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The National Assembly of NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FILIPINO PRIESTS

Filipino Priests

Serving the church of the United States of America

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The FIRST National Assembly of

ROMAN CATHOLIC Filipino

Priests National Assembly, Nov. 8-11, 2011, Los Angeles

The NAFP is an assembly that promotes unity, support, and growth among Filipino priests ministering with their cultural gifts by serving as a forum for collaboration and effective pastoral leadership. To date, there are about 900 Roman Catholic Filipino priests serving in different capacities in the US Church. For the most part, they serve as pastors and associate pastors of parishes all over the country. They also serve in leadership capacities in the dioceses. The National Assembly was held on November 8 - 11, 2011 in Los Angeles with the theme, “Paring Pinoy: Celebrating Our Gifts.� As a special tribute, Asian Journal came up with a publication featuring the Roman Catholic Filipino priests who are serving different capacities here in the United States. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 

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NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FILIPINO PRIESTS

Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

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PUBLISHER’S NOTE: In a lifetime, you get to work on a project that’s bigger than anything you have ever done and anything you could ever imagine. True enough, the journey is sure to face roadblocks and circumstances that weaken your spirit and test your resolve. But there is a divine calling... A divine calling so strong it transcends continents, race, and culture. Asian Journal Publications has always been a strong believer of the Filipino-American community in the United States. We have always marveled at their many contributions in a foreign land, their passions, their background, and the many stories that continue to inspire not only our countrymen back home but the Filipinos around the world. And now, we were given the opportunity to share with you an unbelievable collection of inspiring stories from several Filipino priests in the US; amazing stories that outline not only their righteous works but also the man behind these deeds. Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz has led a team of highly talented and devoted writers, including Cynthia de Castro and Joseph Pimentel, in compiling the in-depth profiles of several Roman Catholic Filipino priests in the US. Her passion and faith in the project have inspired a team of editors, namely Momar Visaya (New York), Malou Bledsoe (San Francisco), Nickee Huld (Los Angeles), Dymphna Calica-La Putt (Las Vegas), Billy De La Cruz and Katherine C. Eustaquio (Manila) in making each profile come to life in a beautiful layout done by Richard Erpilo. Each story will inspire you, move you to tears, fill you with laughter, and bring you closer to the divine light that has guided us each step of the way during the production of this publication. In a lifetime, you get to work on a project that’s bigger than anything you’ve done and anything you’ve ever imagined. This is ours.

ROGER LAGMAY ORIEL, PUBLISHER

The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 

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Serving the church of the United States of America

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All their Faith’s Elements Form a Mosaic! Introduction by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

In preparation for the first National Assembly of the Filipino Priests in America, Asian Journal expanded its coverage to examine the men behind the vestments: their moral calling, their struggle to reach their aspirations and their consistent renewal of themselves. Three writers were commissioned to work on this project: Cynthia de Castro, Joseph Pimentel and myself. I found the project daunting, how do we even find them? How do we reach them to convince they are worth a story of 1,000 words? How do we even carve their time, given their overwhelming schedules of ministering to parishioners, the sick, the dying, and their sustained ways of renewal from meditations, reflections, group meetings and priestly retreats? I started with my pastor, Fr. Rodel Balagtas and a group of Filipino priests who travelled from Chicago and Pampanga, Philippines. Oh, they were so gracious, they accommodated me and asked me to join them in the rectory where I did one on one interviews, ( Fr. Camilo Pacanza, Fr. Kenneth Massong, Fr. Anthony Carreon, Fr. John V. Era ) after the 5am mass one December morning. I credit my publisher, Roger Oriel for being proactive, for dropping this idea Photography by Hydee Ursolino Abrahan way ahead of time. After the first story was written in April, more contacts came from my sister, Sion Abarquez-Ferrer, who connected me to key Filipino priests. From those generous souls, like Carmen Salindong, who had her own ideas of how to do their stories and who encouraged me to develop solid relationships with priests, and soon, the interviews done became 30. When four priests came to her bakery for breakfast, the laughter was palpable and could be heard a mile down the street. I developed a wish list, from my pastor, to his friends in California, to the East Coast, to Chicago, then, moving to the Bay Area to all of Southern Californa, including multi-generations of seasoned, in the middle, and recently ordained priests. But it was my frequent calls to Cora Oriel that got me moving forward, always in the direction of the light, even as I was confronted with many challenges and barriers along the way, tempting me to stop and to abandon the project. But Cora held on, as I held on, listening sometimes to her soft voice conveying her spirituality nuggets for the week, which moved me forward. The stories became inspirations for the week. “Pass it on with wonder,” as one person said. In the middle of the project, my faith wavered and consequently, I could not book any. My doubts mirrored the rejections I got: “Go to another priest. I am not worthy. I am busy. I am not really a Filipino. I am an American. I am Japanese.” Bishop Oscar Solis gave me a broader definition of Filipino priest: by birth, by choice, or by association with large Filipino communities. It was apropos! Then, I prayed and made a pact with the Lord: please help me secure the next one, it led me to Fr. Albert Carreon, a most distinguished priest with 60 years of service. He inspired me to have a third look at Jesus: those who are marginalized, the immigrants, who like those who came from Europe are equally sons and daughters of God, entitled to a life pathway towards prosperity. Msgr. Rebong had me crying four times during the interview. Bishop Oscar Solis had me laughing, and Fr. Riz Carranza gave a blessing to my husband, Enrique and myself for our trip on ward whom I got hold of from the timely response of Fr. Albert Avenido. Each story was written to bring the man out: some readily shared, others had to be convinced, still, all had their inner mountain of gold to share: dignity of sorrow, faith with love, groomed to be God’s servant, music as their way to God, donations of wheelchairs to the devastated in Haiti, composing liturgical music, surviving near death experiences and transcending mysterious illnesses. All created their lives fearlessly with great love, purpose and passion! I offer you their stories, along with my colleagues, Cynthia de Castro and Joseph Pimentel who covered their stories well if not better than mine. Come join us and read the Filipino priests’ stories, and pass it on with wonder to others! And lastly, my gratitude to my pastor, Fr. Rodel Balagtas who patiently listened to my woes, who gave me hope and who kept inspiring me to give service to God. From him, and Fr. Camilo Pacanza, I learned to have faith with love and to love with faith in the Almighty! The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 

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The Woodcarver Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand Of precious wood. When it was finished, All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be The work of spirits. The Prince of Lu said to the master carver: “ What is your secret?” Khing replied: “I am only a workman: I have no secret. There is only this: Where I began to think about the work you commanded I guarded my spirit, did not expend it On trifles, that were not to the point. I fasted in order to set My heart at rest. After three days fasting, I had forgotten gain and success. After five days I had forgotten praise or criticism. After seven days I had forgotten my body With all its limbs. “ By this time all thought of your Highness And of the court had faded away. All that might distract me from the work Had vanished. I was collected in the single thought Of the bell stand. “Then I went to the forest To see the trees in their own natural state. When the right tree appeared before my eyes, The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt All I had to do was to put forth my hand And begin. “ If I had not met this particular tree There would have been No bell stand at all. “What happened? My own collected thought Encountered the hidden potential in the wood; From this live encounter came the work Which you ascribe to the spirits.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 

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Fr. Rodel Balagtas Immaculate Heat of Mary Church

Ushering Love With Faith By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“Faith without love is an empty ritual. Love without faith can easily diminish. And indeed, the only way that others will see that we are authentic Christians [human beings] is by our love for one another, for the charity we show to others.” - Fr. Rodel Balagtas

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Fr. Rodel Balagtas’ preaching sets the tone for Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (IHMC). And he definitely practices what he preaches. Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas is a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He attended St. John Seminary in Camarillo, California and earned his Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. For twenty years, he has been in the parish ministry of large multi-cultural communities. Since 2002, he has been the pastor of IHMC in Los Angeles. Fr. Rodel brings into the classroom a wealth of pastoral experiences. He has given retreats to priests and recently has been a regular guest professor of the International Institute of Theological and Tribunal Studies. He is now part of the steering committee of the newly formed National Association of Filipino Priests, formed under the tutelage of Bishop Oscar Solis. On a Wednesday novena mass, he shared his ministering to his sick father, Ruben. He encouraged him, not as a son to his father, but as a servant of God, ministering to a parishioner. While he finds time to minister to his sick father, Fr. Rodel extends himself even more to about 8,500 parishioners and to the 4,600 registered families of IHMC, of whom 1,700 are active members. He has been instrumental in marketing the Immaculate Heart of Mary School to increase its school 12 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

population and in revitalizing its educational system. During the elections of May 2010, forums were held at IHMC school auditorium to educate the immigrant parishioners of what is at stake and the compelling need for moral leadership, particularly in government that is charged with serving the interests of the public. Some parishioners took time to monitor the canvassing of the election results at the consular offices. Others attended the presidential inauguration ceremonies in the Philippines. His moral leadership resonates beyond IHMC and attracts more to come. Fr. Rodel’ s homilies reflect probing guidance that “ we are the sacraments that embody what God is like on earth. “ Indeed the pervasive secularism, relativism, and materialism in the world that many times blatantly ignores the place of God in our lives lead to the necessity for…conversion. “But what exactly does it mean to be sacraments, to embody God to others, when faced with moral decay?” How does one become the Sacraments, or what Fr. Rodel calls to display heroic love to others? At IHMC, there are many ministries — some to the hungry, the sick, and the dying. Regularly, the parishioners donate canned goods to the pantry for the homeless. Every week, parishioners are screened for cholesterol and blood sugar — a joint project of Queens Care Nurses

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and IHMC. Rev. Camilo Pacanza, assisting priest of IHMC, celebrates Masses and also anoints the sick. Pete Avendano, IHMC’s musical director, described Fr. Rodel as “a holy man.” It meant to me that his actions and practices are aligned with his thoughts, his prayers, and his homilies. Because of this moral alignment, IHMC’s following keeps increasing. The IHMC choir now collaborates with other church’s choirs in archdiocesan-wide gatherings, under the baton of Pete Avendano, and the supportive performing orchestra of violinists, flutists and pianists, led by Bob Shroder of Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) founded by Asian Journal Foundation. It is a coming together of musicians from other parishes, encouraged by Fr. Rodel. It is with clarity of purpose that Fr. Rodel started his stewardship of IHMC. That time, the parish was bereft with intercultural conflicts and had a declining base of parishioners. He conducted educational retreats, including deepening one’s faith to reflect hospitality and warmth towards one another. The divided parish got more unified in purpose, as they found themselves working together. Masses are said in three languages: English, Spanish and Tagalog, during important holidays, to convey the parity and unity of cultures. In the last two years, against all odds, in the midst of a recessionary period and loss of jobs, 80% of the parishioners pledged to a capital campaign, reaching $1.9 million. As

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of March 2011, the donating families have numbered 417, making good on their pledges reaching $ 438,245.41 to date. These are immigrant families, mostly working-class, some retired, some are caregivers, yet their generosity in spirit is reflected in increased tithing for the church’s operations and giving for IHMC’s planned renovation. Recently, a group came together to work on a program, where for $1,000 or more, each of the 75 pews in IHMC can be refurbished. A leadership circle of 12 donors is now being formed. With 12 leader/donors, like the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, there is vigor and confidence that by 2012, the church will have not just newly renovated pews but also new floors, a newly-installed heating and air-conditioning system, and newly-painted walls. Fr. Rodel shows us in practice, and ushers us to join him in IHMC, to love with faith!Under Fr. Rodel’s stewardship and leadership, even income status or one’s new immigrant status are not barriers to IHMC’s ministering. The generosity of Filipinos, Latinos, African Americans and Caucasian parishioners will soon be felt 100 years from now, by the next generation of parishioners, as IHMC’s renewed house of God is erected, anchored by new hearts that love with faith from its parishioners, much like the pioneers’ generosity and some Hollywood stars, who built this church, several decades ago. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 13

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Reverend Vicente N. Dela Cruz J.V., Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in Houma, Louisiana

Groomed To Be God’s Servant By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“As soon as I heard, I ran into the armory, where big crowds of people had gathered. The grief was tremendous - not just loved ones but strangers, grown men sobbing in the street. What struck me most was 14 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

the dignity of their sorrow. No one asked, ‘Why’ or ‘What did they die for?’ Instead it was ‘What can I do?’” - Fr. Vicente Dela Cruz, quoted by Paul Solotaroff, Our Fathers Were Soldiers, 2005.

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Fr. Vicente Dela Cruz (known as Fr. Vic to his parishioners) occupies one of the key leadership positions, as Judicial Vicar and counsel to the Bishop in the Diocese of HoumaThibodaux. He is the current rector of the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales, the largest Catholic Church in Houma. He shared his reflections above with Paul Solotaroff in 2005, when Houma lost six National Guardsmen to Operation Iraqi Freedom. An explosive device hit them, as they patrolled in their Bradley fighting vehicle. As the community grieved, Fr. Vic ministered to them. Fr. Vic survived the buckets of tears from grieving families of Houma, the storms of Hurricane Katrina, the EDSA unrest which got nuns, priests, and seminarians involved, the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr., and the dirt-poor living conditions while he ministered to the orphans of Zambia, whose parents died because of AIDs. He also survived the trying atmosphere which arose from sexual scandals involving priests in Louisiana. “I was deeply affected and disturbed when the problem of

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sexual abuse and misconduct became public. As a young priest and oblivious to what was going on, the pain of association took a toll on many of us,” he shared. While he was not guilty of such an act and is still highly regarded as a priest, he was not spared from suspicion, ridicule and lack of regard. There must be a guiding hand from the Universe which gives him protection and allows him to stay above the fray to minister to the needy, the grieving, the destitute and rich parishioners alike. A guiding hand which allows him to pursue his canon law studies and lead pilgrimages in the ritzy places of the world: Canterbury, England; Ottawa, Canada; Israel, Rome, and Marian Shrines of Europe. He has seen not just the lowest of lows, but the best of the best as well. While studying canon law in Ottawa, Canada, he distinguished himself by obtaining two degrees: one for his ecclesiastical and another for his civil degrees, both in canon law. At Universite` St. Paul, he was appointed to the faculty council of the Board of Regents of the University and became the editor of Inter-Paul, the students’ bilingual (Canadian French and English) newspaper. He recalls St. Paul as “remarkably very inclusive, very involved, very pro-active when it comes to the life and activities of the university and sister schools.” In Rome, he studied Roman Curia, Dicasteries and Tribunals of Rome. Across the spectrum of the rich, middle-class and poor, he has remained God’s obedient servant. His parochial assignments took him to Annunziata Church, Community of St. Thomas Aquinas at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. While he was a pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas, he introduced the child’s nativity play, family fun day and many upgrades and improvements to this personal place of worship. These improvements also include procuring centuries-old Stations of the Cross, upgrading the sound system and the light fixtures. He is currently the pastor at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales. He is also the current convenor of the National Assembly of Filipino Priests, a post he was appointed to, by Bishop Oscar Solis who will endeavor to unify and bring together over 900 Filipino priests serving throughout the United States at a conference this Nov. 8-11, 2011 in Los Angeles. As God’s servant/leader, he travels far and wide, traversing continents of Europe, Asia and America to conduct youth/adult retreats and missions to various groups. Imbibing his mother’s teachings of “looking at things from the eyes of others and walking the mile in someone else’s shoes,” he immersed himself with the poor, living in their villages and in remote refugee centers in Zambia. At the cathedral parish that he is assigned to in Houma, Mission Zambia supports the ministries of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate. Parishioners’ lenten contributions are sent to Zambia to “build homes for the elderly, abandoned and families who lost their village homes, to send 100 children, who lost their parents to AIDS, to schools, for blankets to brave the 20 degree F temperature at night and to send deserving young men from the refugee camp to the seminary.” In every parish he is assigned to, in every diocese he is affiliated with, in every pilgrimage or retreat he leads, he is a devout God’s servant/leader and honors his calling by remembering the plight of others, just as his mother taught him, just as he learned from his mentors, including the late Most Reverend Warren L. Bordreaux, J.C.D., D.D. The first bishop of Houma-Thibodaux took a personal interest in inviting him to be part of the Notre Dame Seminary to pursue his Master’s in Divinity and to continue his formal studies in canon law and earn his current position as Judicial Vicar. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 15

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Serving the church of the United States of America

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Reverend Ricky Manalo CSP, Ph.D. Candidate at The Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley

Deepening Our Relationship With Christ Through Music By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“When we try to get one style of celebratory mass against another, we have a hard time with variety. We

need not create these battles, as long as the substance and meaning stay the same.” - Fr. Ricky Manalo, 2008.

