The Feast Day of St Camillus De Lellis on 14 July is truly significant to Fr Dado Haber MI.
A member of the Camillian Congregation—founded in 1582 by St Camillus to care for the sick—Fr Dado has devoted his life to the Order.
“To me, it’s a very meaningful day because God has given us St Camillus who saw the need to care for someone who is sick,” Fr Dado said.
“That charism that God has given to St Camillus, and lived out in the Church, is something that I could resonate with. I am very happy and proud to say that I belong to the family of St Camillus and somebody who always reminded us to put more heart into the hands in caring for the sick.”
Fr Dado, who will this year celebrate 30 years of ordination to the priesthood, was drawn to caring for the sick from a young age.
“I would credit my religiosity to my mother who gave me a very strong foundation in terms of my religious upbringing,” Fr Dado said.
“Unfortunately, she passed away from cancer when I was about seven. But I believe God was already at work in me and led me to a congregation whose ministry was to care for the sick.”
Born in the Philippines, Fr Dado describes himself as an ‘unconventional candidate to the seminary formation’.
“I did not have any of those dreams of being a priest when I was a kid. The only motivation I had when I joined the seminary was a bit of adventure,” he said.
“I was 16 and in my high school years when I was invited to take an entrance exam to join the seminary – there were five of us classmates. I came from a very small town, and we were going to the city. And then I would be studying in a famous university with my other friends, and so to me it was a good opportunity, to let me try.”
Over the years, Fr Dado’s vocation and his love for the priesthood and religious life developed.
Fr Dado joined the Camillians in 1982 when he began his studies at the seminary.
“In our seminary formation, the hospital ministry was incorporated, so from day one, we were exposed to the care for the sick. Every week we would go and visit the sick and care for them,” he said.
In 2004, when Fr Dado arrived in Australia, initially in Perth, he began his first hospital ministry.
“Coming from the Philippines, which is relatively poor, the hospital here was a big shock for me because it was like a hotel. But I looked beyond that, knowing that the need of someone who is sick is the same whether they are in the Philippines or Australia – we all need care, attention, love – that is what I was there for and what was expected of me.”
Fr Dado came to the Diocese of Parramatta in 2007, as the Parish Priest of Sacred Heart at Westmead. In 2013, he was transferred to Blacktown Hospital and is this year celebrating 10 years as the hospital’s Catholic Chaplain.
Fr Dado says God leads him to wherever he is needed within the hospital.
“In my ministry, I am open to any possibility, because along the way I might meet staff who want to talk or share. I may receive a call from a social worker asking me to bless a baby who is stillborn. I may get a call from one of the parishes to visit a parishioner who is in hospital.”
Fr Dado says no two days, or two patient visits, are the same.
“Sometimes people just want to share how they feel or just say hello. It could sometimes be a sacramental visit – a request for anointing or hearing confession. At times, a hospital stay could also be a point of conversion.
“Whenever you are sick in hospital, you have plenty of time on your hands and sometimes people reflect on life or their own spirituality, or their being Catholic. Sometimes I meet people who haven’t been to Church in a long time. It’s totally different – there is no visit that is the same.”
While Fr Dado’s days are busy caring for those in need, he always finds a little time for self-care.
“The work that I do takes a lot from me. So, if I am not careful, I could also be drained and not able to function. So, self-care is very important in our Ministry,” he said.
Fr Dado also draws strength from his Camillian community – Fr Domingo Barawid, Fr Marcelo Pamintuan, and Fr Regie Jamorabon.
“The community is a big source of strength, help, and of fraternity, so this is very important for our own mental health,” he said.
Reflecting on three decades in the Camillian Ministry, Fr Dado feels very fulfilled.
“St Camillus would always remind us to look at the sick as Jesus himself and to be like Jesus when you are caring for someone who is sick – so that dual spirituality of being like Jesus to the sick and looking at Jesus in the sick.
“This ministry is at the very core of the Ministry of Jesus. I vowed my life to serve the sick and I am in the right place.”
To help Fr Dado and his Camillian brothers honour St Camillus de Lellis and “put more heart into the hands in caring for the sick,” please donate at yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/catholiccarechaplains