Diocese of Tagbilaran marks diamond jubilee

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Diocese of Tagbilaran marks diamond jubilee

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(The homily of Bishop Leonardo Y. Medroso at the St. Joseph Cathedral during the celebration last Nov. 8, 2016).

ANG SIMBAHANG BOL-ANAON … Kapitoan ug Pito ka tuig ang Milabay

Ang Simbahan sa Bohol: Buhing Timaan sa buhing Pagtoo

(The Church of Bohol: A Living Sign of a Living Faith)

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Your Excellency Papal Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations: Archbishop Bernardito Auza.  Your Excellency the Metropolitan Archbishop of Cebu: Archbishop Jose Palma, Rev. Monsignori, Rev. Sisters, Fathers, government officials, lay faithful, brothers and sisters in Christ.

One of the most powerful scenes in the life and ministry of Jesus is narrated to us in the Gospel of Luke.  He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This year, we mark a very important milestone in our life as a diocese…as one family of faith…as a church!  The DIAMOND Jubilee…the 75th year of the founding of the diocese of Tagbilaran! What a gift…grace abounding!

This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad!

Magsadya kita ug maglipay, saulogon ‘ta ang dakong Hubileyo sa atong Diyosesis sa Tagbilaran! Uban sa Diyosesis sa Talibon, maghudyaka kita niining dakung kasaulogan…ang kapitoan ug lima nato nga adlawng natawhan! Viva, Diyosesis sa Tagbilaran! Viva, Simbahang Bol-anon!

We were, and still is, a small island in the Visayas in this part of the Philippines, only 1,734 square kilometers in area…”small:…but “standing tall” in matters of faith.  We pride ourselves as a very highly religious people.  Yet, history says that the Christianization of Bohol began in November 1596, when two Jesuit missionaries arrived in the town of Baclayon upon the request of Spanish encomenderos of the island.  A chapel had been built earlier for their own devotions and here the Jesuits established their first mission.  They then proceeded east to Loboc and eventually to Talibon on the northern side of the island.  These were the first Christian communities of Bohol.

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All through the years we were under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Cebu…and when the right time came…having reached the age of maturity in faith, the Holy See saw it was time that the Diocese of Tagbilaran be separated from the Archdiocese of Cebu.  By virtue of the papal bull, in sublimi Petri cathedra, by Pope Pius XII. Tagbilaran was canonically erected as a diocese of November 8, 1941…exactly 75 years to this day.

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We were the young, full of dreams, growing in the faith, keeping hope alive…

I would love to liken our humble beginning to a mustard seed…the smallest of seeds.  St. Luke the Evangelist put it this way; “the Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field.  Although it is the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows into the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

What beautiful imagery of our story as a Church!  We cannot help today but reminisce those days and years past that can never be erased from the memories of our hearts.

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We remember…we celebrate…we give thanks!

Let me reflect with you today…How far have we gone in our journey?  Where do we stand now! As it is said…ang hindi lumingon sa kanyang pinanggalingan ay hindi makarating sa kanyang paroroonan! Hence, we look back, we remember and move on, ang tawo nga dili molingi sa iyang gigikanan, dili makaabut sa iyang padulngan.  Let us look back…to move on!

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The Church of Tagbilaran has colorful highlights as she grew…was nurtured…and has borne fruit! Ang Diyosesis sa Tagbilaran, sa iyang katukoran ug kaugmaran, nakalabang sa daghang mabulokon ug makasaysayon nga mga kasinatian! Tugoti ako sa pagbalik tan-aw sa mga hitabo sulod niining ulahing mga katuigan.

We remember…

Bishop Julio Rosales…the first Bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran. He initiated and established religious movements and devotional groups.  He established schools and built churches and “conventos” I Leaving the Diocese in 1950 with a heavy heart to assume the office as Archbishop of Cebu, he called the Diocese of Tagbilaran his “first love”…living out his motto… Te amari faciam…Let me love you! HE was in turn, loved by many.

We remember…

Bishop Manuel Mascariñas who was then Bishop of Palo in Leyte.  By this time, Bohol had a population of 507,451 of whom 489,701 or 96.1% of the whole populace were Catholics.  There were only 51 diocesan priests, 7 priests religious and 26 religious women serving 38 parishes with a few parochial schools.  Bishop Mascariñas tried to fit into the shoes of Bishop Rosales and followed on his footsteps…he continued to build parish edifices…churches, “conventos” and schools putting to life his motto…Confido in Domino…I confide in the Lord!…recognizing he could not do it on his own with such magnanimous projects.  To Bishop Mascariñas is attributed the building of the Bishop’s Residence (popularly called the “Palacio”).