Fr. Ricky expressed those sentiments at a Sirius Radio show, The Busted Halo, hosted by a co-ordained priest, Fr. Dave Dwyer. They both got ordained as priests by Cardinal Roger Mahony at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York, a gothic church with marble floors. Fr. Manalo is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul(The Paulists). In 2008, the Paulist 150th Anniversary homily was prepared by Fr. Ricky Manalo, Fr. Thomas Kane, Fr. Edward Koharchik and Richard Andre, a seminarian. Their bulletin, Paulist Today, read: “It was pointedly and encouragingly appropriate … that the Sending Forth hymn written by Fr. Manalo included the lyrics: “We are sent into the world to proclaim the reign of God. We give glory to the Risen Christ among us. Though our eyes have not seen his face, we believe and we spread the story of our faith.” In masses around the United States and even in the Philippines, his liturgical compositions are performed both in English and Tagalog and re-echoed on YouTube, e.g. Ang Katawan ni Kristo. When Fr. Leonard Gilman was ordained to the Order of Carmelites in 1998, Fr. Ricky Manalo’s joyful music, The God of All Grace was sang by combined parish choirs, accompanied by piano, trumpet, violin and organ in Tenafly, New Jersey. Some of its lyrics say: “The God of all Grace has blessed us this day. All Creation join us in praise, lifting our voices, lifting our hearts through the Glory of God forever.” A choir member complimented Fr. Ricky on Sirius radio, after she sang the liturgical song that he created. I first met Fr. Ricky at the Cathedral of Angels in LA in January 2011, when he was introduced as the musical composer of Pie Jesu, arranged for the orchestra by Louie Ramos, performed by Joan Cano, Bella Ramos, UST Singers and the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra (FASO). He has an inner radiance, and seems content and at peace. After all, over 2,000 folks from the Fil-Am community just heard his musical arrangement, performed by 65+ members, with violins, violas, cellos, bass and more. The standing ovation was enduring. At St. Genevieve Catholic Church, on April 16, 2011, he led a seminar on “ The Roman Missal: Deepening our Relationship with Christ and With One Another” for 65+ folks, who were choir members from 5 churches in Los Angeles. He traced the liturgical roots of the mass including the New Roman Missal, the process of translating the third typical edition and what are possible reactions to change. He ended it by sharing his own transition to embracing change, putting in place some old parts of the liturgy and then, using the new text for the songs. He then played the piano, and led everyone in singing excerpts

from his Mass of Spirit and Grace (Oregon Catholic Press). The seminar ended on a happy, progressive tone of embracing the change in the text of the English Mass. Fr. Ricky described his calling as a “gradual unfolding of God’s will and a progressive surrendering and responding.. I never viewed [it] as a fully romanticized event, I never expected the Angel of God to literally appear before me in all of her/his splendor and to reveal the definitive answers to the questions in my heart. Instead, little angels came in the form of specific people and events at different stages throughout the discernment process.” He grew up with a family that’s surrounded by live music — “noisy,” yet “vibrant and alive.” He gives credit to his father, Dominador, who loved classical music and his mother, Pat, who quietly composed melodies on the side. They were responsible for making music the central focus of his life. His mother also taught him to thank God whenever he shared his musical skills in public. While in the music conservatory in New York, he memorized 24 paragraphs of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy simply because he wanted to learn about liturgy and did not know what else to do with his energy. He now believes that may have started the discernment process of a more personal relationship with God. He graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and the Washington Theological Union. He now lives at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in Chinatown, San Francisco and is currently a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He is also an adjunct professor of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. His liturgical music is published by the Oregon Catholic Press and GIA Publications. He is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, a board member of National Association of Pastoral Musicians and an advisor to the US Bishops’ Secretariate on Cultural Diversity in the Church. In closing, he offers The Paulist Prayer: “God of Imagination, Creativity and Surprise We are made in your image and likeness. Help us create fearlessly, with great love, purpose and passion. We offer ourselves and our works as the Paulist Center Community; our past, with its joys and triumphs, failures and regrets; our present, with its struggles and success, hopes and setbacks; our future, with its fears and freedom, pain and promise. Let us be your servants, to lose and to bind, to stretch and to shape, to become more like Jesus, trusting the Hand that made the world, trusting the Spirit that breathes life, and trusting the Love that will not let us go. Amen.”

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Photo courtesy of Reverend Ricky Manalo

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Serving the church of the United States of America

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Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Slattery Pastor, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church

Alive With Spirituality By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“Blessed Kateri Parish is youthful in enthusiasm, alive with spirituality, and has a diversification of ministry. Personally, Blessed Kateri is a beacon of hope for me, for which I am eternally grateful.” - Rev. Monsignor Michael J. Slattery, 2009. He said those words in celebration of the opening of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha’s new Church structure. It was completed two years ago. It was built by a dynamic parish with 53 ministries amongst 5,750 families and still growing. Its population is diverse — Caucasians,Filipinos, Latinos; some he mentioned were Australians, Iranians, Iraqis and Vietnamese. The church is like a piece of art, with the most beautiful sculptures, tree of life mosaic on its front door, an altar made with Jerusalem stone, life-sized crucifix, bronze gate to the adoration chapel, and stations of the cross that are outside but can be brought indoors during Lenten season. According to Renee Fields in Signal.com, this is “to bring in all the elements of our faith structurally is overwhelming.” Its mission statement is quite inclusive: “We are a diverse community unified through our Catholic Christina values. As a people of God, we recognize that fellowship is fundamental to building a community of faith. Through fellowship, we will create a place of worship as asource of spiritual enrichment for all.” A church bulletin of April 2011 reported their collections at $117,906.49 for the month, and parishioners contributed $76, 597.85 to the Building Fund. It took approximately $16 million to build the church, according to Msgr. Slattery, half of which was extended as loan from the Archdiocese. While money is never the measure of what a community 18 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

of faith-dwellers can do, it is the dynamism of their various ministries that appear impressive.They include: ministries for worship (8), Fellowship and Prayer Ministry (6), Formation and Evangelization (15), Religious Education (7), Service (17). These ministries cater to all age groups: teens, children, women, men, elderly, and to all sectors: Spanish, Filipino, Caucasian, businesses, knotty knitters and crazy crocheters, marriage encounters, Mental Health Support group, newcomers and MS Self-Help Group. It is perhaps why Msgr. Slattery referred to his parish as his beacon of hope.

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Msgr. Slattery was 23 years when he was ordained. He will celebrate 50 years of priestly service come 2012. He went to St. Agustin’s Catholic School in Waterford, Ireland. He attended St. John’s Seminary for college, in Waterford, Ireland and got ordained by Bishop Cohalan. Msgr. Slattery has served in seven parishes: St. Rose of Lima in Simi Valley as the associate pastor; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Newhall; St. Mary’s in Palmdale; St. John Hughes in Chatsworth; St. Euphaseus in Granada Hills; St. John de Baptist La Salle in Granada Hills and now for seven years in

Blessed Kateri. At a young age of 72 years, Msgr. Slattery spoke of retiring at this church. But not quite yet, said Vilma San Buenaventura, a coordinator for the Filipino ministry group. Msgr. Slattery declared “ I like Filipinos, they are quite active in their spirituality. They are in prayer groups. They coordinate the simbang gabi celebration that are sometimes spread out in three parishes, including ours.” When I asked him about God’s calling, he said “ I have always felt it,I just like to be a priest and be good.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 19

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Rev. Rolando Clarin

St. Martha Church Rev. Rolando B. Clarin is currently assigned at St. Martha Catholic Community in Valinda, California, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He was ordained to the priesthood in June 5, 1993. He has been in this parish for 3 years now. He is in the 5th year probation period of his incardination process in the said Archdiocese. He is a member of the Order of St. Camillus, belonging to the Far East Province composed of Taiwan and the Philippines. Rev. Clarin has ministerial training and experience in parish,

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seminary formation, hospital chaplaincy and in youth and young adult ministry. He has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy which he completed in the University of Sto. Tomas in the Philippines and a Licentiate Degree in Pastoral Theology of Healthcare from the Camillian theological institute called Camillianum in Rome, Italy. He has been assigned in 3 different places in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the past 6 years while waiting for the final approval of his application for incardination.

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Rev. Rodolfo L. Cal-Ortiz Jr.

Administrator, Christ Our Light Catholic Church in Navasota, Texas

By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Rodolfo Cal-Ortiz Jr. was born to Rodolfo Jasareno Cal-Ortiz (deceased) and Milagros Binaday Loza on January 5, 1965 in Sagpon, Legazpi City, Philippines. He has four brothers and a sister, has five nieces and six nephews. Fr. Rod finished elementary at Bibincahan Elementary School, Bibincahan, Sorsogon, high school at Colegio de la Milagrosa, Sorsogon, Sorsogon, and attended PreCollege Formation Institute at Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, Naga City. He has a Liberal Arts degree, Major in English after attending

Our Lady of Pe単afrancia Seminary, Sorsogon (from first year to third year, first semester) and Colegio de la Milagrosa, Sorsogon. He finished theology at Holy Rosary Major Seminary, Naga City with a Bachelor in Sacred Theology Degree. Fr. Rod was ordained a Deacon on December 30, 1992 and a priest on December 4, 1993. He served in the Diocese of Sorsogon for 9 years and as a Chaplain for the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, New York, USA, for one year. Then, he worked for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston,Texas,

USA as a Hospital Chaplain from 2003 to 2006 and was incardinated into the same archdiocese in February of 2006. Presently assigned as Administrator of Christ Our Light Church in Navasota, Texas and St. Stanislaus Church in Anderson, Texas, Fr. Rod has been serving in the US for nine years. His areas of Ministerial Training/ Experience are in Parish, National / Diocesan Administration, Elementary / High School Education, College Education, Post Graduate Education, Hospital Chaplaincy, Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

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Rev. Robert Victoria

By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

St. Anthony Church in El Segundo, CA By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

Fr. Robert Victoria says being in the priesthood is a challenging occupation but a very fulfilling experience. For the past four years, Father Victoria has served as a pastor at St. Anthony Church in El Segundo California. Prior to that, Victoria was pastor at Sacred Heart in Alta Dena and Sacred Heart Church in Lincoln Heights, St. Elizabeth in Rowland Heights and St. Anthony’s in Oxnard. Victoria knew he wanted to become a priest since the sixth grade. He says he used to serve at mass everyday at the Sta.

Clara de Montefalco Parish Church in Manila. He attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary in Makati. In 1986, he migrated to the US and entered St. John seminary. He was among the first class of priests to be ordained by Cardinal Roger Mahoney. He says, as a pastor serving in the US is very different than in the Philippines. “A lot of people here have lost of faith and dependence. We are called to be messengers of hope and faith to a culture gradually

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losing a sense of the divine and relevance of faith,” he says. “We are called to be ministers of hope, faith and trust in God.” Victoria says being a Filipino priest has its advantages especially in a multi-cultural diverse place like Los Angeles. He says coming from a dominant catholic upbringing, he’s able to bring his faith and culture to those he serves. “We grew up with church as a family,” he says. “We want people to know that the church is their family and here to support them and help them grow closer to God.”

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Rev. Antonio R. Rigonan

US Air Force Chaplain, 4th Fighter Wing Chapel in North Carolina

By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Rigonan was ordained in the Diocese of Malolos in 1988. Presently working as a US Air Force Chaplain, Fr. Rigonan has been assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing Chapel in North Carolina. He studied at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran High School Dept. in Manila (1st year HS) and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Seminary in Sariaya, Quezon, (2nd to 4th yrs

HS). He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Our Lady of the Angels Franciscan Seminary, Quezon City, PH in 1982. Then, he went on to take his Masters in Sacred Theology at the San Carlos Seminary, Makati City which he earned in 1988. In 1993, Fr, Rigonan got his MAfrom the Fordham University, in New York, NY. This was followed in 2005 with his MBA

from the University of Leicester, Leicester, UK. In 2006, Fr. Rigonon got his Masters in Hum.Rel. from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK. In 2007 he took up C.P.E. for 1 year at the Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland AFB, in San Antonio, TX. and in 2010, he earned his D.Min. from the Oblate School of Theology, also in San Antonio, TX.

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Photos courtesy of Rev. Msgr. Nestor Rebong

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Rev. Msgr. Nestor Rebong Pastor of St. Christopher’s Church

His heartfelt goodness By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“What I will never forget is the look in their eyes. A sense of hope, and they are able to smile. It does not take much for them to be happy and thankful for God’s blessings.” - Msgr. Nestor Rebong, 2010 Msgr. Nestor Rebong said these words in April 2010, when he went to Port-A’Prince in Haiti. Along with Knights of Columbus and Global Wheelchair Mission, he delivered 1,000 wheelchairs to those devastated by the earthquake on January 12, 2010. Over 400,000 were affected — some were injured while others perished. One of the wheelchair recipients was trapped and buried for four days and had to undergo leg amputation. The wheelchairs were donated by the generous parishioners of St. Christopher’s Church — raising $30,000 over one weekend to purchase them. Knights of Columbus is a 1.7 million member organization with a sustained capacity of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for building homes, doing charitable and relief work for disasterstricken areas around the world. As California’s State Chaplain of Knights of Columbus, Msgr. Rebong traveled with them.

They delivered a full sea container of 280 wheelchairs to Bicol and Malabon in the Philippines on March 2011. When this writer first interviewed Msgr. Rebong, she felt a certain sense of unexplainable awe. How did he become a monsignor? He said the process is done by the cardinal: it starts with a solicitation letter to all the priests within the archdiocese. The priests submit their nominations, which are then ranked by the bishops. The final list is then given to the Holy Father, who approves them. On Chrism Mass 2010, Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote: “Eleven priests were elevated to Chaplain to His Holiness, with the title of Monsignor: Monsignors James R. Forsen, Richard M. Martini, Sabato A.Pilato, Lorenzo Miranda, Richard G. Krekelberg, Antonio Cacciapuoti, Thomas M. Acton, Jon F. Majarucon, Gerald McSorley, Robert J. McNamara, and Nestor Rebong.” Alice, a parishioner, shared that “ Msgr. Rebong is a very good pastor, who is good to the people. He is very concerned with them. He is not only personable, he brings the people to the church and the church to the people.” It so happened that when I phoned Alice at her home, Msgr. Rebong was paying her a visit — his way of bringing the church to its people. At age 10, Msgr. Rebong witnessed the tragic drowning of his two siblings. Overwhelmed by his grief, he promised his brother and sister that he will be a priest so he can pray for them. He entered the seminary at age 12. After 14 years of formation, at age 26, he was ordained at St. Vincent de Paul in Manila. He finished AB in Philosophy and a Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology at the University of Sto. Tomas. He taught for two years and was sent to Rome and Jerusalem to pursue his postgraduate studies in Sacred Scriptures and Canon Law. In Rome, he learned to speak German, French and Italian, adding to what he already spoke fluently: English, Tagalog and Spanish. He stayed at the International House of Studies of Vincentians, which at that time petitioned for a papal visit. As luck would have it, their request was granted. As the youngest priest, he co-celebrated the mass with Pope John Paul II (now Blessed John Paul II after his beatification on May 1, 2011). Msgr. Rebong had more defining moments. One was to find himself in the middle of negotiations between the warring factions of soldiers, those who defected to Enrile-Ramos and the loyal soldiers of dictator Ferdinand Marcos during People Power I in EDSA. He managed to prevent the escalation of violence between these factions, using his powers of negotiation. The sense of awe that I felt must have come from Msgr.’s profound faith. God is with him— from the time he lost his siblings, to the time when he carried EDSA’s heroes in his arms, to the mass that he co-celebrated with Pope John Paul II. “It is a sense of connection, that you are deeply loved, a connection of one’s heart to another, that is how I felt being with the Holy Father,” he said. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 25

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Rev. Michael Montoya Executive Director of USCMA

Photo courtesy of Rev. Michael Montoya

Venturing to take God into global communities By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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“My years of being with and among the migrant communities along the river (the river that brought hope and at the same time despair), have been fountains of learning and sources of growth. They are years of stretching and going beyond one’s own comfort

zones. They shattered stereotypes and broke down walls of prejudices. The people have opened my heart to an embrace of God not often seen by the dominant culture. I learned how to walk as a missionary.” - Rev. Michael Montoya, 2011

Rev. Michael is the modern-day global missionary whose boundaries are beyond the walls of the church, border towns, institutions, and countries. As the first Asian Executive Director of the United States Catholic Mission Association, whose offices are based in Washington, DC, he organizes gatherings and summits to represent the American Church’s missionaries and brings God’s word globally. Rev. Michael’s faith in God is expressed while working with communities, from as far as Mandaue, Cebu, to families in San Antonio, Texas, to border towns in Rio Grande Valley, to leading an American delegation to the Congreso Americano Misionero in Ecuador or to the West African Summit in Liberia to Consolidate the Peace Process in the Mano River Basin, to organizing annual national mission conferences in the country attended by hundreds of missionaries from all over the world, and giving retreats and workshops to various groups in the Church. He traces his beginnings to Bamban, Tarlac in the Philippines, then, journeyed to San Antonio, Texas to complete a Master’s in Divinity from Oblate School of Theology. There, he learned how to focus his studies on liturgy in a multicultural setting. He was the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels in La Joya, Texas, where he worked with Basic Christian communities and organized with Valley Interfaith. While working with the leaders of these communities, they sought programs to benefit the local communities: water, sewage projects, job training, citizenship campaigns, health care issues, including better education. He was then assigned to become the school director in Cebu, and Vocation Director for the Southern part of the Philippines in 1999. In 2000, he was asked to pursue his doctoral studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, with concentration in Spirituality. While in Chicago, he became one of the founders of Missionaries of Jesus, a group of 38 Filipinos, 2 Belgians and an American who found a common purpose in doing God’s mission of taking The Gospel to far flung, underserved communities: the Mayan people in Guatemala, the indigenous people in Papua, New Guinea,

Lumad in Davao, to Aetas , Igorot and Benguet communities in Baguio and the Mindanao communities where Christians and Catholics are in the low 4%, while predominantly populated by Muslims. He became the associate pastor for St. Monica Parish in Chicago, which served as the first home to the newly-formed Missionaries of Jesus, USA in 2002, under the sponsorship of pastor Michael A. Walsh. There, he got a call from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Msgr. Dave O’Connell and Msgr. Craig Cox who invited him to replicate his work of organizing basic Christian communities in Los Angeles. He found his Los Angeles home in Precious Blood Church, and months later, the Missionaries of Jesus USA team arrived with Fr. Melchor Villero and Gino Santos. The logo of the group was formed with “letters of M and J joined together, to form a heart, and on top of this heart is the cross that they bear and proclaim to all, with a bright green color to denote freshness and newness of the group.” Rev. Michael shared his reflections: “When 41 of us, priests and brothers decided to [form] the Missionaries of Jesus, an artist friend of the group… approached us wanting to give a gift to the newly founded order. His proposal was to carve an image of Jesus (rostro) for each of the founders of the community and another for that founder’s benefactor [sponsor/ donor]. He used pieces of traviesa from century-old wood or discarded railroad tracks. Out of what is seemingly a useless piece of wood, comes an image of Jesus. It is a wonderful reminder of a spirituality that tells us that no matter who we are, however broken we may have been, or however rejected a person is, in each one is the image of Jesus that we bear... The separation of the 41 founders from the old community was not easy. For a while, it felt like we have been thrown away and discarded, but later on we realize that God has a purpose… That God indeed called us to be missionaries of Jesus. And like the discarded wood that the artist used to reveal the face of Jesus, we too are called to show the face of Jesus in everyone we meet… Like the discarded wood, we too are reminded that it is not about us,… but about the Jesus we reveal.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 27

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Rev. Melvin Avilla

CRM Clerics Regular Minor of the Adorno Fathers in Ramsey, New Jersey By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Born and raised in the Philippines, Fr. Melvin Avilla entered Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City where he graduated in 1996. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy. He then went to Seton Hall University in New Jersey where he earned his Master of Divinity. Fr. Melvin was ordained in 2008 under the religious order of the Adorno Fathers where he is a Clerics Regular Minor. His area of Ministerial Training and Experience is in the fields of Seminary Formation. He is presently working in the Diocese/ Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey.

