It was still dark. The place was silent, except for small shifting movements of blissfully sleeping children. Little Romy was still in dreamland. It was 5:29 in the morning.
The clock ticked 5:30 and the alarm bell seemed to echo a scream, “Wake Up!”. All in a span of just 15 minutes, Little Romy, along with the rest of the seminarians, had to hurdle the greatest feats of tidying up the beds, tucking away neatly the “kulambo,” washing their faces, brushing their teeth, and dressing up. At exactly 5:45 a.m., Little Romy and the rest, had to be in the chapel for the morning praise. At 6 a.m., came the meditation. There was no room for tardiness.
Little Romy learned that discipline is key to survival.
Decades after, Little Romy and the rest of the boys, travelled into the path of ordained priesthood. No longer were they called Little Romy, Cutie Tony, Darling Brosh or any other names attached to innocent children. Leaving their childhood behind, their names were now preceded with reverence. This time, they were called “Fathers.”
And as these Reverend Fathers plough through the years of priesthood, they put on clothes necessary for a shepherd. Learning to survive the temptations, evils, issues, obstacles and crisis surrounding priesthood is a life-long journey, which must be accompanied with the constant reminder of who and what priesthood is all about. Behind closed doors, lies the naked truth of who they were, who they are, and who they should continually be: Shepherds of God’s people.
A SYNTHESIS OF A NAKED PRIEST
Stripped of all the layers of priestly monotony, neglected missions, division among parishioners, and crisis among Shepherds, what exactly is in the heart of a naked priest?
Msgr. Jesus-Romulo Rañada reminded the Clergy of the Diocese of Novaliches of the salient points taken from the Symposium On The Priesthood And The Gospel Of Mercy, “Ang Pari At Ang Awa’t Habag ng Diyos.” The Symposium was held last June 13, 2016 at Santuario De San Paolo, Casa Milan, on the occasion of the 50th Sacerdotal Anniversary and of the 75th Birthday of the Most Rev. Antonio Tobias, D.D., Bishop of Novaliches.
In his talk “An Attempt At A Synthesis: Salient Points, Vital Opportunities And Crucial Challenges To Our Life And Ministry As Priests,” Msgr. Rañada spoke about the priest and the mercy of God as one.
This was discussed in the different talks held during the day: (1) “Jesus’ Message Of God’s Mercy And Compassion: Towards A Joyful Living Out Of Our Priesthood” by Rev. Fr. Danilo Pilario, CM, SThD; (2) “The Priest In Pope Francis’ Vision Of A Church That Goes Forth To The Peripheries: Rekindling Our Sense And Love Of Mission” by Rev. Fr. James Kroeger, MM, SThD; (3) “Nurtured And Nurturing: The Priest And The Sacrament Of The Holy Eucharist He Celebrates” by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cruz, SThD; (4) “The Pastoral Ministry Of Mercy And Compassion To Priests And Among Priests: The Grace Of Shepherding The Shepherds” by Most Rev. Mylo Hubert Vergara, DD, SThD.
Msgr. Rañada stressed the need for reflection on these points, not only on the part of the Clergy, but also with the Faithful, in order to, “better understand our situation and to help us in our effort to be faithful priests.”
A SYNTHESIS ON GOD’S MERCY AND COMPASSION
Msgr. Rañada unmasked four theological elements in Fr. Dani’s talk as follows: (1) Mercy is a relevant but forgotten concept, (2) Mercy is God’s main attribute, (3) Miserando atque eligendo, which means “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him,” (4) We are called to me merciful just as the Father is merciful.
He reminded the priests that, “one of the most powerful homilies that we could ever hear is when we preach about God’s mercy.” He added that Mercy, being Biblical, is “something that we really need to preach.”
A priest is then reminded that behind closed doors, he was already molded for a revolution of tenderness. He added, “Medyo tayo, parang ma-mahigpit, masungit and so the call for a revolution for tenderness–to be merciful.”
A SYNTHESIS ON THE PRIESTS OF THE PERIPHERY
So, what is a naked priest actually like? Summarizing the ten points of Fr. Kroeger’s talk, Msgr. Rañada simply asked, “How can you not be friendly, tender and loving to people to whom Jesus is close to?”
