's God fault," she says with a laugh.
She presented her painting to Fr. Kaz in early December.
"Oh, that's beautiful!" he said.
"I was just worried he wouldn't like it," Marie said. "And it was my pleasure to give it to Fr. Kaz."
A People Person
Just a few moments with Marie and you can tell she likes to laugh and has compassion for those in great need of mercy.
Retired now, she worked for years in acute care as a registered nurse. Then, the Holy Spirit led her in a new direction, she says. She was working at St. Joseph's Hospital in Paterson, N.J., at the time.
"A psychiatrist, who was sitting at the ER desk, was watching as we were all handling the patients from a serious, multi-car accident," Marie recalled. "When all calmed down, the doctor asked to speak to me. He asked me why I was working in the ER. I asked why he was asking me such a question. He said that he watched me working with the families, calling out names of family, and uniting family members with patients, many who were children. He said, 'You are a people person and should be working on the Psych Unit.'"
She said, "He was so persuasive, that I found myself saying OK. I loved it. Working with mentally ill people, you see so much pain and suffering. Helping them and caring for them is so rewarding. When we moved to Massachusetts, I continued working in Psych. So many times, I felt that the Holy Spirit guided me in so many serious situations."
She Wanted to Be a Nurse. She Wanted to Paint.
When she was 6-years old, a defining moment occurred in her life. Marie was attacked by a dog. The nurses and doctors who cared for her were so kind and gentle that she knew, then and there, she was going to be a nurse when she grew up.
She also knew as a young girl that she wanted to paint. But her father couldn't afford to pay for art lessons. It wasn't till 12 years ago that she took her first art lesson.
But in the meantime, the Holy Spirit allowed her to serve others. In this case, when one of her four sons was 8-years old, he asked to have art lessons. She paid for it. He now has a master's degree in art. Not only that, he married an artist.
"I wanted him to have what I always wanted," Marie says.
The Holy Spirit, all along, was giving her what she needed. She needed to be a nurse to help others. She needed to be a mother and a wife to serve her family. She needed to be a painter later in life to make people happy — people like Fr. Kaz, who in return for the painting, gave her something.
"I want you to read this," he said to her, after she gave him the painting.
It was a copy of the Diary of St. Faustina.
"I promised him I would read it," she said, "I'm reading it. If I make a promise, I follow through."
Learn more about the Marians' mission in the Philippines and how you can help support it.