Rev. Lito J. Capeding

Shrine of the Holy Cross Parish in Daphne, Alabama By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Born and raised in the Philippines, Rev. Lito J. Capeding entered the seminary in San Vicente de Paul in Calbayog City and finished AB Philosophy in Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo Leyte in 1981. He took his theological studies under the Belgian Missionaries (CICM) at Maryhill School of Theology. Fr.Lito was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on December 30, 1986 by Archbishop Pedro Dean for the Diocese of Calbayog. Serving in America for more than four years now, his areas of ministerial training and experience are in the fields of Parish, National and Diocesan Administration, College Education, Post Graduate Education, Non-profit and Social Service Work. Recently incardinated on March 30,2010 to the Archdiocese of Mobile, Fr. Lito has been appointed by Archbishop Rodi to take on three important positions: Administrator of the Shrine of the Holy Cross Parish, Administrator of St. John’s Mission Church in Bromley, Alabama and simultaneously in charge of Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris) of the Archdiocese of Mobile since 2008. 28 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

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Rev. Joel Henson St. John’s Seminary

17 years of religious service

By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Although born and raised in the Philippines, Fr. Joel Henson has lived most of his life in the Los Angeles area. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from UCLA, he entered St. John’s Seminary in 5012 Seminary Rd Camarillo, CA 93012 in 1988 and was ordained for service in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1993. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Denis Church, Diamond Bar (1993-97) and at St. Anthony Church, Oxnard (1997-99) before being invited to serve as Director of Students (1999-2004) at then St. John’s Seminary College on the same property as the Theologate. At the closing of the Seminary College, Fr. Joel joined the Theologate to become Director of Students. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO. Presently working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Fr. Joel has served for more than 17 years in the United States.

Rev. Jed Dompor Sumampong C.P. Pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Jamaica, NY (Archdiocese of Brooklyn)

Following the Lord’s lead By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

“It started from a small village or barangay Bagumbayan in the town of Loboc, in Bohol, Philippines,” said Rev. Jed Dompor Sumampong as he talked about his years as a priest. He was ordained a Passionist Priest on August 15, 1984, at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Loboc, Bohol, Philippines, by Most. Rev. Reginald Arliss C.P. Belonging to the Congregation of the Passion, Fr. Jed will be celebrating 27 years in the priesthood this coming August. Presently working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Brooklyn, Fr. Jed is the pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church at 86-45 Edgerton Blvd. Jamaica, NY 11432. He has been serving in the United States for 14 years now. The young priest says, “I am truly grateful that the Lord is leading me to share the charism of living the Passion of Jesus Christ anywhere, anyplace, anytime with anyone. What a great vocation!” He attended the Loyola School of Theology and the Catholic Theological Union Seminary. His areas of Ministerial Training and Experience are in Parish, Seminary Formation, Hospital Chaplaincy, Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “I am very much blessed to have traveled around 26 countries from the Philippines to Australia, Austria, Canada, China,

Czech Republic, Egpyt, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, France, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, USA and The Vatican. And I’m looking forward to visit many more States in the US, to add to the 40 states I’ve already visited,” said Fr. Jed. “By God’s grace and mercy I am now serving, since October 7, 2007, as pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in New York . Before this present assignment, I was also assigned as the pastor, from March 15, 2004 to October 6, 2007, of St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Atlanta which celebrated its Golden Jubilee more than four years ago,” he added. Throughout his years in the ministry, Fr. Jed has been led by his favorite motto which is “Lead me to Thy pasture, Lord, and graze there with me.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 29

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Rev. Fr. Richard Hoynes Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church

A piece of God’s joy By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“We are people of distraction. We need to get rid of distraction as much as humanly possible. Once we do that, God’s pure spirit can come through. Then, and only then, can we do the true work of the Lord. We must get closer to what’s pure. Outside nature is God. The work becomes easy, when God has manifested Himself [to us].” - Fr. Richard Hoynes, 2011.

Rev. Gene P. Daguplo

St. Raphael Church in Hamilton, New Jersey Rev. Gene Daguplo was ordained on December 28, 1984 in the Diocese of Dipolog City in the Philippines. Fr. Gene has several degrees: AB Philosophy, Bachelor in Sacred Theology, and a Master in Oriental Religion and Culture. He studied at the Immaculate Saint Vincent College, Dipolog City; Heart of Mary Seminary in Tagbilaran City; University of Santo Tomas (UST) Central Seminary, Manila and in the UST Graduate School in Manila. Fr. Gene’s areas of Ministerial Training/Experience are in the fields of Parish, College Education, Seminary Formation, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry. He is presently working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Trenton where he was incardinated in November 10, 2009. He has been serving in the US for the past nine years. 30 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

Fr. Hoynes refers to his loyal parishioners as highly respectful of him, their pastor. Japanese, Filipinos, Latinos, Blacks, Whites have also taken St. Francis as their personal church. They are devoted to hear mass, some coming as far as Temecula each week, while others come from Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights. St. Francis Xavier is an urban church located in Little Tokyo, surrounded by new lofts, luxury apartments, a Buddhist temple, a car wash and the Japanese American Cultural Center and the Japanese Village. Parishioners come daily for morning masses and say their rosaries. He mentioned some of his parishioners’ names: Bess, Tess and Elvira. When he gave me the eucharist, he said, “ Prosy, the Body of Christ”, it felt warm and personal. I was surprised with his gesture. It was one I have never experienced before, and it allowed me to see and to hear. I noticed the shoji screens made of rice paper which surrounded the golden case of the Tabernacle, with a beautiful pot of white phalaenopsis orchid next to it. Light brown shoji screens of wood formed a nice backdrop behind the altar, with Jesus hanging on a less imposing crucifix. In the back, thousands of origami peace cranes hang on a pole. I heard the silence in the parking lot, where the Maryknoll Fathers used to operate St. Francis Xavier School, which closed in 1995. The community hall with seniors dancing and laughing. The sweet voice of Fr. Hoynes asking me if I would have dinner in the parish before the interview. That touched me like no other, for a priest to be concerned about my welfare, despite him being fully booked: he had a noon mass, anointing of the sick in a hospital, a retreat with his fellow priests and an interview with Asian Journal.

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Fr. Hoynes remembers a Filipino man, named Gaby Bonoan, “a good man who worked hard as a receptionist, secretary and a cook at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Wilmington, where he was first assigned. He saved his money and when he had enough, he sent for his wife and three children. I have since married his two Filipino boys. I want to remember him.” He was assigned to Holy Trinity in San Pedro for 6 years, in charge of youth and RCIA. He was transferred to American Martyrs in Manhattan Beach for 2 years, in charge of young adults. He went on retreats, camping trips and socials. He became a pastor of St. Albert the Great in Compton in charge of the Hispanic Prayer Group, young adults and youth group. Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS In all his assignments, he conversed in Spanish with Filipino by birth parishioners, forming half, until he got assigned to St. Francis Fr. Hoynes was born in Clark Air Force Base in Angeles City, Xavier in 2007, where English, Japanese and Tagalog are spoken. Pampanga to a Japanese mother, Sadae Nitta and a German/Irish In June 2011, Fr. Hoynes joined the members of his parish’s father, Clarence Hoynes, who is an engineer. youth group, their parents and friends in Manzanar. He He stayed in Pampanga until he was 4 and then moved with celebrated Mass at the now demolished Maryknoll site and this his family to live in the United States. became the first Mass, since the internment camp closed in He credits his mother Sadae who went to church daily and 1946. with the entire family on Sundays. Fr. Hoynes also celebrated a special mass with Auxiliary He was in high school at William Hart in Newhall, CA when Bishop Alex Salazar, in honor of the Japanese quake and tsunami he heard God’s calling at age 16. He was influenced by pastor victims. Leo Gomez, who died in 1992, but left him with this gift: He finds God in dealing with the people, with their struggles “to love God is to love the Eucharist and to love the Blessed and successes. He recalls gambatte — a Japanese trait which Mother.” Fr. Leo had joy in his eyes. Fr. Richard saw it and enables one to endure and to be resilient amid hardships. wanted a piece of that joy so he became a priest. The Japanese people practiced it during internment. Recently, He spoke to Monsignor Gary Bauler about his plans for the it became more visible as Japan endured a tsunami, earthquakes priesthood. Msgr. Bauler suggested the seminary. and a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. Fr. Richard graduated from high school, but was scared to It is a resilience he admires amongst his people. They have follow his calling. He went for two years to pursue electronics at endured so much, yet they remain generous. the College of the Canyons in Valencia, “a distraction,” he said. While only 370 families form the parish, it is a community Eventually, God’s calling became overwhelming. “It was a feeling with active ministries for the sick and homebound: it has a inside of me, it felt like a burning fire that could not be stopped. I Marian Prayer Group, a youth group, Boy Scouts, auxiliary went to St. John’s in Camarillo and after seven years of schooling, group, Thursday group and a Xavier Kai, a group for Japanese I became a deacon. I was sent to Mexico to learn Spanish. I now speaking families, serving coffee and Donut “toban,” to nurture speak English, Japanese and Spanish,” he recounted. camaraderie amongst the parishioners. The church will celebrate its 100 years on Dec. 12, 2012. A priest to all Fr. Hoynes wants to grow the church some more, to include He was ordained a priest by Cardinal Roger Mahoney on the changing demographics of the area residents: young artists, September 1988. He was first assigned to St. Peter and Paul whites, Koreans, Chinese and Latinos. where, as an associate pastor, he became in charge of the youth “This is their home, they have taken the Church as their group and the rite of Christian initiation for adults ( RCIA ) for personal church, they love it so much, they make it their own”, 4 years. said Fr. Hoynes with a high-wattage smile. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 31

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

Fr. Ramon Valera Associate Pastor, Our Lady of Lourdes Church

Unconditionally forgiving and giving By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

32 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

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“I love being a priest. I am very happy serving the people. Whether I am loved in return or [not] does not diminish the ministry. It is in the giving that I feel satisfied. It is more of the giving, rather than the taking.” - Fr. Ramon Valera, 2011

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I interviewed Fr. Ramon on June 3, 2011, inside his office, while surrounded by Monet’s paintings of Parisians Enjoying the Parc, The Parc Menceau and another photo of the Serengeti Sunset in Tanzania, Africa, in a church campus that includes Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School. It is not structures that delights Fr. Ramon, it is people. He was assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes in 2009 and has re-established the Charismatic renewal group. He ministers to more than 1,750 parishioners, who are mostly Caucasians and Filipinos. His homilies attract people to attend his masses. He serves as the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary. He teaches leadership classes and what he emphasized as “sound and correct Catholic teachings.” I asked him what he is most proud of. “If ever I make a mistake, I am honest enough to apologize. In a previous parish, I helped draft a confirmation program but I missed one name. The parent got livid. I took responsibility for it... apologized, learned from it and moved on. Whether they change or not after my apology, I have already put on my thumbmark, which is to be ready to accept my shortcomings.” He went to elementary school at the Sacred Heart of Mary Institution, now St. Paul’s School of Aparri, run by St. Paul’s sisters. At age 9, he got his first calling when they went to church for a field trip. He genuflected. The teacher noticed that he paid respect to the Eucharist in the altar, while others ran to their seats. He instinctively knew that the Tabernacle was special. He decided to go to a seminary at 12 and completed his Bachelor’s in Philosophy and Theology at UST, graduating as cum laude. At 24, he became a priest. His bishop, Diosdado Talamayan, gave him permission to be ordained by Pope Paul VI. He was ordained on June 29, 1975 at St. Peter’s Basilica. He shared that his photo with Pope Paul VI was borrowed but has not been returned until now. He described his awe when he met Pope Paul VI. “When I approached the Holy Father at the giving of peace, as I embraced him, the Pope said, PAX TECUM, Peace be with You, I felt such an awe that I almost forgot to say, “ Et cum Espiritu Tuu “ (And also with you). I felt so joyful, a certain lightness inside, and forgot everything around me. It was as if it was just the Pope and me. I still could not believe it. I felt so fulfilled. The ceremonies started at 6pm, and finished at 11pm. Imagine this [was] inside the Basilica, surrounded by the choral voices of Sistine Chapel choir. To be with the visible Vicar of Christ, [it was] a singular privilege to be ordained by Pope Paul VI.” “ On my 25th year of ordination (my silver jubilee), I [went on] a pilgrimage to Rome and brought my mom and dad to the place I was ordained. My parents kept on crying. They, too, could not believe I was there. “ He underscored the importance of a silver jubilee: each of the holy doors to the four Basilicas are opened on the Holy Year. He was ordained in 1975, celebrated his silver jubilee in 2000. The next Holy Year will be in 2025 — he will be 75 years old by then and will be celebrating his 50th year as a priest. While in Pentecost Mass, I thought of Fr. Ramon who forgives and gives unconditionally. “Riches is relative. Poverty is relative. But the richness of God is eternal law that you never can change. The Fullness of God is eternal,” he said. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 33

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Fr. Lester S. Avestruz BCC, Catholic Chaplain of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Guiding folks on their spiritual journey By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

34 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

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“Back then, the end of the world stopped at the Strait of Gibraltar. [Voyagers] were enticed to take the risks, to go beyond, and [they] discovered snails that could be induced to make purple dye. Purple became in vogue, worn by royalty. They took huge risks looking for those, then, spices. Who knows, our obsession with [today’s] global wars and trade may no longer be in vogue [someday] . Just like the residue of [once] prehistoric plankton, oil, beautiful cars and houses may no longer have value [in the future]. Yet, there’s lasting value not in the material things that we fight so much, why not work for something lasting, that can’t be destroyed by anything, like compassion, love, that God brought in our midst? There are more important things in life than materials things that Uncle Sam may take anyway. When we die, we can take the love, good relationships, compassion with us, and leave [to others] good deeds behind.” - Fr. Lester Avestruz, 2011.