“Are we capable of receiving and giving affection?” He added as a reminder of who they were back the and who they should be right now. Msgr. Rañada firmly warned against the “terrorism of gossip,” while reminding the priests about the importance of popular piety or devotion and that a naked priest loves his mission with great passion.
A SYNTHESIS ON THE NURTURED AND NURTURING PRIESTS
And what have these priests behind closed doors have forgotten when they left their seminaries?
Msgr. Rañada affirmed the two salient points of priesthood: nurtured by the Word of God and by the Body and Blood of Christ and “nurtured listener to a nurturing preacher.” A priest therefore, must never forget a Eucharistic celebration to be both authentic and meaningful.
Citing this as difficult, Msgr. Rañada, ended the synthesis by saying that without nurturing the communion of each other, priests can be a cause of division and an obstacle to the building up of the community.
VITAL OPPORTUNITIES AND CRUCIAL CHALLENGES
Now, that the priests have been reminded of the ideals of priesthood, what exactly can they do, given the present challenges of the time? Msgr. Rañada hoped that every priest would rediscover the core of the Gospel.
“What is the core, the essence of the Gospel, if not mercy?” he pointed out. He, however, added that rediscovering the Gospel at its core is not enough. The challenge, he said, is to become merciful priests, to renew love of the Eucharist, and of revitalizing the communion of the Church.
He emphasized the importance of understanding and being merciful to the Bishop. He asked the Clergy to see the “humanity ng bawat isa, especially our Bishop.”
THE PARTIAL CONCLUSION OF THE STORY OF LITTLE ROMY
It was now 4:42 in the afternoon. Little Romy, now known as Msgr. Romulo Rañada, stood up before the Symposium and ended his talk with a personal note of how he experienced God’s mercy through the hands of the Bishop of Novaliches.
Addressing directly, Most Rev. Tobias, he said, “I was a minor seminarian when Msgr. Antonio Tobias was rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And when I looked back, Bishop, I experienced God’s mercy with you. Because I remember, when I was a young seminarian, you could have kicked me out. I remember every year po, meron kaming dialogue with the bishop bago kami umuwi sa Summer. Yun na yung pinakanakakatakot na sandali nung kami’y mga young seminarians. Nandito pa kaya ako next year?…Everytime is an experience of God’s mercy. Bishop, natandaan ko, sabi mo sa akin noon, “Malakas yung bokasyon ko. Malakas daw yung bokasyon ko kaya siguro’y kahit na andami kong mga foolishness when I was a young seminarian, the Bishop has shown mercy to me.”
In Miserando Atque Eligendo, priests stripped of everything reveal a nakedness in the Joy, Love, Mercy, and Compassion of God. (~Jyn E. Aragon, M.D.)
“In this community, Christ is both received and given in a visible way as befits a Sacrament. The Church is both the gathered community of the saved and the gathering community of those who bring salvation.”
These are the words of Liam Walsh, O.P. as quoted by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cruz, SThD, in beginning his talk on “Nurtured and Nurturing: The Priest and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist He Celebrates” during the Symposium on the Priesthood and the Gospel of Mercy last June 13, 2016 at Santuario De San Paolo, Casa Milan.
“The receiving is the most important and lasting reality of the Church as Sacrament, but the giving has a certain logical priority; the community goes out to seek its members,” he continued to quote Walsh. “The giving of Christ in the Church is made possible by a series of ministries, both of the prophetic and priestly kind, which carry an authority that comes from the Kingly Power of Christ.
“But ultimately it is the receiving of grace that builds up the community in the likeness of Christ. Without the receiving, the Church would not be the Body of Christ. It would not be His Sacrament. The giving will end when He comes again, but the receiving will last forever, ” he added. This process of receiving and giving is likewise translated to the Priesthood being nurtured and nurturing.
Fr. Cruz, currently the Rector of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary in Guiguinto, Bulacan, declared that the priest is nurtured by the Word of God; the Body and Blood of Christ; the Communion of the Faithful; and the Brotherhood of the Presbyterium.
