Healing Both the Body and Soul
Manila, Philippines. Some days you would find him in a small clinic wearing a lab coat, some days you would see him in a church in Makati City wearing a cassock. For a man of his age, fitting into two entirely different uniforms may be quite a daunting task. But for this man, he sees no problem wearing two capes. His name is Jaime Roa and he is both a doctor and a priest. Roa, 64, came from a poor family in Iloilo province, south of Manila. His mother was a vendor, while his father was a fisherman. Being raised from a religious family, he has been actively immersed in church duties at a young age.
"I've always wanted to be a priest," says Roa.
If motivation was the sole deciding factor for his priesthood, he could have easily fulfilled his childhood dream. However, due to financial instability, he had to forego this goal to prioritize the responsibility of providing for his family. Despite having limited resources, he was able to finish high school in 1973. Through scholarships, he has also finished college. But graduation was just the first step of his journey. The path that stretched ahead of Roa's post-graduate journey remained long and winding. After graduating from college in 1982, he took further medicine properly and eventually became a doctor at the Philippine Heart Center.
His ambition of becoming a successful physician has already been achieved but he felt there was something lacking, there was still a fervent desire inside him to become a member of the clergy. "There was something missing. I had to respond to this. I had to answer to this call," he said. In 1993, he joined the Camillian Congregation for seminary formation. After eight years in the convention, he was ordained and assigned in Davao Oriental in the southern Philippines as a hospital chaplain in 2002.
He was transferred to Makati in 2004. Two years later he was reassigned in Calbayog, Samar in the central Philippines where he became a hospital and medical director for six years. In 2013, he went back to Makati in a clinic owned by the Camillians. “There is both a positive and negative side. The positive side on my part is I was able to fulfill the dream that I had, that [for] being a doctor and priest I can minister to the people as I encounter them. I can take care of the person as a whole, both body and soul,” says Jaime.
Jaime works at the St. Camillus Polyclinic from Monday to Thursday. Besides the clinic is the Our Lady of La Paz parish, where he regularly holds masses prior to or after his appointments with patients. His schedule is hectic but it did not hinder him from staying committed as God's servant. St. Camillus Polyclinic offers medical services in primary health care, ranging from general medicine, and minor surgery operations to radiography, laboratory examination, and dental care. It has been a beacon of care and dedication to residents living in Makati and in neighboring villages.
"As a priest, I can sense and probe and do something so they would go out from the clinic, happy," Roa says.
According to Roa, some of his patients also consult him to seek spiritual guidance, on top of and sometimes instead of their medical consultations. "There’s really a joy in doing this but it is also a little difficult. I realized that it is also hard to take care of both the body and soul at the same time, especially at my age. It will drain you," says Roa. "In our life, especially in these moments, there is no substitute with being closer to God. All our activities should be directed to Him. These directions in life are guided by the Lord if you open your heart to him. Without God, even if you have everything in this world, they are nothing," he said. "For me, all these things that are happening go back to my parents who raised us as a family and community; serving people. At this moment I am very happy that people come to me, not just as a doctor but also as a priest," Jaime added.
"2020 was the best year for us. Many people came back to God. They learned to pray. They became closer to God. Whatever that is happening to us now, we suffer we expense difficulties, it’s nothing because he is there. In the end, the bottom line is to be in communion with Him," said Roa. "I’m not afraid of the virus, I’m more afraid of my patients, that I might contaminate them. I am more concerned of the people than myself," he followed. On January 28, 2021, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), announced that they are willing to transform church facilities into COVID-19 vaccination hubs.
"We can offer our church facilities to help in this massive and complicated and very challenging program of vaccination," said Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of CBCP, during an online conference. Coronavirus infections in the Philippines have surpassed 540,000, the second-highest number in Southeast Asia behind neighboring Indonesia, with a nationwide death toll of more than 11,400 deaths.