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Fr. Lester wisely shared this homily last Friday on mankind’s history and the circle of life at a noon mass in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center — the hospital of royalty, the rich, the well-heeled, and premium-paying members of Anthem Blue Cross. He is part of the spiritual chaplaincy office, which he shares with a rabbi and an interfaith minister. He received special training in Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Joseph Hospital in South Dakota, continuing on to a more specialized, supervised education and practicum at UCLA Medical Center where he worked with a group of interfaith ministers, and later at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. He practiced his pastoral counseling skills for two years at UCSF Medical Center. Later, he was recruited to join O’Connor Medical Center in San Jose and became part of St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, where he worked for ten years. Now, he is currently at Cedars Sinai. He is a Board Certified Chaplain, and belongs to the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and to the Association of Professional Chaplains. Though he no longer works in Long Beach, he continues to volunteer to celebrate masses at St. Mary Medical Center. At Cedars-Sinai, he is piloting the “ No One Dies Alone “ Program, training nurses and volunteers to stay with dying patients. They are trained to stay with the dying for a maximum of two hours and are debriefed so the pain is not internalized. As an altar boy, he heard God’s calling. He was still in high school then, at Colegio de Santo Nino in Cebu. One summer, he consulted Fr. Restituto Suarez about becoming a priest. He later made a choice to go to San Augustin seminary in Intramuros. After a Licentiate in Philosophy in UST, he took his novitiate in San Agustin Seminary for intensive spiritual formation. Their Augustinian group later took theology in the Universidad de Comilla, Valladolid, Spain. Bishop Garmendia of Peru ordained him as a priest in Spain and he took the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in Manila. He took his Masters in Communication, taking night classes at the University of the Philippines, while as an associate pastor in San Agustin Church in Intramuros. “How do you find God in your daily work?,” I asked. “In my mindset, I tell Jesus this is your ministry, I am your messenger. Sometimes patients throw me out of their room. That’s your problem, Lord. It is not about me. The patient is the Lord’s ministry,” Fr. Lester replied. He recalls the past when he was scrupulous in looking for violations of God’s commandments, but he overcame it by trusting the Lord fully. Fr. Lester converses in many languages: Latin, Cebuano, Waray, Tagalog, Spanish and English. He described some of the miracles that he witnessed on his spiritual pilgrimages to the Holy Land: a woman in her eighties who could not walk to reach the Stations of the Cross. Later, he noticed she was temporarily relieved of her disability and she prayed at the steep hills. Another woman, with a walker, accompanied by her daughter, shed her walker to climb without assistance. “Because the mind is limited and the mind can only process so much, everytime I go to the Holy Land, I experience more than the first. I feel alive. I witnessed another man whose heart condition made him pause after a few walking steps. Yet, he made it to the Holy Sepulcher to the healing mass, without stopping, and he climbed the hills with no apparent difficulty,” he said. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 35

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

Fr. John Era The traveling priest

Photos courtesy of Fr. John Era

‘My friendship is God’s gift to them!’ By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“By respecting where people are coming from and sharing myself to them, I make them feel that my friendship is God’s gift to them.” - Fr. John Era 36 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

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chance, nor others. But, with our open hearts, we can determine that we can change,” he said. He participated in a fundraiser for IHMC’s campaign — the singing priests’ concert at Kazuyo Restaurant in Melrose. He enjoyed their fellowship albeit cautioning them that he may not be a good singer. Little did they know that he helped rejuvenate choral groups both in Chicago and the Philippines by being the organist, musical arranger, composer and choir instructor. Since he grew up near St. Vincent Seminary in the Philippines, he attended Sunday masses in the seminary and participated in their activities. That early exposure to religious priests got him involved with the Knights of the Altar, affording him the knowledge of what it is like to be a priest. Education He graduated from St. Vincent Seminary in high school, earned his degree in AB Philosophy from Adamson University and his Master’s in Theology from St. Vincent School of Theology in Quezon City. He is now pursuing his MA in Community Counseling from De Paul University in Chicago. Priesthood, he said, is a “way of life [which] I learned to love... [it] has given me an indescribable sense of joy.” His joy comes from personal sacrifices in developing leaders across the globe. Bi-coastal leadership Fr. John Era serves the spiritual needs of the deaf. He is skilled in the use of sign language and has interpreted prayer services for deaf people. He has also been conducting leadership and skills training on planning, implementation and evaluation, while spending his summers in the Philippines, for 13 years now. He has taken part as volunteer instructor for the Filipino-American Community Health Initiative, has conducted leadership training for the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment in Chicago, and has been a retreat facilitator for Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth, Illinois.

With that personal mission in life, it is not surprising that Fr. John Era travels a lot as it connects him to parishes, across from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean. He travels a distance of more than 10,000 miles a year for Simbang Gabi (the 9-day novena masses preceding Christmas) and summer retreats. The parishes he visits are Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Los Angeles (IHMC), St. Stephen Protomartyr Church in Des Plaines, Transfiguration Church in Chicago and Congregation of the Mission, St. Vincent in the Philippines. His homily at IHMC two years ago is still memorable for me. He spoke of how our cultural values of warm, noble hospitality in dealing with diverse folks can attract non-Catholics to participate in the Church. He spoke of friendships across cultures and how he enjoys the diversity and unique experiences. His sermon resonated with the parishioners — it highlighted pride in one’s cultural heritage, going beyond mere blind obedience to God and being a grace to others. Fr. John also spoke about the importance of family. In 2010, he made a homily on how genes affect human behavior, on social environment and on how the power of the mind can determine change. He emphasized that the way we think determines our emotions. “When we stereotype, we do not give ourselves a

Here are excerpts of our interview by email: Describe your reflections on the Taoist Tale about the Woodcarver. JVE: The tale makes me reflect on the true meaning of success. I am flattered when I receive compliments; I get hurt when people criticize me for not doing well. Too much affirmation can be addictive and when it becomes my sole ultimate goal in every endeavor, I end up [being] motivated to do good deeds, not for the sake of others, but for my own selfish needs. Too much criticism can be very frustrating, and when I allow these hurtful words [to] affect my being, I end up [feeling] dejected and incapacitated from dispensing my responsibilities. Thus, it is imperative that I focus on why I [became] a priest. It means taking to heart the real meaning of genuine service by living the Gospel of Jesus. When that happens, with or without affirmation or criticism, I [can] continue serving God’s people selflessly. How do you find God in your daily activities? How does God find you? JVE: I learned that each person, each culture is unique. It is in these encounters that I try to witness God’s love. By respecting where people are coming from and sharing myself to them, I make them feel that my friendship is God’s gift to them. My Christian values will always be with me, and every time I communicate and relate to them, they gain a firsthand experience of how my faith in God has molded me as a person. Somehow it is in this personal witnessing that I convey my Christian faith. Now, I have gained more friends who are culturally different from me. I have realized that I learn more by taking risks in life. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 37

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

Fr. Thomas Frederick Ma. Asia Associate Pastor, Holy Family Church

A silent answer By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“But God does not be comfortable. He [so you can] grow.” Frederick Ma.

want you to disturbs you - Fr. Thomas Asia, 2011. Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

God’s calling led Fr. Thomas to isolation from his family. When he informed his mother that he wants to be a priest, his mother threw him and his clothes out into the streets. He was deeply hurt. All he could do was cry as he washed his soiled clothes. So deep was his wounds that it took him six months to write his parents. The answer was silence. “What did you learn from being abandoned by your own?,” I asked him. “I learned to rely on the Lord. Father, you are there for me all the time. You care about me. Mama Mary, you are my mother,” he replied. With those prayers, his resilient heart healed. Despite the rain and a late arrival because of it, his parents were able to attend his ordination.Their presence made a complete celebration for him. After that challenge, his life became more blessed. In one of his homilies, he announced his excitement to be in World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. After the mass, a German builder of pipes and a visitor to the Philippines, Volkwart Harders introduced himself. He unsolicitedly offered Fr. Thomas a guided tour when he gets to Germany. Only a few days before the event and Fr. Thomas’s visa still had not been approved. Mr. Harders called, and told him he still

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wanted to make good on his promise. Weeks passed, a plane ticket arrived which included a special invitation to Mr. Harders’ birthday party. Bearing the ticket and the invitation, Fr. Thomas’ visa got approved. During the party, Fr. Thomas spoke of his gratitude and being blessed by someone he did not even know. Mr. Harders, a protestant, shared the Catholic apostolate on the prisoners in the Philippines. Moved, the guests generously gave and raised Php 300,000. All funds were used to repair the prison chapel’s roof. Monobloc chairs, tent awnings and 12 propane stoves were purchased for the prisoners’ use. Fr. Thomas laments that corruption robs the prisoners of their daily ration. Without these propane stoves, he said, these prisoners are consigned to eat rice porridge. When I arrived at the Holy Family Church to interview Fr. Thomas, I noticed artful displays of the Stations of the Cross along the main walkway, separating the Church and the rectory. Two banners, hand-painted by the Holy Family Church’s pastor Fr. Raymond Decipeda, were hung by the altar. One had a wooden cross as the background, a chalice and a eucharist beside it, with bamboo leaves and grapevines, all professionally painted.

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missionaries and the parishioners. A fresco of Mary, Baby Jesus and Joseph greets you, and the sound of flowing water calms you. As you get inside, serenity becomes you. The tabernacle is placed inside a cabinet, that is kept open while devotees are praying. For the Lenten season, Fr. Thomas decorated the altar with a trellis, dangling

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Another had a wooden cross with two bright orange flames and multicolored children with arms outstretched in prayer. Sacred gregorian chant music piped in, reminding me of the adoration songs sang by the Agustinian Missionaries nuns in the St. Rita’s chapel in Manila. Fr. Thomas led me to the adoration chapel — a labor of love by the Marian

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capiz shells and Christmas lights and a base of candle lights — increasing the atmosphere of serenity. I came to this church, as my friends raved about how the altar is decorated to be at its artistic best, attracting more to pray. The Stations of the Cross are done by the congregation in the driveway, with 7 crosses carried by 7 parishioners, to represent the 7 cardinal sins of anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, sins believed to destroy the life of grace within and God’s direction for one’s life. Fr. Thomas first heard God’s direction for his own life, when he joined the Youth Marian Crusade in high school. He taught basic Cathechism in public and private high schools in Manila and inside the prisons. Though he had plans to become a journalist and his mother planned for him to be a doctor, he finished his AB in Philosophy at De La Salle College. Each year, he kept renewing his promise to serve the Lord. He later joined the Marian Missionaries of the Holy Cross (MMHC) seminary. He pursued a Masters in Theology at the University of Santo Thomas and after 4 years of formation, he was ordained in Dec. 1998. By the time he was ordained, he was the only one left from a group of 80 aspirants. He was assigned as a formator of young seminarians and became an assistant novice director for MMHC’s house in Bacolod. As a student of Fr. Raymond, he was recruited to join their team of Marian Missionaries, based on an agreement with Cardinal Mahony, to guide the Holy Family Church in Artesia. Fr. Thomas also served in St. Philomena in Carson, where a robust Love and Faith charismatic group resides, and an El Shaddai. Today, he is a picture of joy. He recently celebrated his birthday, on July 4. He feels fulfilled, but still dreams of going to Rome to visit the Basilicas and the Holy Father. Devotion and serenity are twin towers of faith in this Holy Family Church. Seeing God in ordinary people and in nature animates this priest. He finds joy when he sees folks are inspired by his homily or they are strengthened by the sacraments he administers. “I am happy when they survive, but even if they die, they seem to be in peace”, he said. He is grateful that God has given him a nice life. “ Priesthood is my life. I hear God’s voice, I have to go and serve Him,” he said. His life of moral alignment speaks for itself.

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Rev. Seraphim Molina

S.T. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Tucson, Arizona By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Seraphim Molina is the parish priest of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Tucson, Arizona. He belongs to the religious order of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. He was ordained in 1997 and his areas of ministerial training and experience are in the fields of Parish, Seminary Formation, Hospital Chaplaincy, Non-profit and Social Service Work. He has a Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work/ Psychology from the Washington Theological Union. He has been serving in the United States for the past 13 years.

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A native of Tayum, Abra, in the northern part of the island of Luzon, Philippines, Fr. “Serri” (as family and friends call him) is still very much a loving and devoted son of his hometown. Regularly celebrating the town fiesta of Tayum with other townmates now living in the US. Fr. Serri once said during a mass with his fellow Tayumenians, “Tayum is the compass in our hearts. It makes us think of our townmates.” Noting the townmates’ efforts to give back to their hometown, he added, “They see that there are people who are good, do good and power good. You are bringing that change to Tayum. By doing good for them, you are making things news.”

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Fr. Salvador Anonuevo

Pastor of Holy Name of Mary Parish in Bedford and Resurrection Parish in Moneta, VA By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

Father Salvador Anonuevo is a pastor of Holy Name of Mary Parish in Bedford and Resurrection Parish in Moneta,. Both parishes are in the state of Virginia. He has called Virginia — a state with a large Filipino population — home for the past 10 years. For Father Anonuevo serving God has been a blessing. Having served in the Philippines, New York, and now, Virginia, Anonuevo told the Virginian Pilot that there are no borders in the universal church of Jesus Christ. “I’m not here as a Filipino priest serving an American community,” he told the Virginian Pilot. “I am here as a Catholic priest serving a Catholic Christian community. It doesn’t matter where you were ordained or what your nationality is. I am simply a Catholic priest.” Ordained in 1986, Anonevo served in the Philippines for 11 years before becoming a foreign missionary priest. He came to the US in 1997 and trained in radio and TV productions at Hallel Institute of Communications in New York. At the same time, he served as chaplain of the Sparkill Dominicans and later served as

parochial vicar at St. Margaret Church in Pearl River, NY. After four years, Anonuevo came to the Diocese of Richmond and served as a parochial vicar at Holy Spirit, Virginia Beach, according to his bio. Father Anonuevo has worn many hats for the Diocese of Richmond. He was an administrator of Sacred Heart church and parochial vicar of St. Pius X, in Norfolk, while at the same time being administrator of St. Luke, Virginia Beach. He was named pastor of St. Luke in March 2003 and served there until June 30, 2009, and simultaneously was pastor of Holy Spirit, Virginia Beach, according to his bio. He has been at his current assignments in Bedford and Moneta since July 2009. The 51-year-old Anonuevo grew up in Luzon, In an interview with the Virginian Pilot, Anonuevo said he knew at an early age going to church and watching the local priests perform their sermons that he would become a priest someday. “He [the priests] had the kind of life I wanted: to serve people, preaching and reading God’s word as an official minister of the Catholic Church,” Anonuevo said.

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Fr. Rommel Tolentino Pastor at the Diocese of Lake Charles

The Ebay priest By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

Father Rommel Tolentino is referred to as the Ebay priest for his creative ways of fixing the church he’s a pastor at after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita hit the Lake Charles, Louisiana area. In 2006, when Hurricane Katrina hit the southern part of Louisiana, one of the places affected was Lake Charles, about 300 miles west of New Orleans. There the Diocese of Lake Charles took in evacuees from Hurricane Katrina but a month later they had to evacuate when Hurricane Rita hit the area. Four parishes, four mission chapels and the Catholic Service Center were all destroyed, according to reports. Tolentino, a pastor at the Diocese of Lake Charles, had to find a resourceful way of rebuilding one of the churches. A year before the hurricanes, he had just

been ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lake Charles at the age of 32. A few years later, he had to undertake a very important role in not only rebuilding the spiritual lives of those affected by the hurricanes but also renovate the church structure of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. According to the Philippine Roman Catholic blog, “This church parish has been flooded and completely rebuilt several times. The current church building is not old; it is a modern, plain, brick functional structure with absolutely no architectural features. It’s basically a rectangle with a pitched roof. Thanks to the opportunity afforded by the last hurricane, Fr.Tolentino took a scant budget, a great heart and mind, and many volunteer hours, and literally had everything here almost built or fabricated using

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materials that were available… “Considering the limited funds Fr. Rommel had to work with and the preexisting structure, he did an amazing job of enhancing the beauty of St. Peter’s.” It was a community effort led by Tolentino to rebuild St. Peter the Apostle Catholic church. According to his bio, Father Rommel was born in the Philippines. Despite being the product of a comprehensive Catholic education, having attended elementary school through college, and being raised in a ‘very Catholic environment’, Tolentino says he never thought about the priesthood during the first twenty-six years of his life. He worked as a physical therapist “until he felt God’s call and began studying for the priesthood.”

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Rev. Romeo Hontiveros

Our Lady of Victory Church in New York By Cynthia de Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Romeo O. Hontiveros was born in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, Philippines on January 17, 1953, the eldest of four brothers and two sisters. His parents, Jose Hontiveros and Regina Obenita, were natives of Malabuyoc, Cebu and migrated to Mindanao in 1951. They moved to San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines where he finished his elementary and high school at St. Andrew’s Academy (1971). Fr. Hontiveros received his Bachelor of Arts Degree (cum laude) at St. Columban College, Pagadian City (1975) and his theological studies at St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao, Davao City (1979). He then moved on for further studies: Master of Arts in Theology at Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City; Master of Arts in Educational Management (1988), Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City and Doctor in Management at the University of San Jose Recoletos, Cebu City (1994). He was ordained to the Priesthood on March 25, 1980 in San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur by Most Rev. Jesus B. Tuquib, DD, for the Diocese of Pagadian.

Schools School Director of San Jose Academy (1980-81), Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur; School Director of Holy Family High School (1981-85), Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur; School Director of Star the Sea High School (1982-84), Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur; School Director of Sta. Maria Goretti College (1986-89), Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur; School Chaplain of St. Columban College (1991-93), Pagadian City; School Director of Holy Trinity High School (1996-2000), Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur; School Director of St. Andrew’s Academy (2001-2005), San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur.