As official and public proclaimer of the Word of God, he said there are two prerequisites: (1) The one who speaks must be one who listens. To proclaim God’s Word is, first of all, to commit to a life of a continually nurtured listener; (2)The commitment to embody the Word in one’s life–to allow that Word to shape his decisions, values, attitudes, behavior.
“Because he is a good listener, discerner, learner, the priest is able to proclaim, to disclose God’s presence, often hidden but always ‘there’ in the ordinary events of every day,” he explained. “He is able to interpret life–its joys and hopes, pains and possibilities–in the light of God’s word of healing presence and challenging judgment. And this is the heart of a good homily.”
Everything a priest does leads to the Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ are present. Fr. Cruz said that, “if the priest is to create an atmosphere of reverence at the Eucharistic Celebration–for Christ’s Presence–particularly and most eminently in the Eucharistified offerings, he must be very attentive to the Lord’s Presence in his own life.”
He added that the ordained are not holier than the rest but this presence, this closeness and intimacy link them to the Lord, “Lay people do not have this link.”
To be continually nurtured, he explained that the priest needs to make the effort to recognize the Lord in the Eucharistic assembly before Him.
“They are not just a crowd of nameless people filling the pews but rather the Body of Christ, His living presence in flesh and blood,” he said. “A presider who sees this will treat the assembly with greater care and reverence, and he will relate to them in a different, deeper way.”
Being nurtured also means a priest must value human friendships and intimacy in his life and ministry. He said, “Unless he knows how to relish and maintain human friendships, the priest will not have the fullest capacity to truly love our Lord and those whom he loves.”
He also put emphasis on a priest’s friendship and fraternity with his bishop and brother priests as imperative. He quoted from the Directory on the Ministry and Life and Priests that such friendship is considered “a privileged place in which the priest should be able to find the means of sanctification and evangelization and of being helped to overcome the limits and weaknesses which are proper to human nature and which are particularly felt today.”
Moving on the topic of nurturing, he said that, “every priest contracts a profound and abiding relationship to the Eucharist. He is ordained to act in the Person of Christ, to preside at the Eucharistic Banquet, leading the assembly to the nurturing and sanctifying meal in which the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is actively remembered.”
A priest thus becomes nurturing as a preacher by performing a meaningful and authentic celebration and leading the Communion in the Eucharist as place of sanctification. Fr. Cruz recalled Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium when he said that he considers liturgical preaching or homily as “an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s Word, a constant source of renewal and growth.”
“Preaching, therefore, cannot be reduced ‘to the presentation of one’s own thought, to the manifestation of personal experience, to simple explanation of a psychological, sociological or humanitarian nature, nor can it excessively concentrate on rhetoric, so often found in Mass Communication,” he added from the Directory.
Using Pope John Paul II’s words, he said: “People need ‘a prophet who can credibly proclaim a Word which cannot be altered, because it has been entrusted to the Church in order to protect, penetrate and faithfully transmit it.’”
Fr. Cruz added that the Gospel must challenge people’s complacency and upset consciences. In conclusion, he cautioned, “observing all these rubrics and liturgical rules does not necessarily mean that the priest is celebrating liturgy with meaning and authenticity.”
People, he concluded, also sense a mechanical, routine, “forced” manner of celebration by a tried, drained, lethargic presider, which, though validly and licitly done, failed to inspire, encourage, strengthen or even sanctify them. (~Lulu Reclusado-Nario)
He is ahead of his time. He takes risks. He encourages the love for mission and demonstrates the meaning of a missionary Church. He is compassionate. He enjoys celebrating the good times with his priests.
“I was requested to be the academic dean of the college seminary (San Carlos Seminary) and I was also asked to be the principal of the High School seminary (Guadalupe Minor Seminary),” she recalled.
Soon after, female teachers were also added to both seminaries’ faculty.
The Bishop’s receptiveness did not stop with the involvement of women in the seminaries’ faculty. He continued to institute bold measures–no matter how unpopular–that forever changed the way both seminaries were run.
“It was the First Quarter Storm at that time and there was a lot of restlessness in many high schools,” Sr. Amelia revealed. “Parents were sending their boys to the seminary because it was a safe place and with the recommendation of their Parish Priests, they were accepted and given a good education and the priests served as their babysitters.”
