St. Therese Mission: Creating Space for Faith for Families in the US
By Marivir R. Montebon
The family business has a long history of faith, from the time of his late dad Rafael courting his mother Shalene,
until a miracle gave him a new lease on life in the Philippines.
Thirty-seven-year old Randy Dizon is tailor-cut for business. But his acumen is not just hard work and vision. It is also, by and large, grounded on faith. This elemental strength he inherited from his parents, who sow the seeds of the what is now the Magnificat Ventures Corp. and St. Therese Mission in Las Vegas.
Randy sits as president for the Magnificat Ventures Corporation, while his brother Rondic sits as president for the St. Therese Mission Foundation. The family business has a long history of faith, from the time of his late dad Rafael courting his mother Shalene, until a miracle gave him a new lease on life in the Philippines.
The family, originally from Manila, wanted to create a community of faith for families in the US, just like what they did in their homeland. In Pasay City, the Dizons have developed a shrine for worship as well as a space for family gatherings, peaceful retreats, and children’s recreation. They also integrated a columbarium-cemetery in its vast expanse.
It is fast growing to become the center of devotion in Asia to the French Carmelite nun and doctor of the Church, St. Therese de Lisieux.
The shrine in Pasay is officially known as the Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, one of the biggest shrines in Manila.
Today, the same project is taking shape in Tecopa, California, on the Old Spanish Trail, just 45 minutes away from Las Vegas, with the same purpose of bringing families together and providing a peaceful respite from busy life, as well as a remembrance park for one’s departed family members. So far, the columbarium-cemetery is the only Catholic cemetery serving Las Vegas and is 100% operational.
The youngest in the brood of five, Randy was tasked to set up the St. Therese Mission in the US. The entire complex, covering 17.5 acres, is gradually developed with greenery that is attuned to the desert environ and with amenities giving a peaceful ambiance for worship and personal retreats as well facilities that ensure a fun and relaxing family reunions and community events, like concerts and art shows.
Randy’s exemplary business acumen shows in his experiences. Since 2002, he is the managing director of the Golden Ridge Corporation which owns and sold over 2000 acres of land in California and also of the Torquality Fasteners, a lock washer distribution company servicing Amtrak and TYCO.
Together with his twin brother Rodney, he founded the esarisari.net, a Filipino online grocery and subscription service which became operational early this year. Randy has, thus far, gone a long way since he relocated to the US when he was 13. He founded his own family too, with wife Stella, and are living in Henderson. They have two sons – Tyler, 6, and Trevi, 3.
He finished his degree in Business at the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business. He also attended the Lloyd Greif Entrepreneur Program.
Excerpts from our interview:
- What made you and your family decide to set up the St. Therese Mission Foundation and the Magnificat Ventures Corp.?
We always get this question. So here goes.
The origins of the St. Therese Mission began with a love story, that of my parents. My mom had always been a devotee to St. Therese even when she was single. Being a daughter of a general, she had several suitors one of which was my dad. To help her choose the man he would give her hand to, she decided to do a novena to St. Therese, asking the saint to intercede for her and give her a sign as to who she should choose among who were courting her. The sign she had requested was – whoever would give here white roses would be the person she would answer, while whoever would give her red roses she would deny.
My dad visited a local flower shop wanting to buy my mom a bouquet of red roses, fortunately the flower shop owner replied that he had just run out of reds but still had a bouquet of white roses. My dad ended up buying those white roses and gave them to my mom.
My mom eventually gave dad her heart. They were married and now, have five happily married children and 11 grandchildren. My parents never forgot to stay true to their faith and made sure all of us children also adhered to those principles.
Years later, in the year 2000, Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer and was operated on. On May 8, he had severe internal bleeding and we had to rush him to the hospital. On the way, at the backseat of the car while I was driving, Mom cradled Dad in her arms and prayed the Hail Mary aloud. Dad responded with the Holy Mary and that assured Mom that Mama Mary will be protecting him. Dad flat lined that day. His heartbeat stopped for 15 minutes but the doctors and nurses were able to revive him.