Then he was assigned as follows: Parishes Co- Pastor of San Jose Parish (1980-81), Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur; Pastor of Sto. Nino Parish (1981-86), Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur; Pastor of San Miguel Parish (1986-89), Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur; Assistant Pastor of Sto. Nino Cathedral (198990), Pagadian City; Assistant Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish (1992-94), Pagadian City; Pastor of San Isidro Parish (1995-96), Pagadian City; Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish (1996-2001), Sominot, Zamboanga del Sur; Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish (2001-2005), San Pablo, Zamboanga del Sur.

Archdiocese of New York Chaplain of Bronx Lebanon Hospital, Bronx, New York, NY 10453 (April-May 2006); Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Victory Church (June 2006-present), New York, NY 10005. Fr. Hontiveros’ areas of Ministerial Training/Experience are in the fields of Parish, National / Diocesan Administration, Elementary / High School Education, College Education, Post Graduate Education, Hospital Chaplaincy, Non-profit / Social Service Work. He was ordained in1980. Presently working in the Diocese/ Archdiocese of New York, Fr. Hontiveros has been serving in the US for the past five years.

Special Assignments Diocesan Special Project Coordinator for Subanen tribe and Tidal wave victims (1982-84); Diocesan Economus (1989-90); Religious Radio Program (1994-96); Coordinator of Diocesan Media Paper “Trumpeta” (1997-2005); Coordinator of Diocesan Self-Sufficiency Program: Tithing System (1997-2005).

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Rev. Peter Puntal

St. Joseph Catholic Church in Winter Haven, Florida

By Cynthia de Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Peter Puntal was ordained in Cebu City Philippines in 1982. He attended the Sacred Heart Seminary in Bacolod City, the UST Central Seminary in Manila and the Angelicum, UST in Urbe, Rome. Fr. Puntal’s areas of Ministerial Training/ Experience are in the fields of: Parish, National / Diocesan Administration, Elementary / High School Education,

College Education, Post Graduate Education, Seminary Formation, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Non-profit / Social Service Work. He earned his Licentiate in Philosophy in 1977 and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1983, from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. He also got his Master of Arts in Higher Religious Studies from UST in 1983.

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Fr. Puntal earned a Diploma, Long Ridge Writers Group, in West Redding CT last 2000 and a Diploma, Good Shepherds, Good Leaders, Philadelphia, PA in 2009. Presently, Fr. Puntal is working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Orlando, Florida. He has been serving in the United States for the past 18 years. Her was incardinated in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Orlando.

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Rev. Pete Literal

Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore MD By Cynthia de Castro / AJPRESS

In Baltimore, Maryland, a Filipino priest is serving the Lord in the Archdiocese at theCathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21210. His name is Rev. Pete Literal and he has been ministering as a priest in America for the past twenty-five years. Born and raised in the Philippines, Fr. Pete attended St. Augustine Seminary in Mindoro and the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay. He was ordained as a Diocesan in the Archdiocese of Lipa in 1978. Fr. Pete’s areas of experience and ministerial training have been in the fields of: Parish, National / Diocesan Administration, Post Graduate Education, Hospital Chaplaincy, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and also non-profit and Social Service Work. The incardination of Fr. Pete Literal in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Baltimore is currently in process.

Fr. Melchor Villero Pastor at Precious Blood Elementary School and St. Kevin Church in LA

His mission in life

By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

For Fr. Melchor Villero serving in the missionary has been his livelihood. Villero, the pastor at Precious Blood Elementary School and St. Kevin Church in Los Angeles, has spent 18 years as a missionary in Guatemala and Mexico. He has worked with the Maya Qeqchi Indians and the Basic Ecclesial Communities. Villero is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, a group of priests that are committed to “discover and uncover the face of Jesus Christ hidden in every human - scarred by poverty, ignorance, indifference, injustice and selfishness.” “We continue to believe that as we allow ourselves to be inspired by His spirit that we can together build a new humanity rooted in Jesus,” he wrote on the Missionaries of Jesus website. Born in Manila, Villero was ordained a missionary priest on March 1976. He has served as Rector and Postulant Director at Maryhurst Seminary (CICM) in Baguio City, the Philippines from 1996-1999, according to his bio. He was also appointed Superior of the pioneering team of Filipino missionaries assigned to Mozambique, Africa serving from 2000-2002 and afterwards assigned as treasurer of the Missionaries of Jesus, treasurer of the Diocesan Seminary of Antipolo, confessor, and professor in the Philippines. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 45

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Fr. Martin F. Parayno

Pastor of Señor Santa Niño de Cebú Parish, San Antonio, Texas By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

Fr. Martin (Reynato) Parayno serves as pastor of Señor Santa Niño de Cebú Parish in San Antonio, Texas. Parayno, from the Philippines has served in that capacity for the past 10 years. Parayno became the parish priest for Señyor Santa Niño de Cebú Parish after former parish priest Fr. Bert Selga, a Filipino diocesan priest, returned home to the Philippines in 1999. Parayno was appointed parish priest in 2000 and few years later, his order based in the Philippines, granted him another five years to guide the Santo Nino parish. Described as a “energetic and young priest”, Parayno quickly earned the respect and support of the Filipino community in the San Antonio area. Señyor Santa Niño de Cebú Parish is the only Filipino American parish in the area. The church was formed by a group of dedicated FilAms who were members of the The Santo Nino Association.

Fr. Joel Lopez

Parochial Vicar at St. Bernadette Parish By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

The United States of America may be his new home but the Philippines will always be in his heart. Father Joel Lopez, a parochial vicar at St. Bernadette Parish in Rockford, became a naturalized citizen, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States earlier this year. He took the Oath of Allegiance at a ceremony on May 5, according to the Rockford Observer. Father Lopez, originally from Pasig City, Philippines came to the US in 1999 with a tourist visa. Four years later, he received a student visa; two years after that, a religious visa; and five years later a green card — making him a permanent resident, the Observer reports. Prior to coming to the US, Father Lopez worked as a “labor and employment officer” at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). He was a talent screener responsible for making sure that overseas bound entertainers really possess the required talent, according to his bio. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He is also a candidate for an MA Degree in Developmental Anthropology at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Prior to his role as parochial vicar at St. Bernadette, he served as an associate pastor at St. John Newman Church in Saint Charles, IL.

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Fr. Eugene Joachim Ma. Ablanida, MMHC Associate Pastor, Holy Family Church

Open to God’s proactive plans

By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“He is always there. Especially if you are humble to ask for God’s help. Personal prayer is what gives you sincere connection. Feel na feel kita, Lord, kailangan kita.” In 2002, he finished theology at the University of Santo Tomas. In 2009, he also took Spanish classes in the Instituto Cervantes in Manila, before going to the US. Little did he know that years later, he would speak Spanish with parishioners of the Holy Family Church in Artesia, where English, Spanish, Chinese, Portugese and Tagalog are some of the languages spoken. Each step got him closer to becoming God’s humble servant. God’s proactive, it seems like it. He prepares you for the next path in your life.

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pursuing another degree in Sacred Theology at University of Santo Tomas. He was ordained by Bishop Vicente Navarra in the Cathedral of Bacolod on December 11, 2002. He served in various roles and capacities. He was the Local Economer, in charged of managing the payroll and controlled the budget for the Marians in Marikina for six years. He became part of the Board of Directors of The Philippine Association of Religious Treasurers, and served for a year as their public relations officer. He served as Chaplain Associate of the Pasig Catholic College. In 2006-2008, he was the Superior and the Local Economer of the Marian Retreat House in Angono, Rizal, in charge of managing the formation of seminarians and the retreat house. He then served as the treasurer and the local economer, assigned to the Marian House in Bacolod and in Silay. From 2005 to 2010, he served as the General Economer, in charge of the administration of the temporal goods of the Marian’s house in Negros Occidental, assisting in the managing the properties of the institute. Prior to his ordination in 2000, there was a breakdown within the Marian Missionaries of the Holy Cross. Vatican suppressed the Marians in the early 80’s, given the ideological beliefs of some, that made others leave the congregation. Some held on to the Marian cause, while others held onto theirs. But, their history is also history of pious fidelity to God and Mother Mary. Until he was asked to come to the US. “Why me? It is another world, another culture,” he asked. But, then he realized that he was long prepared to come to the United States, as he studied Spanish and had other skills. Fr. Joachim was recruited to be part of a three member team of Marian Missionaries of the Holy Cross priest. The Marians said their first mass at Holy Family on July 1, 2010. A year later, the parishioners have increased their church giving by 14%; some had evangelized others, proud of the pebbles of changes they have observed: Gregorian music chants, 16 page church bulletin supported by donations, a well decorated altar with trellis, hanging lights and capiz shells for Lent, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a new adoration chapel; 34 young delegates to attend a 13 day trip for World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain this August, and recently, the City Council approved a church’s request to fence their church and school perimeter. Fr. Joachim said with a smile: “I have touched others through God’s Grace. I thank God as I had become an instrument of God’s love to others. Tabi ko muna ang ibang issues. Everything else is God’s work.”

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Fr. Ariel Durian C.S. Associate Priest, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Sun Valley, CA

A life of spiritual vibrancy and service to the needy

By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS His name is Durian — the King of Fruits, a variety which has creamy, tender, succulent meat inside. It is a fruit with a distinctive taste and a memorable post-eating aroma. Fr. Durian made me realize the concept of spiritual dryness — one which I personally experienced from other priests in masses here in Los Angeles. But I have I found my spiritual home in Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (IHMC), whose spiritual welcoming attitude resonates and attracts parishioners to travel from the Valley and distant places. Like IHMC’s Fr. Rodel Balagtas and Fr. Camilo Pacanza, Fr. Ariel Durian taught me spiritual vibrancy: how he learns from his parishioners who were formed in over 20 ministries in their parish. He loves the diversity of faith expressions from a diverse group of immigrants. During Lent, a long queue of folks form to get their foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, from 7am to 10 pm. He loves ministering to this predominantly Latino church, about 90%, where he says mass in three languages: Spanish, English and Tagalog. He loves how they share food, and whatever is there, is for all to share. He appreciates their way of life — they are mostly hardworking, yet family-oriented and with close ties. He supports the passage of the Dream Act, for he has been an eye-witness to these undocumented children who came here, with their parents, without any choice of their own. They grow up knowing that they are American citizens, until they apply for college and realize that they’re not. Imagine how devastated they must be — aiming for

Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“Spiritual dryness is a state of no growth, with low energy and where one functions as if routinary and homilies carry no meaning. I came to realize that the person to be blamed is myself when I get in that state. I failed to nourish my faith. I now consciously seek growth and when I apply myself fully in what I do, even the group grows with me. When they grow, I learn, as they become my teachers, teaching me the variety of ways in expressing one’s faith.” - Fr. Ariel Durian, 2011.

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scholarships, reaching for the stars only to find themselves without options. As an 11-year-old altar server, Fr. Durian realized that he wanted to be a priest. A catechist inspired him from San Carlos Seminary. His father initially objected to it. Fr. Durian became active in the Youth Marian Crusade in Makati High School, then Adamson. But Adamson could not sustain his youthful curiosity. He traveled to Bulacan, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija for adventures. After four years of adventures and shifting majors, he finally settled with liberal arts. “I challenged God about going to the seminary. I told Him if this is meant for me, then, he will make it easy for me to take the exams. I was heard. I got accepted into Scalabrinian Missionaries in New Manila, and I found my academic and spiritual home. I found out I had the academic discipline and rigor to finish AB Philosophy, and even though I was a transfer student from Adamson, I was getting high grades. I also found out I had leadership, that I can actually facilitate small groups. I then moved to a stage of psycho spiritual integration, then, clinical pastoral education and was assigned to National Kidney Institute where I attended to dying patients and administered sacraments to them. I also passed the program on clinical pastoral education and then, moved to novitiate and my apostolate work was with the Sisters of Charity in Tondo,” he narrated. Tondo was dense with families, and they only ate once or twice a day. He cared for the abandoned elderly and washed their soiled diapers. I asked him how he felt and he said: “ Mostly, I imagined it to be caring for my grandparents, who died when I was still small. I also helped in constructing their coffins. I was the model and I would get inside the box and my remark would be, masikip, hindi ako makagalaw. Which made me think, kakayanin ko ba ito? Sometimes, we had luxuries, when international groups would send boxes of canned goods, clothes and toys. And it would be fiesta, if we have sinabawang manok or tinola. But, I learned from the elders, their oral histories: their poor children who could not eke a living and care for them, then abandoned them. Nalaman ko ang kuwento ng buhay nila, they tried for a new life in Manila, coming from the province, but did not quite make it.” When he became part of the Scalabrinian Missionaries, he learned to get along with a congregation of international priests from Brazil, Haiti, Mexico, Colombia and Italy. It was a challenge. There were culture clashes, which manifested when they talked. But they learned each other’s cultures. His first assignment was to be prefect of discipline to 40 seminarians. He completed his master’s in pastoral ministry at Mary Hills School of Theology. He was then sent to Indonesia to relieve for a priest who got sick of malaria. He completed the area’s financial report and while in Indonesia, he got word of his approval as a priest. He was ordained a priest June 17, 2005 by Bishop Gabriel Reyes. Later, he was sent to North America and his parish assignment is Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church in Sun Valley, California. I asked him about his Woodcarver reflections: “ Everybody has potentials. All you have to do is look deeply at what God gave you. You will see God’s blessings: your gifts, your talents, but you have to use it. Discover it, claim it and use it appropriately. He recognizes the innate giftedness of Filipinos. All we need to do is enrich our talents, so we are on equal footing as the citizens of the First Nations. It is why I serve the schoolchildren in our school canteen; I want them to know their innate giftedness. By the way, I read Asian Journal every week; I am inspired to read the Filipino contributions to the US society, kaya pala natin.”

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Fr. Cesar C. Pajarillo, Jr.

Parochial Vicar, St. John Nuemann Church in St. Charles, IL By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

Father Cesar Pajarillo Jr. is currently serving as Parochial Vicar at St. John Nuemann Church in St. Charles, IL. Pajarillo is among the 12 Filipino priests serving in different capacities as pastors, parochial administrators and associate pastors in the Rockford Diocese. His first assignment right after ordination was St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Crystal Lake, IL as one of the Parochial Vicars (Associate Pastor). He was assigned in the summer of 2006 by Most Reverend Thomas G. Doran, Bishop of Rockford as Parochial Vicar at St. John Neumann Catholic Church and was tasked to teach theology at St. Edward’s Catholic School. On March 13, 2009, Bishop Thomas G. Doran appointed Fr. Pajarillo as Parochial Administrator of Saint Rita Catholic Church in Aurora, IL. Born in Laguna, Philippines, Pajarillo, Jr. was raised in Marikina, Metro Manila. He received a degree in Sacred Theology from the Universitas Pontificia Urbaniana in the Vatican and a Master’s Degree in Divinity from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, according to his bio. Aside from serving as parochial vicar at St. John Nuemann Church, he also teaches Morality and Church History at Marian Central Catholic High School. According to his bio, Pajarillo enjoys building computers and communicating around the world with his radio transmitters. One of the first things he did upon arriving in the US was to secure an amateur radio operator’s license, which the FCC granted him after passing the required examinations.