We remember…

Bishop Onesimo Gordoncillo, then Auxiliary Bishop of Dumaguete, succeeding in 1979 Bishop Mascariñas whose term ended after 20 long years.  He went about parish to parish around the Diocese for pastoral visits…crossing seas and climbing mountains.  He transformed existing “centros catolicos”…introducing the pastoral councils.  The census and statistics at about this time indicated the population hitting the 800,000 mark with a majority of them Catholics at 778,000.  In 1986 during the 10th year of Bishop Godoncillo in his episcopacy, the Holy See, instead of heeding the request of Auxiliary Bishop, split the diocese to two… creating the Diocese of Talibon by virtue of a Papal Bull by Pope John Paul II on January 9, 1986 placing the diocese under the titular patronage of the Most Holy Trinity! A catechist himself, Bishop Godoncillo reinforces the Catechetical Program of the diocese, emphasizing on family catechesis.  It was realizing his mission in his Episcopal office express in his motto…Veritatem tuam annunciabo…I will announce your truth! Shortly thereafter, Bishop Godoncillo was transferred as Archbishop of Capiz in Panay Island.

We remember…

Bishop Felix Zafra who was by then Bishop of Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte moved to Tagbilaran replacing Bishop Gordoncillo.  There was a dramatic change in the facts and figures of the diocese…with the birth of the new Ecclesiastical Territory of the Diocese of Talibon…now constituting a population of 412,000 out of whom 396,000 or 96.3% were Catholics…with 68 Diocesan priests, 4 priest religious and 35 religious sisters in 35 parishes.  A very highly spiritual ecclesiastic, he introduced perpetual Eucharistic devotion and established perpetual adoration chapels in almost all parishes throughout the diocese…Ut vitam abundantius habeant…that they may have life abundantly was his motto.

We remember…

Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak a young, Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu was named Local Ordinary of the Diocese after Bishop Zafra.  He clearly established the different committees of the Presbyterium and delineated the Curial Offices in the Chancery.  He paired the Parish Pastoral Council with the Parish Finance Council.  He convened the first Diocesan Synod in 1997.  In his Episcopal ministry, putting great emphasis towards the building up and strengthening of Basic Ecclesial Communities, geared towards that vision and mission of the Diocese.  During his incumbency financial management was put in place…Diocesan funds were centralized and standardized…and he established the “Standard Living Allowance” or SLA of priests…is solidarity with one another…with his priests and the people they serve!  Unitas in caritate…unity in charity…in love indeed!

AND HERE I COME! I do not know if it was by fate or fortune that I was transferred to the Diocese of Tagbilaran from the Diocese of Borongan in Eastern Samar! It is not easy to be uprooted and transplanted from one place to another.  But with deep humility and in the spirit of obedience, I answered the call to shepherd you.  I accepted the task given me feeling I was unworthy.  I took the risk and the challenge of the life and ministry ahead of me, my dear people of God.  I remember having said these words during my canonical possession as your 6th Bishop of December 2006…that is almost 10 years already…and I recall…

I come here to answer a call.  It is a call to faith…a call to deeper faith as expressed well in the story of the Gospel where a man exclaimed: “I believe Lord help my unbelief.”  Well, I took it as my own story…the story of my life as I capsulized it in my Episcopal motto…Ambula coram me…walk in the presence of me!  This motto I directly took from the story of Abraham, the Father of Faith.  He heard the call one day…a call with a great promise in the end.  He believed in that call…a call which demanded from him the abandoning of his own land…his acquaintances, his friends and his family…a call to undergo on a journey that would take him to a far distant country…

As you all know . . . Borongan is not far from Tagbilaran . . . we are neighbors! Sa higayon nga mitaak ako niining balaan nga yuta sa Tagbilaran gibati dayon nako nga ako usa ka Bol-anon! Mitagingting sa akong mga dalungan ang mensahe sa atong Santo Papa Benedicto XVL… “Leave behind Borongan and make a JOURNEY in Tagbilaran!” I understand now, he wanted me to deepen my faith here in the Diocese of Tagbilaran. An echo of what was said to Abraham, “Leave the land of your father, your kinsfolk and come to a land that I will show you.”