That is how our corporation, Magnificat Ventures Corporation, came to be. It is our song of praise to Mama Mary for giving our dad his second lease on life. The story didn’t end there, though. That night, Dad underwent another operation.
The doctor explained to the family that he may suffer from permanent brain damage (due to the lack of oxygen in the brain since his heart stopped for a prolonged period of time). The succeeding days saw the family praying the Rosary and the novena to the saint we always turned to – St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Dad survived that ordeal and he lived for 9 more years after that incident.
Dad devoted his ‘second’ life in building the Shrine of St. Therese in the Philippines. Together with Mom, they instilled in us deep devotion to the powerful saint. Their devotion inspired us to build the The Shrine of St. Therese. A 64,000 square foot religious edifice that stands in the heart of Pasay City and is envisioned to be the center of devotion to God’s Little Flower in Asia. It is our family’s humble tribute to the Saint who has showered our family with roses. It is also our simple way of propagating and helping spread devotion to St. Therese.
After the success of the Shrine in the Philippines, the family decided to embark on another project this time on the country we now call home, the United States. I volunteered to conceptualize and spearhead such a monumental task and it is what has brought us here today.
- Wow, what a journey in faith. So does the foundation intend to duplicate the project concept here in the US?
Yes. We wanted to create a community of faith, a place where people can visit and have respite from their busy lives in both countries. A place where they can rekindle and renew their faith through the inspiration and intercession of our beloved St. Therese. The Mission has become an oasis in the desert for people seeking refuge from fast paced lives.
The Columbarium, which helps fund these projects, also connects generations through remembrance of beloved ones.
3. Were you groomed by your parents to handle this venture or was this something that you created? Who do you look up to in terms of the expertise and heart of being a CEO?
I would not say they groomed me directly for this project, but they definitely inspired and molded me that made me decide to spearhead this project. Along with a team we assembled in the US, I had to come up with the concept, location and feasibility study for the Mission and presented the project to the family to get their approval and support.
- How are you dealing with competition? What is your edge in the market?
We find ourselves in a unique situation. We are a Catholic mission at our core and as such we do not see other churches or places of worship as competition. In fact we see ourselves as a place that can complement such institutions.
On the columbarium/cemetery side, however, we are the only Catholic cemetery in Las Vegas. We offer a unique place and location unmatched by any of the other cemeteries in our area or I would say all over the US.
I often tell people that we are a Mission with a cemetery, and not just a cemetery. We have a cemetery and that’s what pays the bills but that is only the means to our ultimate goal; which is to bring people back to their faith.
We are a place for the living and not of the dead. We have regular Sunday service, fiestas and festivals, even an exhibit and retreat area and a children’s play area.
- Why did you choose Las Vegas as the project site?
Las Vegas offers a central location to place your departed loved ones. One of our studies we came across was a US Census bureau report which stated that an average American family moves 11 times in its lifetime, meaning that as Americans we constantly move and if we live in a certain geographic location now, chances are we won’t be in the future. What more our children and grand children. This is also why typical American families have members scattered all over the US.
Las Vegas, being the primary tourist destination in the US allows families to organize family reunions or get togethers. It is always easier to invite people to visit Vegas. (There is always that thought) why not visit grandpa and grandma after going to mass at the Mission?
6. This is quite a religious kind of undertaking, is this to be called a business or a religious/faith-based advocacy?
This really is primarily a religious undertaking for me and for my family. We want to spread the devotion to St. Therese and hopefully touch the people who visit our doors and rekindle their faith, or to simply rejuvenate themselves from such a fast paced and hectic society that we now live in.
The business side of the project, the Columbarium serves as a means to achieve this goal, and yet it also serves as a bridge that ensures generations remain connected and that new generations always remember where they came from. (Featured photo is Randy and wife Stella)