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Her 18-month-old son sits on her lap, contentedly playing with a piece of paper as she waits to speak to Father McDermott after Mass. “If I’m feeling low, I talk to him. He listens to me.

“He tells me to put everything in God’s hands.”

Through the help of the Mass collection, Father Martin paid for the cost of her baby’s delivery. The name Adut chose for her son, Martin.

“Because I love him,” she says with a chortle. “He’s our father. He’s made a big difference in my life.”

St. Joseph’s Church dates to 1875, after members of the Society of Jesus founded what became St. Joseph’s University. The space now used by the center was formerly part of the university. The main meeting room is adorned with all kinds of statues of the Blessed Mother and various saints, as well as images of St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata. For nearly 40 years, Father McDermott served as spiritual director for the sisters of her order, the Missionaries of Charity, in Lebanon. Sisters from the order teach catechism at the center and serve at the Sunday Mass.

The Jesuit priests are looking forward to the upcoming renovation of the center, with funding in part from CNEWA. Father Ponce, with his engineering and design skills, planned the improvements according to the center’s needs, enlisting the help of an architect. The new plan includes a kitchen and a multi-purpose hall for fellowship meals, seminars and conferences, with comfortable seating areas.

“It will mean a lot for the migrants because they will have a more dignified place to gather — their sanctuary, where they can relax and socialize more comfortably,” Father Ponce says. He envisions a homey atmosphere.

“This community treats us like a family,” says 30-year-old Apple. You can feel the love here.” In fact, love has blossomed for Apple at the center. It was there that she met Eugene, new to Lebanon and working for a telecommunications company as an engineer. It so happens they are both from the same province in the Philippines.

“He’s the man of my dreams,” Apple says with a demure giggle. Most importantly, she stresses, “Eugene is a God-fearing man.”

Eugene, also 30, credits Fathers McDermott and Ponce for his deepening faith. Although he always attended Sunday Mass in the Philippines, Eugene says he now considers the Word of God in all aspects of his life.

“It’s a touch of the Holy Spirit,” Eugene says of the center. “I found my inspiration here and the person I will love for the rest of my life. Praise God.”

Eugene and Apple plan to marry, and are putting their future in God’s hands.

“We’re praying for the right timing, just seeking first the Kingdom of God,” he says, beaming.

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Doreen Abi Raad is a freelance writer in Beirut. She has written for Catholic News Service and the National Catholic Register.

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