Some of the seminary expenses were subsidized and the Sister wondered if the investment on these young men were worth it. She added that this was coupled with disciplinary problems that lack the proper formation of the boys towards the priesthood since they had no interest to begin with.
Bishop Tony then took the risk of initiating a stringent admission process with the then current student population. In collaboration with Sr. Amelia, he came up with a more probing screening process where motivation and intellectual capacity, among others, were measured. There were test requirements to fulfill as well as a panel interview to face. A conference with the parents was likewise held to validate findings of the interview. At the end of the screening, only 25 out of the 120 boys were accepted.
“The openness of Bishop Tony to new ideas also led the seminary formation to broader horizons that covered not only Manila but the rest of the country as well,” she said. “The idea was shared to the formators of other seminaries all over the Philippines and this led to the beginning of Isang Angkan Para Kay Kristo which later on became more popular as SANGKAN.”
She added that a Code of Ethics was introduced to delineate proper behavior among seminarians that led to the slogan Laking Guadalupe, Maipagmamalaki.
More than a risk-taker, Bishop Tony was uncompromising when it comes to formation work. Sr. Amelia related an incident of a training seminar that included the support and service personnel in the seminary.
“Everyone was required to attend the week-long seminar, including the drivers as well as the sisters who were supervising the kitchen,” she said. “It happened that the sisters cannot attend the seminar for one reason or another and after two weeks when they came to report for work in the seminary, I was surprised the Bishop did not accept them anymore.”
No amount of explanation from the sisters made the Bishop change his mind, “He did not accept the excuses the sisters presented because he said they were informed about the seminar way ahead of time.”
This uncompromising attitude was not limited to his work in the seminary and the formation of the young men entrusted to him. He remained the same in carrying out the tasks given to him in fulfillment of his commitment to the Church.
“I saw him return gifts of some people who had pending cases at the matrimonial tribunal (he was also with San Carlos Seminary’s Metropolitan Matrimonial Tribunal), especially when he was the judge on duty,” Sr. Amelia shared.
“Compassion is a lifestyle of Bishop Tony,” the Sister continued. “Oftentimes, I saw how fellow priests would go to him in times of trouble.”
As much as he doesn’t compromise, the Bishop is encompassing in his compassion. The Sister added that he took under his care priests who were former classmates or friends in the seminary as well as priests who were not in good terms with their bishop or fellow priests or parishioners. They sought his counsel and it didn’t matter to him how long they stayed–either in the Seminary or in the Diocese–or even in his house.
“His compassion continues to this day as a bishop,” the Sister said. “He would get out of his house any time, day or night, even at the risk of his own life just to get a person out of danger. He would set aside his personal life just to attend to the needs of others and there was a time when he was called by his fellow priests as a refuge of sinners and the father of perpetual help.”
And because he was compassionate, the Bishop is unafraid to put his life on the line for those in need. Sr. Amelia had the privilege of witnessing such show of unconditional mercy.
With this, she remembers what Pope Francis told Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli in his book, The Name of God is Mercy: “By welcoming a marginalized person whose body is wounded and by welcoming the sinner whose soul is wounded, we put our credibility as Christians on the line.”
“I have seen Bishop Tony put himself many times on the line just to help people find their way back to the Father,” she said.
She likewise recalled some excerpts in the Homily of Pope Francis at the Manila Cathedral: “Ours is a ministry of reconciliation. We proclaim the Good News of God’s infinite love, mercy, and compassion. We proclaim the joy of the Gospel. For the Gospel is the promise of God’s grace, which alone can bring wholeness and healing to our broken world. It can inspire the building of a truly just and redeemed social order.”
This typifies Bishop Tony’s undaunted commitment to seek those who are lost and bring them back to God. Sr. Amelia then recalled an incident in Zamboanga del Sur where the Bishop had to help a wounded rebel, bring him to the hospital for medical assistance, and convince him to relocate out of reach by his comrades-in-arms.
“He gave him some means of livelihood to start a normal life in a new community. He also tried to help his family by sending the young ones to school,” she added. By doing this, his mercy has empowered the rebel to live a more fruitful life.
