Family, friends remember missing woman

  • August 25, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - In one of the last pictures ever taken of Christina Calayca before she went missing last summer, she stands beside her mother and is all smiles.

It was taken at a 50th birthday party organized by Calayca for her mother.

Elizabeth Rutledge shows other photos of her 20-year-old daughter with pride. It’s classic Christina, she says.

“I’ve never seen her frowning. She’s always smiling.”

 Rutledge was standing in the same hallway where mother and daughter used to make their early morning dash to Calayca’s work at the St. Bernadette Day Care, located beside D’Arcy McGee Catholic Secondary School.

An anniversary Mass at the high school gym had just concluded Aug. 6 to mark Calayca’s disappearance on the same day in 2007.

The gathering is about joy, Rutledge said in remembering her daughter.

“I trust my faith in God that she is in heaven. She really is an angel for us,” Rutledge told The Catholic Register.

Described by friends and family as selfless, caring and a natural leader, Calayca devoted many hours to organizing events for the Christian group Youth for Christ. Its members continue to pray for her at its gatherings in Toronto.

More than 70 people attended the Mass at the school gym, including several of the children Calayca taught at the day care. Many sang and danced to praise and worship music. The priest mentioned the parable of the lost sheep and told them that “hope is there.”

Some might wonder if this hope could be waning after several wide-scale searches for Calayca led by the Ontario Provincial Police and a private search team at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Superior 200 km east of Thunder Bay, Ont., including two in June, have turned up no evidence of Calayca’s fate. It’s as if she simply vanished, leaving no clues to indicate what happened that morning. It’s been speculated that she might just have gotten lost in an area considered by one OPP officer as “probably one of the roughest terrains in northwestern Ontario.” 

But Calayca’s mother and friends have said they believed she was kidnapped in the busy park. OPP Acting Sgt. Shelley Garr said investigators “found no evidence of foul play.”

Calayca’s friend Eddy Migue was one of several Youth For Christ members at the Mass. He was the last person to see Calayca before she went missing. Migue, Calayca’s cousin, Faith Castulo, and a mutual friend, Joe Benedict Reyes, were on the camping trip.

Although Calayca’s friends and family are saddened by her disappearance, they said they’re relying upon their faith to keep them going.

“Everyday we think of her. It gets harder and harder,” Migue said, “but we’ve got to move on. All we can do is hope and pray.”

Back at the gym, colourful paper butterflies crown a blown-up picture of Calayca to the left of the make-shift altar. Angela Carboni, who runs the day care and organized the gathering, said the butterflies are “a symbol of hope from God.” Calayca had decorated the day care with paper butterflies. Since her disappearance, Carboni said she has seen live butterflies and believes they are a sign from Christina.

“I know that wherever she is, God is holding her.”

The children at the day care pray the rosary every day for her, Carboni added.

Meanwhile, the OPP said Calayca’s case remains an open missing person investigation and will continue to follow up on information from the public. A $50,000 reward for any information leading to Calayca’s whereabouts is still in place.

One year later, Calayca’s family and friends say they aren’t giving up hope. They organized a barbecue in early August to raise funds for another private search.

Although it’s been a heavy cross to carry, her mother said she has found some comfort. The rainbow mural in her daughter’s old bedroom reads: “Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light.”

“It was like Christina’s message for me not to worry,” she said.

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