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Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Fr. Alex Aclan Pastor of St. Madeleine Catholic Church, Pomona

Giving in to the ‘Hounds of Heaven’ By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

I boldly asked Fr. Alex what makes him realize God exceeds science. His response was persuasive: “It is the experience. I cannot show empirical data. I know what I am feeling is authentic, it is true.” He was 12 years old when he first heard God’s calling. It was his second year in Don Bosco High School in Makati when one summer, their class went to a seminary in San Fernando, Pampanga on a field trip. Curious, he pulled himself away from the group. He stayed to look at the dorm, the study hall, and felt an inner longing: “ I want to be here. “ He calls it as “The Hounds of Heaven.” The desire stayed strong, as he remained active in church with his parents, Geronimo, a pilot for Philippine Airlines and Emerciana, a housewife; his two brothers, Teodoro and Renato; and five sisters, Rosa, Corazon, Elena, Teresita and Susan. After all, their house and the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Makati shared a common perimeter fence. But like other parents concerned about his future, Geronimo and Emerciana encouraged him to get a degree and to have a career. He got a degree in Bachelor’s of Science in Medical Technology from the University of Santo Tomas. There, he became a tenured instructor for the sciences: chemistry, botany, physiology, hematology and microbiology. One summer vacation, he applied to become a computer programmer at Meralco. He was later promoted as a systems manager. He then moved to Summa Computers, FNCB Finance, and San Miguel Corporation. But, the Hounds of Heaven got louder. When he moved to the US, he was hired as a systems analyst at Union Bank. Two years later, he became a systems manager overseeing 6 employees and a budget of $1,000,000. By now, he 50 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

had knowledge in the biological and physical sciences, computer sciences, including the design work that went into computers, the use of logic, creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills. The Hounds of Heaven got even louder. He credits his church’s group in the US for introducing him to a serious process of discernment. At first, he gave the discernment process only part of his attention. It came to a point that to give it justice, he had to make a decision: “Should I pursue this part-time, work at a bank full-time or pursue this in a seminary full-time?” He applied at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and pursued a Master’s of Divinity at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. After five years, he completed his Master’s of Divinity and passed background checks and psychological exams. He was ordained as a priest in 1993 by Cardinal Roger Mahony, at age 42. The Hounds of Heaven have now been heard. He became an associate priest of St. Finbar, and started a Filipino ministry, which continues, even after 17 years. I asked him the process he took to establish the ministry. Like any systems-oriented analyst, he responded: “ First, identify the leaders. Organize a gettogether, and assign them. The key is to involve them in the parish for invariably, their talents would be found and they will like being in the ministry. Their various tasks included giving sacraments, going to the choir, doing the apostolic work amongst the poor, the sick and doing door-to-door visitation amongst the parishioners. “ He became the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, while residing at Immaculate Heart of Mary, and worked with teenagers for three years. He then became the Associate Pastor St. John of God in Norwalk, and organized the Filipino ministry. He started a bereavement ministry to support the beginning experiences, a theme of respect for life, for the widows, widowers, and family members who lost their loved ones. He was the Spiritual Director of the Filipino Cursillo group in 2009-2010 and served for five years, as the Archdiocesan Liaison for Filipino Charismatic Groups. He is currently the Regional Vocations Director for the San Gabriel Region for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. To those interested in becoming a priest, call (213) 637-7248 or visit their website is www. lavocations.org. He is the pastor for St. Madeleine Church, which runs a preK to high school program, along with active ministries in faith formation, liturgy and spirituality, youth and hospitality. He actively coordinates with pastors of Sacred Heart Church in Pomona, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pomona, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and the Felecian Sisters of the Southwest, Rio Rancho in New Mexico, in providing professional counseling services to low income families in Pomona and surrounding cities. In 2009, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that “St. Madeleine Catholic School and Pomona Catholic High School partner[ed] to open Pomona Valley Catholic Middle School and St. Madeleine Early Childhood Education Program. “We really feel this is the way to give people in the Pomona Valley (a means) to give their children a Catholic education,” said the Rev. Alex Aclan. Fr. Alex Aclan continues to be optimistic, serving as a priest for 17 years now, even while surrounded by drive-by shootings and joblessness. He works tirelessly with citizens who are actively engaged in creating a more just society through various congregations, schools, unions, non-profits who believe in exercising their relational powerto advocate for more responsive city council, a better quality of life, and the delivery of municipal services that take into account the citizens of Pomona, through One Los Angeles. “Communal reflection emphasizes that our sins affect others and our reconciliation is with the community as well as with God,” he said.

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Fr. Albert S. Carreon Resident Priest, Assumption Church

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Six decades of being God’s vibrant servant By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“Give us patience, faith, and charity to minister to those who do the dirty jobs of planting the haciendas, trimming the trees, harvesting [fruits and vegetables] in the hot sun, that we may pass laws honoring their dignity as human beings. Let us not treat them as second-class citizens, but, like every immigrant, who came before

from England, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, and all those who came to America, a nation of immigrants, these [undocumented immigrants] are also worthy of their own path to progress. Let us treat them as equals, as our Christian brothers and sisters, with dignity in our words and practice.” - Fr. Albert S. Carreon, 2011. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 51

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

Fr. Albert S. Carreon is 88 years old. He is vibrant and steadfast in his commitment to the poor, the sick and the immigrant community. He converses fluently in Spanish with parishioners who come to his office. It is only 9am, but his schedule is on overdrive: a Spanish television interview, a mass, an interview with Asian Journal, a seminar for those seeking sobriety through their faith, and a visit to the sick. He has ministered to the Philippine president, Philippine ambassador and lepers in Tala Leprosarium. He has served as faculty in Manila, Rome and Mexico, a cultural attaché to the embassy, a defender to couples seeking annulment and a negotiator/leader who worked with Senator Harry Reid for immigrant rights. Yet, he remains close to Hispanics, referring to his special ministry of teaching sobriety by renewing one’s closeness to God. He believes that the undocumented must be given a legal path to work and be responsible taxpayers, hence he advocates for the bracero program. “After a track record of obeying US laws for three years, they can get a green card and later, citizenship,” he said. He shared this collective perspective (gathered from his faith community — a 2,000 person-strong rally in Nevada) with Sen. Harry Reid. This is humane public policy, he added, but he does not believe in amnesty for those who should be deported because they committed crimes. He assisted a thousand refugees during the Reagan years to acquire legal papers, particularly those who fled the civil war in El Salvador. He heard God’s calling in fifth grade, as an altar boy. During that time, he won the Central Meycawayan Singing Contest and a zarzuela director, who watched him sing, cast him in a three-act play, called Batis ng Kaligtasan (Fountain of Salvation). He traveled and performed with the cast, in all the provinces of Luzon. That public exposure got him a scholarship to Colegio Serafico San Francisco del Monte, where he studied Humanities, Latin and Spanish. He was initiated to the Franciscan order. When WW II broke on Dec. 8, 1942, the Franciscans disbanded and students were sent home. He stayed in San Carlos Major Seminary in Mandaluyong, and studied logic. Later, he got admitted to the Novitiate of the Dominican Order in Lingayen, Pangasinan. After the war, he studied philosophy and theology in Hongkong. He was ordained a priest of the Dominican order on Sept. 21, 1951. He got assigned pastor in the UST chapel and he served as the chaplain of North General Hospital. He took his MA degree in UST and wrote “The Metaphysical Analysis of the Documents about Ecclessiastical View of Nationalism,” which he defended successfully to an examination panel of professors and student body. He got a summa cum laude qualification. He taught forensic medicine in Maryknoll (now Miriam College). He became the chaplain to the family of President Ramon Magsaysay. As the President’s chaplain, he traveled with him and together, they went to Leyte to celebrate the anniversary of the Fall of Leyte. After that, the President headed for Cebu, while Fr. Albert went to Bukidnon. Had he not joined the bishops, he would have had the same fate as President Ramon Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash on his way to Cebu. He was sent to Rome and studied for a year at Angelicum University. There he met John Paul II, who was in his senior year. In Rome, he was the Ecclesiastical Advisor to Ambassador 52 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

Jose Delgado in the Vatican. Given that he is fluent in Spanish, he gained access to the Vatican Library and read the Vatican memos which ordered the Spanish clergy in the Philippines to cede control and form a native clergy. The Spaniards did not comply with the memos. After he studied in Rome, he became Letran’s Dean of High School and Principal in Manila. He was involved in the Filipinization of the Spanish Dominicans, separating the Spaniards from the Filipinos. Monsignor Leonardo Legaspi became its first vicar — the first Filipino rector of UST. This is, perhaps, the first implementation of Rome’s prior edict. He taught in the Studium Generale of The Dominicans in Mexico and became the Master of Novices. He became a faculty member of the National University of Mexico and the University of Motolinia, and the head of the department of moral and psychiatry department of Clinica Prima Vera, an orthopedic hospital. He took his Ph.D. — majoring in psychology in the Jesuit University of Mexico. His dissertation was “The PassionLove, according to St. Thomas Aquinas.” He was chosen as the representative of the Cardinal in Mexico and addressed the Congress of the Christian family movement. Here, he gave a memorable speech: “A good nation is built on a well-educated family in morality, spirituality, fidelity and faith. When parents are educated in these values of morality and spirituality, they pass on these values to their children, and they teach by words and deeds their own examples of harmony, fidelity and faith. If the parents are not educated in morality and spirituality, what values do they transmit to the family? After all, a marriage is a commitment of mature people to build a community of life and love with children. ” His speech caught the attention of Philippine Ambassador Octavio Maloles, who asked him to succeed Horacio dela Costa (a Jesuit scholar) as the cultural attaché of the Philippine Embassy, a position which Fr. Carreon held for 9 years. In the seventies, he was assigned to the diocese of GalvestonHouston, Texas. The Bishop assigned him to a new parish, with a base of 300 families. There was no church to hold the mass. He visited all 300 families in their homes to be able to evangelize them. He convinced them to worship at a nearby school. He organized them into a community and asked them to support the building of a new church. He looked for a terrain that the church could be built on. With the raised funds, he bought 9 acres for $100,000. The community lent him more support, one farmowner donated a barn that was converted to a social hall, with converted floors to use as a skating rink for young teens and for bingo/dances they held. He secured a loan from the Diocese, and they extended him $274,000. His architect friend designed the church. Fr. Albert became the founding pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Galveston-Houston, which still stands today. He also founded the Knights of Columbus and the Spanish Cursillo. After 20 years of being the founding parish priest, he was given medical retirement and sought treatment for his ailment in California. Though he is retired now, he has not slowed down. He works everyday, going where the need is greatest. As we parted, he gave me his business card and said, “ I like you to be my friend. Remember that our Lord was an immigrant to Egypt.” He then blessed me, and said this prayer for me: “Jesus, please change the hearts of men/women, only you can do it, so they are conscious that they are always loved, not hated.”

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Rev. Engelberto G. Gammad J.C.D.

Adjutant Judicial Vicar Diocese of San Jose, California: Tribunal

By Cynthia de Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Engelberto Gammad was ordained in the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao on May 24, 1984. He served as a pastor in two parishes in Cagayan from 1985 to 1995. He was sent by his bishop to study at the University of Navarre in Spain where he earned his licentiate degree in Canon Law in 1997. Later, he enrolled at the Faculty of Canon Law of the University of Salamanca in Spain where he obtained his degree Doctor of Canon Law in 2001. With the permission of his local ordinary, Fr. Gammad embarked for a pastoral ministry in the Diocese of San Jose in California as a Parochial Vicar in the Parish of the Holy Family in San Jose, CA (2005-2007) and in the Parish of St. Clare in Santa Clara, CA (2007-2008). He was appointed Adjutant Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of San Jose in April 2008. His areas of Ministerial Training/Experience are in Parish, National / Diocesan Administration, Post Graduate Education, and Hospital Chaplaincy. He has been serving in the United States for nine years. Fr. Gammad graduated with several degrees: Bachelor of Arts (1980), Licentiate in Philosophy (1980), Bachelor in Sacred Theology (1983), Licentiate in Canon Law (1997), and Doctorate in Canon Law (2001). The seminaries and schools he has attended are: San Jacinto Seminary, Tuguegarao City (1970-1975), UST Central Seminary, Manila (1976-1984), Universidad de Navarra, Spain (1995-1997), and Universidad de Salamanca, Spain (1997-2001). Fr. Gammad is presently working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of San Jose, California. He works as a full-time judge of the Tribunal and sits as a member of the Priests’ Council of the diocese. He also acts as the Presiding Judge of the Tribunal of Second Instance for matrimonial cases from the Diocese of Oakland, CA and the Diocese of Honolulu, HI. He speaks English, Spanish, Tagalog, Ilocano, Ibanag and Itawes.

Bishop Randolph Calvo

Pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Redwood City By Cynthia de Castro / AJPRESS

Reverend Randolph R. Calvo was born on August 28, 1951 in Agana, Guam. He is the seventh and youngest child of Maria Guadalupe and Ricardo Calvo, both deceased. His family moved to San Francisco in 1957, where he attended local schools. He received his Master in Divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, California, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco on May 21, 1977. He was ordained as the seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Reno on February 17, 2006. After serving in two parishes as parochial vicar, he was sent to study canon law in Rome. In 1986, he received a doctorate in canon law from the University of St. Thomas. From 1987 to 1997, he headed the canon law department as judicial vicar of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He was elected and served as president of the Canon Law Society of America in 1996, a professional association based in Alexandria, Virginia. Since July 1, 1997, he has been the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Redwood City, California, a culturally diverse and multi-ethnic community. In addition to these assignments, he has served as a member of the Archdiocesan College of Consultors, the Council of Priests, the Priest Personnel Board, the Stewardship Council, the Independent Review Board, the Board of Trustees of the Roman Catholic Welfare Corporation, and the Board of Trustees of St. Patrick’s Seminary. He has been dean of the southern San Mateo County Deanery, a lecturer in Pastoral Studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary and an instructor for the Institute on Matrimonial Tribunal Practice at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 53

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

Fr. Albert H. Avenido Priest Minister of St. Stephen’s Church in Monterey Park

Boundless in love and joy By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“Ayaw niya ng pwede na iyan. Gusto niya ang the best. Napakasarap to offer ourselves as we have the honor that we are one of His chosen.” [He does not settle for mediocrity. He wants the best. It is gratifying ….] - Fr. Albert Avenido, 2011 His quotes animate his life’s mission. Being a priest requires a person’s 4H’s: “one’s head to give to your studies, to understand issues that go beyond tithing; one’s heart to tend to concerns, one’s health to sustain service, one’s holiness to be like Him, and one’s sense of humor. He adds a fifth: “Kaloob ng Diyos is excellence.” We attended mass on Sunday, May 1 at Divine Mercy. It was also Labor Day and the second Sunday of Easter at St. Stephen’s Church in Monterey Park. The attendees were a diverse, multicultural group. The congregation extended themselves to new members, with smiles and handshakes. Flor, a parishioner for 30 years, shared “ I enjoy Fr. Albert’s personal friendliness to come to the school, he is willing and easy to get along.” Irene, a wife of a deacon, said “ I love Fr. Albert’s spirit, his enthusiasm, and his reverence for the Sacraments.” An Indonesian community leader, Soeriami spoke of how accessible Fr. Albert is. As the Archdiocese’s moderator, he convenes the Filipino ministry — an umbrella organization which unifies different parishes around cultural events, relief efforts on disasters, Sinulog and Pilgrimages to Marian Shrines in the Philippines, novena masses and even fundraising concerts. Fr. Albert is also part of the steering committee of the National Association of Filipino priests, convened by Very Reverend Vic Dela Cruz, a Judicial Vicar, under the leadership of Bishop Oscar Solis. Consul General Mary Jo Aragon describes Fr. Albert’s smile as enough to lift her spirits up. Indeed, Fr. Albert’s cheerful and gregarious personality is infectious. While he was an associate pastor of St. Michael’s and

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Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Diocesan Social Action Director of Zambales, Philippines, he advocated for the clean up of toxic waste left in the US bases. He witnessed the untoward health effects among the residents there. He participated in a lobbying visit to US Congress, along with Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity, to bring this compelling need to the American legislators’ awareness. Even as he cared for the poor families who lived near the railroad tracks in the Philippines, Fr. Albert developed their potentials in economic self-reliance, by facilitating them to learn the technology of shrimp chip production, and arranging for their sales in a nearby school cafeteria, and assembling flip flop rubber slippers. He has also been assigned to different parishes in California: St. Bernardine of Siena, Mary Star of the Sea, St. Pancratius, Port of Oakland, Archdiocesan’s Filipino Ministry, and St. Stephen’s. Each assignment taught him to relate with different cultures and to inspire them to care for the vulnerable and the poor. In one parish, he led relief efforts for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy — 400 plus balikbayan boxes were coursed through the Philippine Consulate. In another, he led parishioners in giving food and warm clothing for the folks at skid row during LA’s harsh winters. His love for the poor is anchored on witnessing the good example set by his 70-year-old mother Amelita who cared for those with Down Syndrome. He believes that the poor has the potential to help themselves. It is Fr. Albert’s infectious joy and boundless love for people that uplift their spirits and inspire them to become the best that they can be.

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Rev. Santos “Sunny” Castillo Saint Dominic Church in Bolingbrook, IL

A ray of sunshine to his parishioners By Cynthia de Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Santos Castillo is serving the Lord at Saint Dominic Church, 440 East Briarcliff Road, Bolingbrook, IL 60440. Known to friends and family as Fr. Sunny, this young and good-looking priest truly lives up to his name with his cheerful and sunny disposition. Born in Candon City and raised in Manila, Fr. Sunny received the early signs of his vocation by being named after a Benedictine monk from Ilocos Sur - Abbot Santos Rabang, OSB. He started pursuing this glimpse of a vocation by entering the formation program of San Pablo Seminary in Baguio City, finishing a degree in philosophy. He decided to leave

formation, and ventured into gaining more experience in the workaday world. He became a philosophy teacher at the University of Baguio and Saint Louis University, and later, at the Ateneo de Manila University. Fr. Sunny also earned his living by cohosting a children’s show on ABS-CBN, and doing commercial modeling with Cosmopolitan Manila. After receiving an MA in Philosophy at the Ateneo, he decided to return to the priesthood track. He was accepted for a sponsorship by the Diocese of Joliet-in-Illinois, and entered into the theology program of University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary,

and was ordained a priest in 2004. He has since been assigned to three parishes as parochial vicar - St. Mary Immaculate (Plainfield), St. Michael (Wheaton) and St. Dominic (Bolingbrook). In the past six years of his priestly ministry, he has also been involved in mission activities (Bolivia, Philippines and CHWC), online ministry (hapipadi on youtube), poetry (published two books) and pilgrimages (Fatima-Lourdes, Holy Land, Italy). Presently he has a growing interest in monastic spirituality. Fr. Sunny has served in the US for six years now and presently working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Joliet.