There is no mistaking this empowering mindset has long been practiced by Bishop Tony. Sr. Amelia volunteered that long before empowerment became a byword in Church circles and gatherings, it was already evident in his leadership.
She said that he was sensitive to the needs of his fellow priests and the Christian community. He led his parish and then the Diocese in such a way that it continued to grow into a sustainable organization.
“I have seen many parishes born from the Mother Parish as he developed many leaders among his priests,” she said. This eventually led to creating sub-parishes in preparation to becoming independent parishes with the corresponding priests becoming part of the growth and development.
“This to me is empowerment,” concluded Sr. Amelia.
In ending her meaningful narrative, Sr. Amelia expressed pride at having been a part of Bishop Tony’s life–from the time he was a priest until he moved higher in the Church hierarchy. She was likewise grateful, that through him, the people around him and all those he has touched have encountered God’s mercy and compassion. Indeed, there is no better time to celebrate the man and his priesthood than in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. (~Lulu Reclusado-Nario)
What does a Shepherd do when one of his own shepherds falls into the deadly pool of scandals and abuses?
Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, D.D. shared his pastoral management and insights in his talk, “The Pastoral Ministry of Mercy And Compassion To Priests And Among Priests: The Grace Of Shepherding The Shepherds,” during the Symposium on the Priesthood and the Gospel of Mercy entitled, “Ang Pari At Ang Awa’t Habag Ng Diyos,” held last June 13, 2016 at Santuario De San Paolo, Casa Milan.
The Symposium was part of the three-day celebration on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee in the priesthood of and in celebration of the 75th birthday of Most Rev. Antonio Tobias, D.D., Bishop of Novaliches.
Perhaps, it can be said, that Bishop Mylo was prepared for dealing with crisis among shepherds given his ascent from his sacerdotal to his episcopal ordination in two different places. Bishop Mylo was ordained a priesthood on March 24, 1990 under the Archdiocese of Manila. He was previously the Bishop of San Jose in Nueva Ecija before he was appointed Bishop of Pasig in 2005 by then-Pope John Paul II.
As Bishop of Pasig, Bishop Mylo created a coat of arms with an episcopal motto, Pasce Agnos Meos, which meant, “feed my lamb”. The coat of arms showed a lamb hanging dead on the cross–an image taken from the code seal of the Good Shepherd Parish, now known as the Cathedral Shrine and Parish of the Good Shepherd, Fairview.
The image depicted his core principle of priesthood: Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who is both priest and victim; the meek lamb led to be slaughtered for all. Jesus’ sacrifice served as his guiding principle in shepherding the shepherds. His desire is to “offer my life as a loving sacrifice for the people entrusted to my care, most especially to my priests.”
Although initially doubtful in his capacity to serve as a Shepherd to fellow shepherds most especially to older and more experienced priests, Bishop Mylo made a leap of faith when he accepted the Staff of a shepherd.
This staff, along with Pope John Paul II’s words, “The Bishop will always strive to relate to his priests as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks cooperation, and as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being,” served the Bishop well in the plight of fallen priests.
Bishop Mylo offered three “tools of restoration” in the management of priests, most especially the “fallen ones.” The first is a rod to correct the stubborn sheep. The second is the staff to guide the strayed sheep. The third is oil to heal the sick sheep in his fold.
He emphasized that the staff has four functions. First, it is used to direct his entire flock to where God wants them to go. Second, it is used as a pointer to establish boundaries to prevent the sheep from straying. Third, it is used to pull out and rescue stranded and lost sheep. Fourth, it is used to stroke the back side of the sheep for attention and encouragement.
In an act of humility and acceptance of imperfections, Bishop Mylo admitted that, “Bishops and priests are like stubborn sheep. Even our idiosyncrasies and sometimes, our hard headedness, we want to do things our own way, not realizing that they may lead to problematic consequences for us and the Church we serve.”
So what does a bishop do in such cases? He uses the rod because “the shepherd has to step in and take drastic measures not out of malice but out of love. The Shepherd may even carefully break the leg of the stubborn sheep with his rod of correction.”