I came to Tagbilaran not to embark on a different journey. Pipila pa man gani ka adlaw nga ako nakauban kaninyo…nahingangha ako sa kainit ug kadasig sa inyong pagtoo… ordinary ug yano kaayo! Nahidangat ako isip usa ka magpapanaw sa Diosnong pagtoo! Sa mosunod nga mga katuigan sulod sa napulo ka tuig…nagalakat kaninyo, uban kaninyo sa inyong lawig sa pagtoo! I walked with you the journey you have walked through the years. We continued to walk on this journey towards the “promised land”… walking hand in hand… searching for God! Ipadayon ta nga magtambayayong … mag-uban ug magkuyog niining balaang panaw … uban sa pagtoo, hiniusa sa paglaum ug giniyahan sa gugma!

Natukod na ang mga gambalay sa atong Diyosesis…mga simbahan, mga conventos ug tulonghaanan. Gipahanas og dugang ang pagtoo pinaagi sa katesismo ug gihatagan og dagkung importansya ang familia kon banay diha sa katukoran sa mga gagmayng simbahanong katilingban. Gipalig-on og dugang ang kinabuhing espirituhanon sa matag usa, pinaagi sa pagtulon-an ug pagdasig nga unta kita magmakanunayon sa pag-ambit sa eyukaristiya ug pagbansay sa “perpetual adoration” diha sa pag-ila sa presensya ni Kristo sa atong tagsa-tagsa ka kinabuhi ug sa atong kristohanong katilingban sa kinatibuk-an niini. Gipahiluna ug gihiusa ang tanan nga may kalambigitan sa atong pagkinabuhi sa banay, sa atong mga kapilya, sa atong mga gagmayng simbahanong katilingban ug sa mga parokya. Naplantsa na ang tanan. Unsa pa may angay natong buhaton?

What does this The DIAMOND JUBILEE mean?

Where do we go from here . . . 75 years and beyond? We tried to put together the vision and mission of my predecessors had left off… building and strengthening of Basic Ecclesial Communities – communities of believers who would become active participants in the task of proclaiming the Gospel. Secondly, we are encouraged to see the sprouting of Renewal Communities of Faith as Couples for Christ, BCBP, El Shaddai and Charismatic Movements like mushrooms.

The promotion of the vocation is an area we shall give utmost importance and special attention. Our diocesan seminary is almost full with well-trained formators, professors and teachers . . . and we have sent a good number of students to proceed to the theologate! We are not wanting in the number of ordinations each year . . . this year alone, we had 10! From its gift of vocations and the priesthood, the Diocese takes pride in responding positively to requests from other Churches in need of priests. You can find a good number of priests from our Dicoese in almost all parts of the country and even abroad.

Truly, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, the heart of the diocese. . . has, true to its name, become the “seedbox” of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. It has produced many priests a number of whom many have been made bishops. At one time, Bohol was called “the little Ireland” in the Philippines with a story told that every home had a priest or a nun in the family. No province in the Philippines takes pride having the most number of bishops in Boholano roots…and a few of them are here.

Bishop Manuel Morgia Mascariñas of Antequera

Archbishop Mariano Garces Gaviola of Ubay

Archbishop Jesus Balaso Tuquib of Clarin

Archbishop Onesimo Cadiz Gordoncillo of Garcia-Hernandez

Bishop Miguel Clarete Cinchez, S.V.D. of Dauis

Bishop Felix Sanchez Zafra of Clarin

Bishop Juan de Dios Mataflorida Pueblos of Loon

Bishop Alfredo Banluta Bacquial of Alburquerque

Bishop Arturo Mandin Bastes, S.V.D. of Loboc

Bishop Zacharias Cenita Jimenez of Inabanga

Bishop Leopoldo Sumaylo Tumulak of Dauis

Bishop Edgardo Sarabia Juanich of Clarin

Bishop Antonieto Dumagan Cabajog of Alburquerque and Loay

Archbishop Romulo Geolina Valles of Maribojoc

Bishop Jose Araneta Cabantan of Inabanga

Bishop Elenito de los Reyes Galido of Garcia-Hernandez

Bishop Crispin Barrette Varquez of Sevilla

And as we celebrate this Diamond Jubilee, we are gifted with the appointment of two of our priests to the ranks of the episcopacy…

Bishop-Elect Socrates Mesiona, M.S.P. of Sevilla

And my successor Bishop-Elect Alberto Sy Uy of Ubay.

I did not forget . . . I did it on purpose… as they say it… and I say it to you know… I am saving the best for last! Today, we are indeed graced by the presence of the highest—ranking Boholano prelate… the Holy Father’s representative…the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations… our very own ARCHBISHOP BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA of Talibon.

From Bishop Manuel Mascariñas to Bishop-Elect Alberto Uy…there are twenty of them…and still counting…many coming up!

