By Florence F. Hibionada/PNS
Reverend Father Lowe Dongor, surrendered United States Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) fugitive issued a public apology hours before last night’s return to American soil.
In a 3-paged handwritten letter, Dongor topped his apology with a plea to his critics and members of the media.
“Please spare my family. Throw everything at me, vilify me if you must, but please not my family especially my mother,” Father Dongor said. “I am facing up to the terrible mistakes I have committed and I plead for prayers alongside for forgiveness. But again, please spare my family.”
Father Dongor left the appeal after last year’s media hullabaloo that had members of the local press hound the Dongor home in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo. His mother, Father Dongor said, has since been traumatized by the incessant media attention. It has been over a year since he last saw his mother and opted to keep the distance “until I am really free.”
“I understand the gravity of what I am being charged and I am ready to face it all,” he said.
Entitled “My Apology,” Father Dongor opened up after a year of silence since he fled the US that had the FBI charged him with one count of felony act of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP).
Dongor was to be the first Filipino priest of the predominantly white Diocese of Worcester of Massachusetts. On the first year of his priesthood, he was charged with larceny for taking some $250 of the Church’s collections. The amount, he admitted, was sent back to his family in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo. The larceny charge though deepened when upon suspension of his Church duties, authorities secured from his personal laptop images of child pornography.
“My heart is in grief and I know that yours as well. I am so sorry. I want to apologize to all the people who has believed and supported me for the damaged I have done to you all, to the church and to myself,” his written apology went. “Human as I am, I was weak and I was not able to resist the temptation. But still, this is not an excuse. I know that the scandal that I have done affected the lives of many people who, again, love me, believed in me and supported me. With this, I am so sorry.”
“To most people who know me, they are aware that I have a devotion to the Blessed Mother. I knew, most of you will also ask a question, “why then he did this such scandal?” I am aware that many of you are disappointed about me. I am so sorry,” the statement continued. “One thing I can assure of you is that still I am a devotee of the Blessed Mother. Now that I need her intercessory on the most, I have to and always pray through her intercession.”
Father Dongor in referring to his plight called the incident a “scandal” saying, “When this scandal happened on my first year of my priesthood, my world was turned-upside-down. I even asked myself, “why me, Lord?””
“During this darkness of my life, I felt I was lost and I do not know what to do. I felt I was all alone. I felt that people who are dear and close to me little by little depart from me. I felt I was the only one fighting for my survival.Being alone in a foreign land, I felt I was neglected. It seems that I was in a cage, so dark and I am trying to catch up my breath. I was exhausted and I cannot think well,” he said.
As such, the beleaguered priest used all his savings to get himself a one-way ticket back to the Philippines. In “hiding,” he lost considerable weight and worked as call center agent in Manila. Going to mass became a challenge saying he would return to his temporary shelter in a slums area crying thereafter .
“In my mind and my heart I was saying, it should have been me there in the altar saying the mass and not as a churchgoer,” he said as he would later convince himself that what mattered still was that he was back home in the Philippines.
“Having this feeling of emotions I decided to go back home. Home, a place where I know there are people who will still accept and will understand me most: my family. Having limited resources, still, I planned my trip to the Philippines. I was poor like a rat that even the last penny in my pocket I have to keep. On my trip back to the Philippines, I had to rely to food the airplane provided for my survival,” his written apology continued.
“Hiding or escaping from our wrong-doings will not give us peace of mind. No matter how I wanted to live a normal life, still there was this feeling of uneasiness. After a year of trying to await my past experienced in America, I feel I am now ready to face it. God is so kind by using other people as instrument for me. God really knows the longing of my heart and he had the right people to help me,” his further wrote while revealing that a brother priest served as the intermediary. “He said that a friend of him from NBI informed him about the possibilities of my case. I never hesitate to agree with my pastor’s suggestion. I met with the NBI personnel and I told him I am willingly surrendering myself to the authority. “
“What future awaits me in America? I do not know. All I can do right now is to surrender myself totally to God. I know God has a plan ahead of me! Whatever it is, only God knows. One thing I know for sure is that, God gave me this opportunity at the present to ask an apology to God’s people, to my family and friends, to the Church, and most of all, to myself. From the bottom of my heart, I humbly say, “I am deeply sorry,” he ended as he went on to sign the letter, “Rev. Fr. Lowe B. Dongor.”
‘Fugitive’ priest to media, critics: ‘Please spare my family’
By Florence F. Hibionada/PNS