He firmly emphasized the demand that, in caring for stubborn priests, there should be “a combination of a confronting and compassionate father, a correcting and concerned brother, and an encouraging and faithful friend.”
His three basic principles in dealing with “fallen” priests is (1) to deal immediately with the problem, whether alarming or not; (2) to work with a team of priests to handle the problem; and (3) to immediately offer initial intervention, rehabilitation and renewal measures, once the priest is confronted and admits to his issues.
His advice to priests involved in sexual abuse, parish fund embezzlement or any grave scandal with insurmountable evidences came from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wise words, “Only the truth saves.”
“Be disposed to respect the truth and be readily accountable to the truth whatever it takes for the good of the Church, for the love of the Church,” Bishop Mylo added.
Bishop Mylo’s strategy to prevent such crisis was through prevention. He believes that constant offering of renewal programs to priests can prevent major crisis and scandals to the Church. He is aware that sometimes the heart of the problem lies on listening to their own bells instead of the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd, “Yun po ang problema natin. Ang pinakikinggan natin ay yung sarili nating kuliling kaya yung ibang obispo’t pari matindi ang kuliling.”
One of the major problems he encountered in dealing with such crisis is the lack of compassion of priests to fellow priests who have become scandals to the Church. He expressed sadness over the Clergy who are ashamed of those who have fallen from the grace of priestly ministry. The act of back-biting fallen priests instead of lending a listening ear has led to the fallen brothers distancing themselves from the fraternity of priests.
Labeling such acts as “pharisaic” and “righteous condemnation”, Bishop Mylo appealed for compassion as he believes that “they have already been led astray because of our lack of compassion.” He described this as a “sad plight” for “brothers who are called to live in unity and communion.”
Bishop Mylo reminded the Clergy of the compassionate love of Jesus who decided to suffer in order that “we too, like Him, experience the healing love, the glory of a resurrected life.” He then urged the Clergy, “to suffer with a brother priest, who during times of severe crisis, needs us. Who else can better understand a priest in crisis if not a brother priest?”
Bishop Mylo asserted that the whole point of priestly ministry is to have a support that will offer an instrument of healing and love to broken fellow priests.
He also reminded the Shepherds that “we were anointed with the oil of joy so that we can share the joy of Christ to others, especially those experiencing loneliness, misery and hopelessness.”
Referring to the teachings of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, Bishop Mylo reiterated the need for “happy priests serving with joy,” because the Faithful do not need unhappy priests who will burden and give them anxiety attacks that will be an “unwelcome addition to their many problems.”
He reminded the Clergy to be mindful of the sick and aging priests, who need not only their friendly visits but also the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. He related that, perhaps out of familiarity, brother priests have failed to ask them if they have already received the Sacrament or not. He said that in his personal experience ”applying the sacrament to them and praying over them has lifted up their spirits.”
In conclusion, Bishop Mylo quoted Pope Francis in one of his meditations during the Jubilee of Priests, “As I told the Bishops, be attentive and learn to read the faces of your priests…Do not step back when they are humbled and can only weep because they have denied the Lord. Offer your support in communion with Christ whenever one of them, discouraged, goes out with Judas ‘into the night.’ Encourage communion among them, seek to bring out the best in them…for the heart of the Apostles was not made for small things.” (~Jyn Aragon, M.D.)
In his homily during the Eucharistic Celebration held in the occasion of his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood and on his 75th birthday last June 13, 2016 in Santuario di San Paolo, Casa Milan, the Most Rev. Antonio Tobias, D.D. bade farewell and expressed his utmost gratitude to the Clergy, Religious, and Laity for their love and support throughout his years of service in the Diocese of Novaliches.
“Now I am about to end, I have not yet written my letter of resignation, which I will have to do one of these days. But more or less, I have already in mind what to say to our Holy Father as I resign. It will be a resignation at the same time gratefulness for the mercy and compassion given by the Triune God,” Bishop Tobias said.
Held on the last day of the Eucharistic Days Of Mercy, the Eucharistic Celebration was the culmination of the Symposium on the Priesthood and the Gospel of Mercy entitled, “Ang Pari at ang Awa’t Habag ng Diyos.”