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Serving the church of the United States of America

FR. CAMILO PACANZA of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

Finding God’s passion and poetry in his life’s journey By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“When I learned to write stories in the hearts of man, I stopped writing them on paper.” - Rev. Fr. Camilo Pacanza Fr. Camilo “Miloy” Pacanza refers to himself as Bertong Butones — a take on Brad Pitt’s role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is a movie about an old man who gets younger, as he gains years. In one of his homilies, Fr. Miloy shared: “Out of obedience, I came. I am now in a rebirth, growing old is growing young in reverse. Mahilig tayong maglagay ng patapos: Ayoko na. Hanggang dito lang ako. Yet, there are only beginnings with God. Fr. Rodel opened up a new awareness for me. Though I went through a lot of suffering, though I could have been a journalist, an architect, even an actor at age 30, I was really destined to be a priest. What will it offer me?, I asked. It is not about gifts, not about what I want, but about what God wants me to do. America is now my new home, where friendships blossom and Sacredness settles in.” To the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church’s choir members, Fr. Miloy is a priest of many talents. To Fr. Rodel he is a gifted editor, a writer, an interior designer, an aspiring singing priest in Hollywood and the one who decorates IHMC at Easter and Christmas. As much as he is a man of the arts, he was groomed by Divine Providence to become a man of theology. His love for reading started at an early age. At six years old, he retrieved Reader’s Digest from the uptown’s household trash left on the sidewalks. Uptown trash was the source of his treasures and a vibrant dream: to see the Oberammergauer Passion Play. His life was (and continues to be) an unraveling of miracles. “When I was in third year high school in Catbalogan, Samar, my brothers and sisters, who promised to send me back to the city, conveniently forgot about me. They got married instead,” he narrated. He accepted every job opportunity he could find — a household help who did cleaning, marketing, cooking and washing clothes for free board and lodging. He went to San Jose Seminary and another opportunity opened for him — to take the

national exam for seminarians. The rector did not allow him to take the exam. But, John Schumacher, who conducted the exam personally, asked him to take it. He met John while he worked as a housekeeper, preparing beds and cleaning rooms. He landed the #7 spot for full scholarship, which got him to the Ateneo. He got on the Dean’s List and finished Pre-Divinity Studies, minor in education and mass communication. To support his theological studies, he taught at Maryknoll high school. But, he took a detour, as he doubted that his passions could be tamed inside the seminary. He carried bales of fish in the port, from 8am to 3pm. He earned a quarter each day, enough to buy him coffee and breakfast. He lived with the urban poor settlers, they all took turns sleeping in a closet-sized room. He formed a community theater and taught the barrio folks how to sing. He also learned to play the guitar. He produced passion plays, including designing the stage props and costumes. He then decided to go back to the seminary and focused on theology. He was ordained on July 12, 1981. By this July, he will be celebrating 30 years as a priest. “I have done more with little chances. Poverty awakened all my dreams. Poverty is not an ending – it opens opportunities,” he said. While Fr. Miloy had hardships, he took every opportunity to hone his talents, including designing furniture and mausoleums. Little did he know that God was preparing him to make his dream come true. The turning point came when Pope John Paul organized an international retreat for 5,000 priests. Fr. Miloy was chosen as one of the 500 priests from the Philippines, the only priest from his diocese, to attend it in Rome. His bishop initially did not permit him to leave. But, he acted as if he was going. He worked through his travel papers and while at the embassy, he met the priest organizing the international retreat, who

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Photo courtesy of Fr. Camilo Pacanza

encouraged him to go. Fr. Miloy persuaded his bishop, who finally gave him his blessing. He raised $1,000, which at that time was Php 60,000. He raised it by helping friends design furniture and mausoleums. On June 6, 1989, his dream came true. He went to Colegio Filipino in Rome and offered to work as a part-time telephone operator. He slept at bus and train stations. He visited churches and cathedrals on the way to Germany, and subsisted on $10 a day. He visited Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Amsterdam, Israel and even witnessed the bringing down of the Berlin Wall. He hitchhiked while in Jerusalem and extended his European trip to also include the US and be reunited with his sisters. He travelled the Junipero Serra’s route. He documented the California mission churches, as well as those found in San Antonio, Texas. When he got to Germany, he could not get tickets to see the play. He was not about to give up. As divine providence would have it, he went to a store that was closed. The storeowner, who happened to be one of the performing actors, noticed Fr. Miloy. Unbeknowst to Fr. Miloy, the store owner called the ticket stand and instructed Fr. Miloy to go back there, even though it was still closed to the public. He got his ticket to see the play and he was filled with joy. Fr. Miloy’s hair is now salt and pepper hair, but he ages in reverse — he gains more youthful years, humbled that he found his second home in IHMC. God must want him to be at IHMC, which is about to undergo a structural renovation for its jubilee in 2012. Who best to help oversee this House of God, its renovation, than God’s hand-chosen “architect and designer,” who sacrificed and travelled to see God’s passion play in Munich, Germany 22 years ago? What a fitting circle for Fr. Miloy, to be at IHMC, and to witness its jubilee celebration in 2012, where each year, the parishioners stage the most invigorating and inspiring passion play!

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Fr. Adrian M. San Juan Assisting Priest of Divine Saviour Parish

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Discovering God’s presence in his life

By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“When God calls you, He finds ways. God speaks to where I am. If I don’t have the forest within, I will complain. But, discovering that this is the right tree, the right assignment, I am in the heart of the encounter, I am in a life of prayer, I am living a life of authenticity.” - Fr. Adrian M. San Juan, 2011. During Pope John Paul II’s Papal visit to Manila in January 1995 for World Youth Day, Fr. Adrian was in San Carlos Seminary pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy. The Pope shook his hands. As he looked into his eyes, he felt “God shaking his soul, experiencing awe and something divine.” The Pope gave him a white rosary, like pearls, with a papal cross and an insignia, “Totus Tuus,” [All is Yours, Oh Mary]. It became his prized possession, until he lost it while on an apostolic mission in a housing village. That papal visit was seared in his memory. This writer felt compelled to shake Fr. Adrian’s hand, hoping to imbibe the Pope’s holiness when he touched his hand. It felt more than an ordinary handshake — a connection based on adulation to God. On May 1, 2011, Pope John Paul II got beatified, the third step towards the process of being canonized a saint. Discovering God’s presence I asked him how he finds God daily. He said it’s more about God finding him, as he ministers and speaks to a Hispanic congregation. While he was in the seminary, he was not aware of the importance of learning Spanish, only to find himself using it often. In San Carlos, he completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Classical Philosophy. He described the Hispanic culture with appreciation. “I discover their beliefs, their values and their interiority, a spirituality that allows them to completely trust me. It is beautiful and no wonder they grow, because they are so open. This is where God finds me, in the midst of my congregation who at times ‘feel least, lost and last,’ yet I find them continuously growing, and their growth has

helped and changed me as a person and as a priest.” He shared how he keeps his inner life open, quiet and still, to hear God’s voice. At night, he reflects upon the Gospel for the next day and imagines himself actively participating in the context of the passage. “I put myself into the scene of the Gospel,” a contemplation of the Gospel in silence.” His father died when he was 8 years old. “I saw my mother’s deep trust in God, crying, pouring out her heart to the Lord, questioning and complaining.” Seeing her transformed from “a weeping widow to a fired-up Cursillo leader with so much energy to be of service,” he said, gave him the impetus to consider priesthood. His mother objected at first — after all, she just lost her spouse. But, with Msgr. Eppie Castro’s intercession, who headed a laid back parish that later became active and where they worshipped, his mother reluctantly allowed him. He continued his theological formation in San Jose Seminary, Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. While on his third year, he got severe stomach pains which lasted beyond 24 hours. When he went for a check-up, a biopsy and a CAT scan revealed he had Stage 2 testicular cancer, similar to Lance Armstrong’s. He had to go through five days every two weeks of chemotherapy for six months. Although he felt very sick and nauseous, his body responded. Still, he worried if he would be to complete his academic formation. Special arrangements were made for him: take-home assignments, online exams. On March 20, 2004, he was ordained as one of

Photo courtesy of Fr. Adrian M. San Juan

then Archbishop, now Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales’ first priests of the new Archbishop of Manila, succeeding Cardinal Jaime L. Sin. Thereafter, he was also declared cancer-free. To this day, he continues to be cancer-free and considers these miracles as God’s work, to which he is profoundly grateful! While Fr. Adrian was assigned at the Immaculate Conception Parish as parochial vicar and at Manila Cathedral School as campus minister for five years in Tayuman, Tondo, Manila, Cardinal Rosales asked him to pursue his Master of Arts in Educational Management at Pasig Catholic College. He launched anti-corruption programs among young students, who were apathetic at first but soon after, became young leaders. He organized educational assistance programs for poor but deserving students, benefiting 15 a year. He believes that scholarships must be provided as incentives to students with merit by securing funds from the school budget, from benefactors in Manila and from US donors. He applied to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, so he can be with his family who already settled in LA. He concludes: “My life, my priesthood, is always where God is in control. God always teaches me to trust, to be trusting even in the midst of the unknown. The unknown challenges me to know myself more and knowing who God is for me.” He understood that it is God who plans for his life — much bigger than even he himself could ever imagine. He now ministers to a mostly Hispanic congregation and to its school, Divine Saviour, with a student population of 109 and whose motto is: “creating disciples who transform the world.”

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Serving the church of the United States of America

Fr. Tony Astudillo Pastor of St. Lorenzo Ruiz Church

His true calling By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“We are the bell stand, we are the tree, sometimes we are the prince, sometimes we see ourselves as the woodcarver, sometimes we even evaluate how much wood we have carved, we forget about the tree-giving us life, the God within us all.” - Fr. Tony Astudillo on the Woodcarver Tale, a Taoist Tale quoted by Parker Palmer Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

I sat down to do an interview with Fr. Tony, and the Taoist tale on the woodcarver. It was an inspiring hour. He described his take on the tale, sharing insights about his life. “Two things I know: first, my life is about my relationship with God. Second, life is all about relationships. Relationships are nourished by storytelling, with feelings. We become poorer because we are poorer in story –telling, praying and relationships-building.” He then said that you work through life, not with the images that you see, but beyond what you see — the potentials of the moments. It is about bringing faith home. He then likened it to what he appreciates most about the Jewish faith — that rituals and celebrations are done at home. “What could be so wrong if we kiss each other, bless our children and say, May God bless and protect you till we see each other? You remember the past, but you make the past, the present, in memory of God. The more we become, the more we are the church, re-imagining… Creation was good, but, recreation is redemption, and we do have to do our part, if God made the world in 7 days, our part to do things in His memory, begins on the 8th day,” he quipped. Universal Church Sheperd In the Apostolic–Vicariate of BontocLagawe’s website, “a vicariate that ministers

to 11 Ifugao, and 10 Mountain Province Catholic missions,” they reported that Fr. Tony Astudillo donated cash and 14 balikbayan boxes to the victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng — to those heavily affected in Cainta, Taytay and Marikina. He also went to Teng-ab Bontoc with his parishioners, and handed over cash and 43 balikbayan boxes. At an early age, Fr. Tony already knew that he had a calling for the priesthood. He credits his parents as the source of unconditional support. Each Sunday, their family of 11 attended Mass, occupying an entire pew. Two rules of his father were absolute: “All must attend Mass and must eat Sunday breakfast.” After Mass, Fr. Tony would run home to stack up footstools as a makeshift altar. As the family arrived, he blessed them, “Dominus pobiscum.“ One time, his brother was in a rush to eat, because he was hungry. But, his father stopped him: “Can you not have the patience for your brother to finish his mass?” At age 14, he joined the seminary. Ten years he became a priest, then, at 27, a pastor of a cathedral in Abra, and 3 years later, its Vicar General. Because of his position, he became acquainted with mayors, governors,

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provincial commanders. “I drank power and power consumed me,” he said. He learned that “when we judge ourselves, we miss our relationship with God.” He left the country when Marcos detained those who stood for truth and justice. He spoke about almost losing his vocation when he went abroad, but his mentors Msgr. Clement Connolly, Bishop Joseph Sartoris and Bishop Rudy Beltran guided him. He thanked all his parishioners for their support. God’s project was not encumbered by man-made constraints. At the height of recession, in a year’s time, the new church was completed in Sept. 26, 2010. 400 folks honored Fr. Tony’s 38th year anniversary as a priest, and their new House of God, Gate of Heaven – their Church of Stone. Bishop Solis joined the celebration: “Fr. Tony is a Living Stone, a Brother Priest, a Man of God who built this Church of Stone. May you have many more years of service, of ministry to St. Lorenzo Ruiz as its pastor and also to the universal church, as a faithful servant of the Lord,” he said. Bishop Solis is now a regional bishop and chairs the Asian Pacific Committee within USCCB. Fr. Tony got reappointed to a second 6-year term as pastor of St. Lorenzo Ruiz Church.

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Fr. Alvin Villaruel Pastor for the Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA

Destined for the priesthood By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

For Father Alvin M. Villaruel, it took three near-death experiences for him to realize God’s gift of life and hear his calling. “I believe in miracles,” he said. “Miracles remind us of the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, guiding us and leading us to fulfill God’s will in our lives. Three successive car accidents shook me up, challenging my complacency, which led to a greater appreciation of God’s gift of life; and with that insight a realization that I was living a borrowed life. “Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I began the journey of discerning what God wanted me to do with my new life,” he said. It was this epiphany that led Villaruel to the church. Villaruel is a pastor serving in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California. He is also the chaplain, Theology Department chair, campus minister and religion teacher at Cardinal Newman High School. Originally from Manila, Philippines, Villaruel is a graduate of Manila Science High School and received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at Adamson University, Manila before heading to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He was ordained at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Napa on October 23, 1994. Choosing to dedicate a life to God is often a difficult choice. Villaruel said as a sophomore at Manila Science High School is when he first felt the “nudge” to become a priest. “But the attraction and excitement of pursuing a career and exploring of what the world had to offer made me set aside the initial call to the priesthood,” he said. He went to school and graduated. He may have put off that initial call but the signs to follow God kept coming up. Finally, he couldn’t ignore it anymore. He asked God to give him one more sign, a dove.

“Little did I know that my very specific demand and unusual request, for one dove to fly real close to my face and to look directly into my eyes, was going to change my life forever,” he said. “On eve of the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, I received the dream. However, the sign was more intense than I expected because I was not given one but rather millions of them coming out of what appeared to be a host on the ground in a beautiful garden while a person dressed in dazzling white was pointing at it. “I experienced the most peaceful feeling of knowing that a clear sign has been given to me by God,” he added. “The following day, after morning mass, I talked to a priest friend to begin the journey that had led me to where I am today.” Although his parents were against it at first, they soon accepted his decision to go to seminary school. “Once they realize the authentic joy I was experiencing, they supported me all the way,” he said. Since being ordained, Villaruel has served as acolyte and transitional deacon at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Napa, California. In 1996, he became a high school chaplain at Cardinal Newman High School. Most recently, the school recognized him for 15 years of dedicated service. He also served briefly as Assistant Vocation Director for the Diocese of Santa Rosa. He said the greatest thing about being a priest is being able to serve God and his work. “Being a priest, I am able to be graced by the most important and greatest miracle of all: the transformation of ordinary bread and wine into the real Body and Blood of Christ,” he said. “The Holy Sacraments have allowed me to be with God’s people during their most challenging, as well as, joyful moments. For the young people I serve, I have become a source

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of healing and inspiration as they grow in maturity of faith. To be able to serve the poor and vulnerable, in my capacity as an ordained minister, is a very humbling experience; always being reminded that our call is to ‘wash the feet’ of others, in humble obedience to Christ’s call to follow him. I have always believed that the priesthood is not a step up into a position, but rather a step down into service.” Villaruel has also served in several missions, many of them helping the Philippines. One mission in particular that is dear to his heart is the Y.E.S. or Youth Empowerment and Stewardship. He said the mission started as a response to the elimination of youth violence in the local Santa Rosa community but has evolved into an annual project for his students at Cardinal Newman to do a form of gift giving in the Philippines for the poor and needy. He also said for the past eight years, he has traveled with students to the Philippines and assisted them in helping the poor and needy in the country.

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“Our latest connection is with Bukid Kabataan, which is a hospice for abused children and teens run by the Religious of the Good Shepherd, located in Gen.Trias, Cavite. We have worked with the indigenous people of Aklan, distributed good for poor families in Antipolo through the help of the staff of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, developed educational opportunities for underprivileged children in Iloilo and many others,” he said. “This year I have eight students who will be going to San Ildefonso Parish in Navotas to connect with the youth group and parishioners to help build houses for the 1,500 families who lost their homes due to fire.” As difficult of a decision it was for him to become a priest, Villaruel says he has no regrets. He offers these advices to those young men seeking a higher calling: Center your life in prayer and the Eucharist; follow a simple way of life; find the face of Christ in others especially the poor and vulnerable; be patient with yourself; and develop healthy relationships with people of all ages.