We are indeed blessed as a People…kingly people…priestly people…holy people… God’s people! Truly… God has accompanied us on this our journey through life…our pilgrimage of faith!

Under the Diocesan Pastoral Secretariat the work of the different commissions and their task are put in order and in place. These commissions on worship, education, service, youth and temporalities are headed by a chairperson and assisted by a good number of men and women whom we all lay evangelizers. We are partners in this our journey of faith and, together… continue to work to achieve our end. We are aware as a good Catholic we shall follow faithfully the Sacred Scripture, traditional doctrine of the Church, and the Magisterium. But we are also cognizant of the fact that we form within us a spirituality and culture that is uniquely Boholano. It is along this context we have formulated a 5 year Pastoral Plan that will aid us to set our directions in proper perspectives. Tungod niining maong mga panghunahuna ug panglantaw, nahimugso ang pagsulat ug paghan-ay sa KATESISMO BOL-ANON nga magpahamutang kanato sa atong mga gimbuhaton sa atong pagpalambo sa atong pagtoo sa mosunod nga mga katuigan…nagpadayon sa paglawig sa pagtoo… magsugod sa tagsa-tagsa ka kaugalingon, sa matag familia… sa atong mga kasilinganan ug kabanayan… ngadto na sa kinatibuk-an nga Simbahan sa Diyosesis sa Tagbilaran diin kitang tanan nahisakop… niining simbahan nga atong gihigugma ug pakamatyan… mahidangat kita ngadto sa ganghaan sa himaya… diha sa katumanan sa atong tumong ug tinguha nga makaingon kita… tinuod… kabahin ako… ikaw… kitang tanan sa katumanan sa Simbahang Bol-anon…kita ang mga buhing bato… lig-on ug ligdong… buhing timaan sa buhing pagtoo!

Very fittingly, we have chosen for the theme of this year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations the words of Mathew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others and glorify your Heavenly Father!” on the day of our launching, the pilgrim statue of Saint Joseph the Worker… patron of the Universal Church and to whom has been entrusted our Diocese as Patron, went from parish to parish starting from Baclayon, until it returned just a few days back to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Worker in Tagbilaran, the seat of the Diocese.

Today… the latest edition of the Annuario Pontificio gives out new facts and figures of its census and statistics of the Diocese of Tagbilaran based on its quinquennial report of 2014. There are now over a million people in Bohol… 821,619 belongs to this part of the province constituting the Diocese of Tagbilaran… 722,579 are Catholics. There are 115 diocesan priests, 15 priests religious and 116 religious sisters coming from various congregations… now serving 58 parishes!

With everything now said and done… as we move on and continue to write the next pages of our story and history as a one People of God of the Diocese of Tagbilaran we remember and thank our forefathers who have handed us this faith… our parents who have nurtured us in the faith… our priests, religious brothers and sisters, our cathechists and teachers of the faith who worked so hard.

Atol niining halandumong adlaw sa kasaysayan sa atong Diyosesis, tugoti ako sa pagsaysay kaninyo sa makausa pa sa makatindog balahibo nga hitabo niadtong October 15, 2013!… usa ka hitabo sa panid sa atong kinabuhi nga dili nato mahikalimtan! The earth shook our land… with a few hundred of lives lost, infrastructures and buildings destroyed and, above all, our church heritage and treasures fell to the ground…bringing heavy damages and tolls to our churches especially the centuries-old church of Loboc and turning the churches of Loon and Maribojoc into piles of rubbles and ashes! But… such destruction how massive it may have been… could not drown our people’s resiliency of faith. Our church’s treasures may have been down but we were not yet out…for our faith remained unshaken. Daku man ang kadautan nga atong nahidangatan sa LINOG nga mitay-og sa atong pinalangga nga yutang natawhan ug atong gihigugma… hino-on, nakapahimo kini nga mas LIG-ON sa atong pagtoo! Dili ba! Notice the play of words I have used… LINOG… L-I-N-O-G… and LIG-ON… a different word utilizing the same letters… however, correlating to such event… L-I-G-O-N!

We were quick to respond to the needs of our people… material and temporal… but above all especially in uplifting their spirits that God is with us all the time! The rehabilitation and rebuilding program were put in place and still continues to this day. Indeed… AMBULAM CORAM ME… we walk in his presence! We move on…

In the Old Testament the journey of the Chosen people was sustained by two nourishments namely: the Commandment of Sinai and the Manna. Now, in our journey we are also nourished by the Word and the Eucharist. The journey of faith continues… Amen

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