Bishop Tobias recounted the events of the celebration from June 11-13 2016, which was a Diocesan Eucharistic Congress that re-echoed the 51st International Eucharistic Congress held in Cebu last January 24 -31, 2016 in celebration of his 75th birthday and his Golden Jubilee in the priesthood.
He also shared to the assembly his principles in life that guided him in his years of service. The first principle was to give glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who, with great mercy, has raised him up, “to more than I can be.” His second principle was to accept his own weaknesses.
Then he stressed that the agents of evangelization–Lay, Religious and Clergy–should work together for “the Church cannot live without” them. His final principle concerned the Diocesan Priests and the Religious exercising pastoral care, which the bishop described as the “perfect charity” or the “pastoral charity.” He urged priests not to focus on their parish alone.
The Bishop appealed to the priests to stay connected with their own families to the extent of bringing to their parishes their aging parents whom no one would take care of because parishioners see “the parents of Jesus in the parents of priests.” He, however, strongly pointed out that the duties of priesthood come first.
There were eight bishops, 85 priests and two deacons who concencelebrated with Bishop Tobias during the said Eucharistic Celebration. Among the bishops were: Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco of the Diocese of Cubao; Most Rev. Hubert “Mylo” Vergara of the Diocese of Pasig; Most Rev. Manolo de los Santos of the Diocese of Virac; Most Rev. Florentino Cinense, Bishop Emeritus of Tarlac; Most Rev. Severo Caermare of the Diocese of Dipolog; Most Rev. Roberto Mallari of the Diocese of San Jose in Nueva Ecija; and Most Rev. Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. Bishop Emeritus of Kalookan.
The Mass was followed by a dinner celebration where Rev. Fr. Leo Laguilles of Jesus, Lord of the Divine Mercy Parish and Rev. Fr. James Nitollama of the Epiphany of the Lord Parish rendered OPM hits. The symposium and the dinner celebration were headed by Msgr. Romulo Rañada, Vicar General for Administration of the Diocese of Novaliches. (~Jyn Aragon)
A “Symposium On The Priesthood and The Gospel of Mercy” held at the Santuario De San Paolo in Casa Milan, Q.C. last June 13, 2016 was a perfect way to start the last day of the Eucharistic Days of Mercy in the Diocese of Novaliches.
The Symposium was a gathering of experts beginning with Saint Vincent School of Theology’s Dean Rev. Fr. Daniel Pilario, CM, SThD who discussed “Jesus’ Message Of God’s Mercy And Compassion: Towards A Joyful Living Out Of Our Priesthood.” He cited the challenges of priestly life as well as the politics of form that sometimes plague members of the clergy.
Loyola School of Theology’s Professor of Systematic Theology and Mission Studies Rev Fr. James Kroeger, MM, SThD took the floor with “The Priest In Pope Francis’ Vision Of A Church That Goes Forth To The Peripheries: Rekindling Our Sense And Love Of Mission.” He liberally quoted Pope Francis and came up with ten inspirational insights on priests and the priesthood, which revolved anchoring the priesthood in Christ to become merciful, humble, joyful, and credible models of the Gospel who are able to harness and care for the needs of the people.
Meanwhile, Immaculate Conception Major Seminary’s Rector Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Cruz, SThD passionately tackled various incidents wherein the priest becomes nurtured or the one nurturing through the topic, “Nurtured and Nurturing: The Priest And The Sacrament Of The Holy Eucharist He Celebrates.”
The Diocese of Pasig’s Most Rev. Mylo Hubert Vergara, DD, SThD spoke on the importance of priestly fraternity with his topic, “The Pastoral Ministry Of Mercy And Compassion To Priests And Among Priests: The Grace of Shepherding The Shepherds.”
Diocese of Novaliches’ Vicar General For Administration Msgr. Jesus Romulo C. Ranada, SThD wrapped up the Symposium with a synthesis on the salient points, vital opportunities and present challenges of the four topics covered. While Sr. Amelia David, ICM, M.A. Ed., formally closed the day-long event with her tribute to Bishop Tobias in a well-delivered commentary entitled, “The Priest in Bishop Tony: Celebrating Fifty Long and Fruitful Years in the Ministry.”
