During the Holy Mass celebrating his 50th Sacerdotal Anniversary on December 21, 2015 at the Cathedral Shrine and Parish of the Good Shepherd in Fairview Park, Quezon City, the Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, D.D. challenged everyone, especially the Youth, to be actively involved in God’s plan for mankind.
“Each one of you are being called to be involved…in the mission of God…in the drama God is writing in the history of mankind,” the 74-year old Bishop of Novaliches said after sharing his vocation story and tying it up with the Gospel (Lk 1:39-45) yesterday.
“The Gospel of today depicts Mary as always in haste because she had found her role in the drama of God. When you see your role in God’s own plan, all you could do is surrender. God directs this drama,” he explained.
Then he later summized that, “I call Elizabeth a kindred soul of Mary. What draws these two women together is they have found their mission in the Theo drama…They are role models for involving themselves in the story of mankind that God is scripting and directing.”
The bishop draws this reflections in the Gospel from what actually happened in his own life. His vocation story began in 1951 when their family attended the first Mass of the priest-cousin of his mother. This encounter made him interested in Catechism lessons that eventually lead him to enter the minor seminary in 1953–a matter that did not come easily since his father did not want him to become a priest.
“My father did not like me being a priest and treated me with silent treatment,” he said matter-of-factly, “so I threatened him that if I will not become a priest I will not study! So natakot siya!”
As such, his father was left with no choice but to let him do as he pleased although he did not visit him in San Carlos Seminary. He was then ordained a priest on Dec 21, 1965, took up Canon Law in U.S.T., and became a rector of the Minor Seminary of San Carlos before then-Pope John Paul II elevated him to the episcopate on January 25, 1982 as Auxiliary Bishop of Zamboanga. He was then assigned as bishops of two more dioceses (Pagadian and San Fernando) before he replaced the Most Rev. Teodoro C. Bacani, Jr., D.D. in 2002 as Bishop of Novaliches.
Looking back at his five-decade journey, Bishop Tobias could not but express his gratitude for the Mercy of God in his life through his priesthood. He said that, despite his sins, God’s Mercy will always be greater than sin and, because of this, no one can replace the love of God.
He said when he was ordained–something he and his batchmates could claim as “the fruits of Vatican II” since it “closed on Dec. 8, 1965”–the theme of Vatican II was Iglesia Sempere Formand or “The Church needs always to be transformed”. This has become his motto for his priestly life that helped him in his own transformation. This and the mercy of God has taught him, in time, “to be patient and wait–to be content with what is realizable for the moment but…never stop until the ideal has been achieved.”
The Bishop actually finds it providential that he celebrates his 50th year of ordination in the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This is why, the motto for his priestly life has changed. He said, “the keyword now is mercy and compassion…for that was how God has treated me all these years.”
“If God will offer me another life–‘a thousand lives,’ in the words of our famous Saint Lorenzo Ruiz–I will choose to be a priest a thousand times,” he said with much fervor, before he ended his homily.
Bishops, which included CBCP President the Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, the Diocese of Kalookan’s Most Rev. Deogracias Iniguez, the Diocese of Pasig’s Most Rev. Hubert Mylo Vergara, the Diocese of Cubao’s Most Rev. Honest Ongtioco, and the Diocese of Antipolo’s Most Rev. Gabriel Reyes graced the event. Also present was a representative of the Papal Nuncio Guiseppe Pinto, representatives from the Dioceses of Pagadian and San Fernando, and members of the Clergy and Religious of the Diocese of Novaliches. The Bishop’s family and friends, as well as, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, and Congressman Alfred Vargas, also celebrated with the Bishop. (~SocComm Ministry)