Andrea Del Rosario, 97, Rudy Del Rosario’s mother and a member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Southeast Portland, gives the first grapes of the 2021 harvest at Del Rosario Winery in Palisades, Washington, to the Virgin Mary. Rudy leans on Mary’s shoulder. The harvest is also an annual family reunion, videotaped and shared on Youtube by Maharlika Del Rosario Bui, Rudy’s daughter. (screenshot)
Andrea Del Rosario, 97, Rudy Del Rosario’s mother and a member of St. Philip Neri Parish in Southeast Portland, gives the first grapes of the 2021 harvest at Del Rosario Winery in Palisades, Washington, to the Virgin Mary. Rudy leans on Mary’s shoulder. The harvest is also an annual family reunion, videotaped and shared on Youtube by Maharlika Del Rosario Bui, Rudy’s daughter. (screenshot)
Luisa Del Rosario promised herself long ago that when she retired she would go to church every day.

She has kept that promise and more, mostly at their home parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in Southeast Portland. “Whatever I can, I do to help,” she says. She sings in the choir, is a eucharistic minister, goes to adoration daily and helps clean the vessels after Mass.

On this day, like every day, her husband, Rodolfo “Rudy” Del Rosario has time to chat because Luisa has just gotten onto her 2 p.m. Zoom prayer meeting. She’ll pray the rosary, pray for those in need, pray the chaplet for divine mercy, and then they’ll visit. A priest in Rome invariably takes part.

“Then they gossip,” Rudy teases with a big laugh. “That’s the reality — and it binds them together.”

Luisa takes his ribbing with good humor, although she wouldn’t describe catching up with her prayer friends as gossiping.

The Del Rosarios, now in their 70s, know they’re blessed. They have three grown daughters and two grandsons, a rich faith life, and busy schedules full of family, friends, activities and commitments. Rudy has taken up painting landscapes, a hobby he put on hold when he was working and spending free hours helping his brother make the Del Rosario Vineyard, in Palisades, Washington, a success. He gardens and practices the patient art of growing bonsai. Luisa enjoys sewing and tends to family and faith.

They know that their good fortune, although dependent upon God, arises from their loyalty to God. “I thank God for our blessings,” says Rudy, who serves as a lector at Our Lady of Sorrows. “We let God do everything.”

He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to reminding his daughters and grandsons of the importance of faith. “Our belief is that we have to live by example, to manifest traditions and faith through our daily lives,” he says. “I always tell my grandsons, ‘Put Christ in the center of your life. Everything will be in place once you let him do everything for you.’”

Rudy acknowledges that such abandonment may be hard to grasp for someone who hasn’t grown up in the Catholic faith, but for those who have, it makes perfect sense. “God should come first,” he says. “Surrender yourself to him.”

Luisa remembers praying the rosary with their three daughters when the girls were small. “And with the other kids who were visiting the house,” she says.

Those young people were often part of a Filipino cultural dance group that Rudy led, Theatro Nang Bagong Silangan.

The girls always accompanied their parents to Mass and were part of family traditions. “We celebrated the Virgin Mary’s birthday with a cake,” says Luisa.

Rudy remembers telling his daughters to choose their friends with care. “This person is a bad influence,” Rudy remembers saying at times.

The girls attended Franklin High School in Southeast Portland, and Rudy would explain to curious teens the meaning of the icons on the walls and the rosaries that hung everywhere. “Then we showed them,” he said. “At meals, for instance, how we prayed for departed souls and gave thanks to God before we ate. They were inquisitive. One question would lead to another — ‘Why do you pray before you eat? Why do you cross yourself?’

“I’d say that we should be thankful for everything we receive. We weren’t born to experience ephemeral things that are fleeting. God is true happiness. He doesn’t expire. Our gratitude and faith should be as automatic as opening a door before you pass through it.”

The family name, “Del Rosario,” means “of the rosary,” and it’s one the family is proud of. “We are servants of the rosary,” says Rudy.

Rudy’s parents, brothers and sisters arrived in Portland from Pampanga, Philippines, in 1972. Rudy and Luisa didn’t accompany them — they had married in 1971 and welcomed their oldest daughter, Vanessa, into the world in 1972.

Pampanga is home to Clark Air Base, and Rudy’s father’s employment with the U.S. Air Force brought with it an offer to emigrate to the United States at a time when the economic gains in Philippines could not keep pace with the population growth. The country could not provide enough jobs for its people. Because Rudy was already married, the family’s visa application could not include him.

The following years were hard for the young couple. Luisa lost four baby boys, all born prematurely. “The Philippines’ medical system is not like in the United States,” she says.

Rudy and Luisa were able to come to the United States to join the rest of the Del Rosario family in 1984. Rudy found a job in banking and Luisa in the draperies business, and they settled in at St. Philip Neri Parish before buying a home further southeast, in the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.

Their two younger daughters, Salamat (a name meaning “thank you” in Tagalog, the primary language in Philippines, and Maharlika (a name for the ancient blue-blooded Filipinos, but also meaning greatness of mind) were born — both were premature, but both thrived.

“We wanted to remind them where they came from,” says Rudy about his choice of names symbolizing their Filipino origins.

Another reminder of their origins is the family tradition of the sacrament of marriage. “You include God in your life and your marriage,” Rudy says. “If you’re starting a family, start it in the right way.”

All three daughters are married, and their youngest, Maharlika Del Rosario Bui, works for the Archdiocese of Portland.

“We’ve been so lucky,” says Rudy. “Truly guided by the Holy Spirit.”

kristenh@catholicsentinel.org