Prior to the talks, Diocese of Novaliches’ Vicar General For The Clergy Rev. Fr. Noel Azupardo gave the Introduction on the Symposium while Vicar General For Pastoral Affairs Rev. Fr. Antonio E. Labiao, Jr. led the Invocation. Rev. Fr. Jimmy Lara, as Moderator for the Symposium, gave a rundown on the programme, which was interspersed with personal reflection and group sharing.
Archbishop Emeritus and former Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Most Rev. Oscar Cruz, D.D. dropped by in the morning of the Symposium to personally greet Bishop Tobias. While other bishops came after the Symposium to concelebrate the Holy Mass for the Bishop’s birthday.
The Eucharistic Days of Mercy was a three day event in honor of the 50th Sacerdotal Anniversary and the 75th Birthday of the Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, D.D. that locally echoes the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in the Diocese of Novaliches. (~Lulu Reclusado-Nario)
On the first day of its Eucharistic Days of Mercy, Lay, Religious, and Clergy flocked to the La Mesa Ecopark before the first rays of dawn on June 11, 2016 for “Laudato Si‘, Mi Signore”, an Eco-Eucharistic Celebration with Solemn Blessing of the La Mesa Dam and Tree Planting in celebration of the 75th Birthday of the Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, D.D. and in echoing the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in the Diocese of Novaliches.
The Faithful of Novaliches, out of love for their Bishop, walked with candles and flashlights at four in the morning for almost a kilometer from the Ruby Parking Gate of La Mesa Ecopark to the Administration Building–where the salubong of the Our Lady of Mercy and Divine Mercy took place–to the Petron Ampitheatre where the Dawn Mass presided by the Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, D.D. was held.
During the Eco-Eucharistic Celebration, Rev. Fr. Dexter Toledo, OFM explained Pope Francis Encyclical “Laudato Si” to the more than 500 members of the Laity, Religious, and Clergy of the Diocese of Novaliches who gathered for the the first time in La Mesa Ecopark‘s open ampitheatre. He emphasized three important things to make the encyclical easy to remember: contemplation, community, and compassion.
He said “contemplation” is a call to revere once more in awe God’s creation which we should treat with utmost regard for it is made with Love. This is why, he gave as example, St. Francis of Assisi would often call and respect everything God made as “brother” or “sister”. With contemplation, we are able to have a sense of “community” or oneness with nature, which bears forth “compassion”. True compassion, he expounded, should not be limited to pets and nature, but to the highest of God’s creation: man–that is our friends, family, kasambahay, neighbors, and everyone we deal with. When we have compassion, we are able to practice the teachings of the Catholic Church on Social Justice.
Before the end of the Dawn Mass, Vicar General for Administration Msgr. Jesus Romulo Rañada thanked everyone for coming and gave a rundown of activities for the rest of the day and for the entire Eucharistic Days of Mercy. The Bishop was then greeted by the assembly in a song for his birthday complete with a cake and balloon lighted with a sparkler.
Then the images of the Our Lady of Mercy and the Divine Mercy were blessed by the Bishop before he and the rest of the Clergy and Religious Men went to La Mesa Treatment Facilities 1 & 2 for the Solemn Blessing of La Mesa Dam.
After the Blessing, the Bishop and his companions gathered for breakfast in Manila Water’s Function Hall. The Engineers of Manila Water Company thanked everyone for their visit and invited everyone to a simple oath taking to be Water Warriors of La Mesa Dam. They also gave an orientation on how the Tree Planting should be done.
Immediately afterward, Vicar General for Administration Msgr. Jesus Romulo Rañada lead a short prayer for the dedication of the seedlings that will be planted in the forest within the La Mesa Ecopark. Everyone then proceeded to said area for the actual tree planting. Each parish, 68 in total, was assigned a seedling to plant and were given name tags to put near their seedling after its implantation. A total of 75 seedlings were planted coinciding with the age of the Bishop.
The Symposium will take the place of the Clergy’s Annual Retreat supposed to be scheduled on June 14-16, 2016. A Holy Mass and Dinner Reception follows the Symposium on Monday, Feast of St. Anthony De Padua and actual birth date of the Bishop. (~Minnie De Luna)