Noel Cabigting, who recently earned an advanced certificate in supervision from Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE), died of complications from diabetes at Marikina Valley Hospital in Metro Manila, Philippines, on September 2. He was 40 years old.
Prior to enrolling in the Fordham program, which he completed online last May, Cabigting studied philosophy at San Carlos Seminary in Metro Manila and earned a bachelor’s degree in theology and a graduate diploma in counseling from Melbourne College of Divinity in Australia. He was an associate member of the Australian Institute of Professional Counselors and a member of Narrative Connections, a network of practitioners of narrative therapy, at the Dulwich Centre in South Australia.
Born in Manila, Cabigting founded a lay Catholic community called Companions of the Redeemer (COR) in 2015. From then until his death, he served as the group’s moderator, ministering to residents of Metro Manila by offering a food pantry, counseling, coaching, and spiritual direction.
“Noel’s vision was to empower people to capture a better vision for their lives and accompany them in their journey to be their best selves,” said Reyn Laboy, one of the leaders of COR.
According to Laboy, Cabigting was inspired by the Gospel story of Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection (Luke 24: 13-35). He established COR with the intention of serving the poor and bringing marginalized people into the heart of the community, Laboy said, and he was “influenced by the Ignatian tradition, driven by a sense of mission and commitment to a life of discernment.”
Though he was most recently based in Manila, Cabigting worked with people throughout the world—from Australia to China, Malaysia, and the U.S.—and his ministry took the form of retreats, supervision, psychotherapy, and healing prayer. In 2017, he completed a training program at CenterQuest, a California-based ecumenical organization for the study and practice of Christian spirituality, and he was a core member of the CenterQuest Asia team at the time of his death.
“I don’t normally share with people my own struggles and all that, but I found a confidant in Noel, even though he’s much younger than I am,” said Wil Hernandez, Ph.D., executive director of CenterQuest. “I felt very safe being around him.”
According to Maria Tattu Bowen, Ph.D., director of the advanced certificate program in supervision at GRE and a member of the CenterQuest team, Cabigting was deeply immersed not just in spirituality but also in social justice.
Tara Bowen, one of Cabigting’s Fordham classmates, said his supervision project brought her to tears. He created a system for evaluating volunteer workers at COR’s community food bank, many of whom have little formal education and are “one step away from needing the food bank themselves.”
“They were often not literate and spoke only Tagalog,” Bowen said. “He created a very creative solution for someone filling out a supervision form, which was instead [about]drawing a picture of their experience, and also their experience of God. It was so humbling to see him continually bringing his experience of supervision and spiritual direction into his context and remembering how much Jesus urged us to care about the poor.”
Reflecting on Cabigting’s untimely passing, Bowen said, “I think one of the keen losses that I feel around Noel’s death is sort of the burden of these beautiful, unlived years. He had so much more to give to the church, to the community of God, to spiritual direction and supervision. I think I will forever be changed by knowing him and by experiencing his loss.”
The Companions of the Redeemer held a memorial service for Cabigting coinciding with the group’s sixth anniversary. The service was held on September 7 at St. Peter’s Chapel in Metro Manila. Cabigting’s body was cremated, and the remains’ final resting place is St. Therese National Shrine in Metro Manila. He is survived by his parents and six siblings.