The villagers talk about Father Cappel constantly. “He is in the process of being canonized and Ricardo Rojas, brother of a Familia member is on the ad hoc committee to move the process forward. As we visit his grave, a massive monument that far outsizes the rest of the modest graves of the town former residents, we are joined by two families who journeyed from afar to share their stories.
In 2012 Paulina Correa faced the biggest challenge of her life. Four months pregnant, she had been told that her baby had a big “bubble” in the back of the head. Additionally, tests indicated that the baby had Down syndrome and would have severe stomach problems. One day, two members of the Familia de San Jose knocked her door. She let them in and together they prayed and asked Father Cappel to make sure that the baby would be born healthy. “They placed his photograph on my stomach and I immediately felt something,” she says. Her family lives in the outskirts of the town but they all knew the priest, as he would usually ride his bike into their area. Jose Pablo, her baby who she named after the priest, was born completely normal. “The doctors don’t know how to explain it because all tastings (and they run them all) indicated that he would have severe problems,” she says while lovingly watching her 4 year-old son who plays innocently as we talk.
By her side, Isabel Marquez, a villager from Putu, which is located about an hour from Curepto, cannot contain her tears. For more than eighteen years her son Eduardo suffered of severe schizophrenia symptoms. “He did no respond to treatments, he did not take his medication; he was completely out of control. We did not know what to do, how to help him. We were exhausted,” she sobs. One day, just as in Paulina’s case, Isabel started to pray along with members of the Familia. She asked Father Coppel to intervene. It has been two years. As she talks, her son Eduardo listens attentively to his mother. His is calm and sweet. His is responding to his treatment and lives with his family who has finally found peace and hope.
As we leave the grave, more people bring flowers and pray solemnly to the man who rode his bike bringing hope and faith to a remote town in southern Chile. His deeds will never be forgotten. “He not only was a 24/7 priest, warm, friendly and wise but he was deeply connected to nature,” wrote Ricardo Rojas in his book titled “A life time Pastor of Curepto”. He did not like talking about it but it is a well-known fact that people asked him to pray for his potato or bean crops, the bugs simply vanished.
It is almost time to return to the capital and catch a plane back to Los Angeles. There is no time to visit the new radio station of Radio Rosario FM where Mercedes Rojas and Esmeralda Mejias work the controls while Cesar Rodriguez offers weekly reflections on the Scriptures. We promise to come back.
As we take the PanAmerican road back to Santiago, our hearts are filled with joy and pride. The Familia de San Jose members spread the charism of the CSJ’s every day as they touch the lives of their families, their neighbors and each other in the name of God.