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Everyday Heroes: Fisherman attributes survival to heavenly intercession

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Spirit Juice, courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Andrew Butler

Jeffrey Rentegrado never expected that his career as a fisherman could put his life in danger. Nor did he know his faith — and perhaps the intercession of the founder of the Knights of Columbus — would save him from a deadly attack in his own home on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

"I’m very grateful to Father McGivney. I feel that he provided for me. He granted my prayers and that is why I survived," Rentegrado said.

Before May 27, 2009, Rentegrado and his wife, Ginalyn, had a routine typical for a fisherman’s family. His day began at 2 a.m., when he made his way out to sea. When he came ashore with the catch, Ginalyn weighed and sold it.

But on that May evening 10 years ago, Rentegrado prepared to have dinner with his family when two gunmen stormed into the house. Aiming to seize control of Rentegrado’s fishing grounds, they shot him 13 times in front of Ginalyn and their two children. One son, Reggie, also was shot.

Blood spilled from Rentegrado’s mouth as he and his son were taken to a local doctor. The medic thought he was dead on arrival, but she found a pulse and sent him to the hospital.

The gunshot wounds should have been fatal, according to Dr. Roger Braceros, who treated Rentegrado at the hospital.

"With those 13 gunshot wounds, it seemed impossible for us to revive this patient," Braceros said.

But Rentegrado wasn’t dead. He was conscious and heard a voice telling him to pray. He grabbed his rosary and turned to pray for the intercession of Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus.

Medics told Rentegrado’s wife it was a hopeless cause. But she wouldn’t listen.

"I said to my husband, just have faith, fight it out. You can do it," she said.

For his commitment to faith throughout this traumatic incident, Rentegrado is featured in "Everyday Heroes," a video series produced by the Knights of Columbus showcasing ordinary men acting in extraordinary ways, who are strengthened by their Catholic faith and membership in the Knights of Columbus.

Rentegrado underwent three surgeries in five hours. And, defying nearly everyone’s expectations, he survived.

"Suddenly I remember opening my eyes and seeing my wife, Ginalyn. I was so overwhelmed my heart jumped," Rentegrado said.

Rentegrado now has a new appreciation for Knights’ founder Father McGivney, who started the organization in part to keep families together. He established the Knights to band together men of faith, to help families stay together despite dangerous working conditions. So it’s no wonder Father McGivney was watching over Rentegrado.

Father McGivney (1852-1890) was a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford who founded the Knights in 1882 in New Haven. The cause for his sainthood formally began in Hartford in 1997. He was declared to be a venerable servant of God in March 2008.

Now every day before going out to sea, Rentegrado makes the sign of the cross, asking the Lord for strength, endurance and protection. An active member of the Knights of Columbus, he has worked with his brother Knights to construct a parish hall and to serve their pastor whenever he calls.

For surviving that horrific attack 10 years ago, his wife calls him the "King of the Sea," or, thanks to the K of C, he’s also the "K of Sea."

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Editor’s Note: A video accompanying this story can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NVY2P-ijuU. To share your story of an everyday hero with the Knights of Columbus, contact [email protected].

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