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Fr. Gerry Paderon

Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi in Metuchen, New Jersey By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

Father Gerard “Gerry” Paderon’s favorite time of the year is Christmas. Unlike here in the US, in the Philippines, Christmas starts in September when it’s not uncommon to hear holiday songs on the radio. “I think, our celebration of Christmas is the happiest in the world. And our celebration starts very early,” said Father Paderon in a column for the quarterly newsletter of Fox Valley FilipinoAmerican Catholic Ministry, Kalinga, in 2004. “When the ‘ber’ months arrive, it’s Christmas time. You hear the first Christmas song on the radio 12:01 in the morning of September 1. That’s the signal. Start counting, and it’s Christmas. The next day you will see houses with Christmas decors – Christmas lights, a plastic banner that says, ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’, or the face of Santa posted on the doors and looking at you.” Though the excitement level in the US is unlike the Philippines, Father Paderon does get excited during the days leading up to the Simbag Gabi, the one common Filipino Christmas tradition that has made its way to the US. Father Paderon, 44, is the parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi in Metuchen, New Jersey. Paderon was recently transferred to the over-100-year-old church last June from St. Mary Church in Alpha. Prior to his time in New Jersey, Father Paderon served in the Rockford Catholic Diocese in Illinois.

A former priest at the Diocese of Lucena, Philippines, he came to the Rockford diocese on November 2004, according to his bio. Paderon studied at Lucena Diocesan College Seminary where he eventually became a seminary professor and served as a priest in several parishes within the Lucena diocese. After 10 years, he left and began his appointment in the Diocese of Rockford. He formerly served at St. Thomas the Apostle Rectory in Crystal Lake, Illinois, before serving in New Jersey.

Rev. Mark Honesto Ursua Del Rosario

SSS Blessed Sacrament Fathers in Honolulu, Hawaii By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

Fr. Mark Del Rosario was ordained in the Diocese of Manila under the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. His areas of Ministerial Training/Experience are in the field of Parish, College Education, Post Graduate Education, and Seminary Formation. Presently working in the Diocese/Archdiocese of Honolulu, Fr. Mark has been serving in the United States for over 6 years now.

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Rev. Mauricio “Mau” O. Goloran III Pastor, St. Martha’s Catholic Church

His exuberant service to God By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“What brings me joy is knowing that the people that God has chosen for me to serve is being recognized, affirmed and supported in whatever talents, skills, and abilities they have. I don’t consider myself as a great innovator or a builder; rather, a

facilitator for anyone, for an organization or for the community in whatever they need to achieve. I try to create an environment where they can express themselves better as human beings with gifts from God.” - Rev. Mauricio O. Goloran III, 2011

Inside Fr. Mau’s office is a muscular Jesus on a crucifix, with angular textures — in shades of beige, dark brown and green. Opposite the crucifix is Joey Velasco’s painting, “ Hapag-asa,” depicting Jesus sharing bread with 12 poor children. One child is visibly malnourished, as his rib cage can be seen through his shirt. I have met Fr. Mau three times now, and in each, he is upbeat. He greets folks, first with a smile, then a statement to reach out, with his signature exuberance. He jokingly said, “ If you want, I can even write it for you.” “Huwag naman, po. It is from our dialogue together that the deeper spiritual reflections will emerge,” I said. “Lessons and learnings from the priests you meet,” he responded. Even though he was the sixth priest I interviewed for the week (driving 336 miles to Simi Valley, Van Nuys, Pomona, El Segundo, and Valinda and back) I didn’t feel tired at all, and looked forward to it. At 6 years old, Fr. Mau was telling everyone he would be a priest. The naysayers doubted and predicted many would be sad, but his mother, Lagrimas, said: “ Okay lang, sige lang.” Fr. Mau believes it was a real calling that he was responding to. His maternal grandfather entered the seminary, but WW II broke out and got married afterwards. Then Lagrimas was born, who wanted to be a nun, but got married to Mauricio, Jr. and begot Mauricio III, the eldest of 8, 5 brothers and 3 sisters. He was just a regular Sunday churchgoer with his family, who prays and leads the Angelus, never an altar server, nor has anyone inspired him or encouraged him to enter the seminary. He just knew he was would like to be a priest. After sixth grade, he entered the Queen of Apostles Seminary in Tagum, Davao, under the tutelage of the Maryknoll Fathers, where he completed high school. He had no drama, no counterforces, but got support from his parents. He finished AB-Behavioral Sciences, major in Sociology and minor in Philosophy at the Ateneo de Davao College under the tutelage of the Jesuits. He was the only one of 32 students who proceeded to Theology. After he was trained by the Maryknoll and taught by the Jesuits, he took Theological Studies at the Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao, where the Missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word (S.V.D.) tried to form him for three years. He continued his formation in Theology at the Loyola House of Studies in Ateneo de Manila University while residing in a religious community, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).

In April 10, 1984, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Pedro Dean. His first assignment was in Christ the King Cathedral in Tagum, Davao as an Associate Pastor. After a year and half, he became Pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Moncayo, Davao del Norte, where he served for six years and continued the formation of basic ecclesial communities, a.k.a Basic Christian Communities. Later on, he was appointed Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Chaplaincy in Tadeco, Panabo, Davao del Norte, where he served for seven years. He came to the USA for vacation and to help his diocese in Mission Appeals. He stayed with Fr. Henry Hernando at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and helped in serving the Filipino community. True to his promise of taking a one year vacation from parish work, he went back to his home diocese, and then sought the approval of his brother priests and the permission of his Bishop to return to the US to minister to the church of Los Angeles. Later, he was introduced to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Father Hernando and was assigned to St. Martha’s Catholic Church as an Associate Pastor for seven years. He was then appointed Associate Pastor to St. Catherine Laboure Church in Torrance for two years and was appointed Pastor of Saint Martha Catholic Church, where he remains to the present. I sensed Fr. Mau’s self-assurance and inquired as to where it might come from. He believes it is from knowing what God wants him to do at a given moment and affirming that direction by allowing God to lead him and believing that God has a design and a hand in everything for the good of the people He has chosen for him to serve. “God is the potter. I am but the clay in God’s hands. He forms me in the way He wants to shape me. I also remember what a Maryknoll nun told me: to bloom wherever I am planted. And to receive everything as gifts from God. “ It was another blessed morning, as I gained insights on the roots of Fr. Mau’s exuberant service to God and others. “ Bloom wherever you are planted,” he repeated. It so happened, I just heard that from a law school commencement speaker last May. She, too, spoke of blooming wherever you are planted, but she added: “do it with integrity, honesty and service!” Fr. Mau must know that, as he characteristically serves with a bonus of exuberant joy! The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 63

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Rev. Bishop Oscar Solis

Photo courtesy of Rev. Bishop Oscar Solis

“We see ourselves as servants, as there is only one Master. Just like the prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, we are just ministers of God, for He is our creator. When we do our tasks, [we] expand our gifts, bestowed by God, [and] we bring presence of God in our midst. So it is not

The Blessed Life of LA’s first Filipino Bishop By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

our work, it is God’s work. The talents we utilize all came from God. Whatever we produce is not for our own good [alone]. Bell stand is there to call [the] attention of the people and to remind us all about God. We are not the Master Builder. We are just the workers.” - Bishop Oscar Solis, 2011. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 65

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I have always admired the deep commitment to social justice and the spirituality of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Lo and behold, another bishop named Oscar—Bishop Oscar Solis has been a source of joy in every encounter. After travelling for an hour and forty five minutes from Lakewood to Santa Clarita, you would understand why Bishop Oscar Solis was tired. Instead, when Vilma San Buenaventura of the Filipino ministry asked him “ Bishop, is there anything else you need? “ Quick with his wit, “ Yes, a mortgage-free house and lot!” We all laughed. We were in the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Santa Clarita, which was barely two years old. We were all anticipating the baptism of Nate Jacob Lim, the first son, born to the union of Jeff Lim and Krista Ranillo-Lim. Inducting a new member into God’s family, the Church Bishop Oscar Solis spoke of the special value of Nate Jacob’s baptism. We all quickly huddled together, about 80 of us. He made us reflect on accepting our responsibilities as Christians, witnessing the induction of a new family member. To Nate’s parents he said: Accept your responsibility that only in the practice of your faith that your son will know God. Your son will learn how to love, only if he experiences it in your family. He will know God’s faith through you, in how you love your faith. It is your duty to bring him up in God’s commandments, to love God and to love his neighbors.“ 66 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

He reminded us to “carry out the tradition of the Church and to remember that God removed all our sins so we may become God’s adopted children, and He now calls on us to become part of His body, the Church.” He took the sacred oils and formed signs of the crosses on the newborn’s forehead. The parents followed, and the sponsors. Nate Jacob’s head was drenched with holy water, as his parents jointly said, “Ang sarap,” perhaps reveling in their unity to the flesh of their newborn, and the joy of becoming one with God’s family. There was a special meaning to this newborn’s baptism, as it all got us involved in prayers. The ordination of Oscar Solis as Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ first Filipino bishop I was fortunate to be able to attend as Fritz Friedman’s guest to Reverend Father Oscar Solis’s ordination as the new auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles. Two thousand Catholics (the Cathedral has 3,000 seating capacity) filled up Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, which was barely two years old, in 2004. It is a magnificent cathedral, 12 stories high. I recall sitting in the front second row, wondering why I was a witness. Could it be because I was destined to write this bishop’s story 7 years later? At the ordination, a vibrant and proud contingent of parishioners stood up. They were recognized by Bishop Solis, as they were all in the front row, along with the Bishop’s family and friends. 150 folks stood up with their young children and grandchildren.

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For some, it was their first time to travel to Los Angeles from Louisiana. Bishop Oscar offered to take care of their travel logistics. They declined. Instead, some of them came in style, alighting from rented limousines. Women wore their fascinators, wide brim hats and they all wore their fancy Sunday suits, ready to show their full support for Bishop Oscar Solis. It was touching to see this caring contingent of Caucasian and African-American folks whose presence declared that Bishop Oscar was part of their family. The homily was given by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, and Bishop’s response after Communion was delivered, in four languages: English, Tagalog, Spanish and French-Creole. I felt pride when I heard the bishop speak of being born in San Jose, Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. And I felt even bigger pride when he spoke of making diversity a vibrant feature of his term as Bishop of Los Angeles. It may have signaled a new dynamism, of making all ethnicities visible and if included, they too can provide leadership to the largest Archdiocese of Los Angeles—with more than 4 million Catholics. The multicultural leadership of Bishop Oscar Solis Under his leadership, Bishop Oscar Solis will convene and is currently organizing the first ever National Assembly of Filipino Priests in USA at the Westin Hotel from November 8 to 11, 2011. To numerologists, this conference has significance, culminating on 11-11-11. It is like winning the jackpot, a series of ones, multiplied

by itself, becomes an integer in the infinity, signifying perhaps the growth of this endeavor, with multiplier effects in synergy, solidarity, substance and spirituality. As if with grace from above, the convening committee is blessed with abundance and is well-embraced by the larger community for its efforts. It has a robust program that consist of: Emerging Models of Leadership in Ministry, Lay Ministry’s Joys and Challenges, Asian and Pacific Island Presence: Harmony in Faith-Document Revisited, Cultural Integration in Praxis, The Priests’ Role in the Public Arena: a Balancing Act, Mens Sana in Corpore Sano: Priest and Wellness, Intercultural Competencies For Mission, The Spirituality of the Filipino Priest, Liturgy in the Life and Ministry of the Priest, Specialized Ministry in Focus, Maintaining Safe Environment, Civil Procedures and Canonical Procedures and Priestly Fraternity and Ministry. Five months before the conference, 70 priests have registered, and more are expected—with about 800 Filipino priests in America. Even the definition of Filipino has expanded under Bishop Solis’ tutelage: by birth, by heritage, by cultural praxis, by choice, and those who minister to Filipino communities. It makes for a more inclusive definition of the word “Filipino.” The Bishop’s formation The Crucifix was the center of religious celebrations in the ricegrowing barrio of Santo Tomas in San Jose, Nueva Ecija. Today, the farmers still till the land and the third generation of tenant farmers The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 67

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occupy and till the land for themselves. Bishop Solis credits his parents for being supportive of his vocation. Bishop Solis heard his calling when his mom Antonia, “paved the way for him to be closer to the church. “His father, Anselmo,“ opened the development of his devotion.” He became an altar server on Sundays. To be able to serve in mass, he was encouraged to go to the minor seminary. He entered the Maria Assumpta minor seminary in Cabanatuan at age 11. He felt afraid, lonesome and homesick. “Na-miss ko ang bahay ko.” Gradually, with a packed schedule that started with a 5:15am mass and ended with an 8:30pm evening prayer, he was able to adjust. A culture of silence was imposed on him. On his fifth year in high school, he moved to Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City, and obtained his Associate in Arts degree. He went to college at Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay, earning a Bachelor’s of Arts in Philosophy, minor in languages: English, Spanish, (Greek) and Latin. He was asked to go back to the seminary to be the prefect of discipline. At 19, he was put in charge of forming the hearts and minds of 100 high school students. He left the seminary for a year, asking these questions: “Am I really for this? Is this my vocation? “ Questioning, his dad suggested he take up law. He went to Araullo Lyceum in Cabanatuan for a semester. While pursuing graduate studies in law, he felt incomplete, as if he was missing something. He went back to the seminary. Encouraged by his parents, he went to the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology as cum laude. He was ordained as a deacon in 1978, and as a priest on April 28, 1979. He pursued post-graduate courses in Oriental Religions and Cultures (a newly-opened institution back then) from 1979-1980 towards a licentiate, or MA in Oriental Religions at University of Santo Tomas. He studied various Oriental religions such as Shintoism, Zen Buddhism and Hinduism. He mingled with students from India, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand including nuns, priests and lay peoples. His chosen thesis was “ The Parallelism between Theology of Liberation (Gustavo Gutierrez et al.) and Concept of Moksha. “ He started writing his thesis but, for a second time, was preempted when he was called to serve at the Diocesan College Seminary at age 27. He multi-tasked, serving as the campus minister, dean of the College Seminary Students, member of the Priests’ Council, vocation director, and professor of philosophy and logic at the Araullo Lyceum University. From these leadership positions, he acquired skills in time management, budgets, administration and networking with academics. He assumed multiple positions of responsibility. At night, doubt crept in and he wondered if he could handle these positions adequately. He cried as he felt the weight of his enormous responsibilities. Little did he know that God had a bigger plan for him much later on. He felt exhausted. When his idealism run counter to his superiors, he took a sabbatical and visited his relatives in the United States. He joined his aunts in San Francisco and then, visited Los Angeles in 1984. He was pre-empted again. His bishop suggested that he pursue his doctorate in Canon Law in Rome. With three months to wait before going to Rome, he tried to work in a parish in Los Angeles. But, he was pre-empted a third time, foregoing Rome to become an associate pastor of St. Rocco’s Church in Union City, New Jersey, where he stayed for four years. He was then requested to go to Houma-Thibodaux, on behalf of the Diocese of Cabanatuan to conduct missión appeal. He loved 68 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

the place and was offered to exercise priestly ministry there. He came back and became an associate pastor to Monsignor Francis Amedee at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, where he served for six years. He was afforded leadership opportunities serving as a Member of the Diocesan Priests Council, Personnel Board and Vocation Council. He also became the Friar to the Knights of Columbus. He then became pastor to Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Golden Meadow for six years and became Dean of South Lafourche Deanery for two years, another two years at North Lafourche Deanery. He became the pastor at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral and St. Luke Church and served for four more years. In 2001, he became the founding Board Member to the Crossroads Pregnancy Center. At the churches, they had several programs: a Heaven’s Handyman program, with volunteer handyman doing repair work for other parishioners, including handicapped ramps, with materials donated by the community; an SOS, share our sorrows, a support group for those who lost a loved one; and gardening angels program with assigned specific spots, where the retired rich folks have specific areas of responsibilities, are encouraged to buy the plants and they are planted in the church yard. Each week, as parishioners invested more, their collections grew— until it became $15,000 a week. The parish received a bequest of $8 million from a parishioner who passed away, giving $4 million to the diocese and another $4 million to the parish, funding the school’s endowment for 700 students, K to 7th Grades. The bequest allowed the school to maintain the tuition at a low $3,200 per year. They also had more programs for the students: music, languages, band, and an after school program. While in Louisiana, he made plans to attend Loyola East Asian Pastoral Institute or pursue his doctorate degrees in Belgium or in Rome. For a fourth time, he got pre-empted. On December 1, 2003, he got a call from the Apostolic Nuncio or Papal Ambassador to the US in Washington, D.C. It was 8am, Monday morning. He thought it was a prank call from his staffer. He spoke to Archbishop Montalvo,“ You have been elected to the College of Bishops.” He became the first Filipino ordained bishop in the United States, among 5,100 bishops in the entire Catholic Church in the world, and the first Filipino bishop for 4,000,000 Catholics in Los Angeles. He served for five years as Vicar for Ethnic Ministry, three years as Director for the Office of Justice and Peace and four years as the Archdiocesan Liaison for Justice for Immigrants Campaign. He is the Regional Bishop for the San Pedro Pastoral Region, since Sept. 2009. At the larger leadership body, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is a member of the Committee on World Mission, the Committee on Evangelization, and is the current episcopal moderator for the Catholic Volunteer Network. He was appointed the first chairperson of the Subcommitee on Asian and Pacific Affairs in 2007 till 2009 and currently a member of the Subcommitte serving as the Episcopal Liaison to Filipino Priests in the United States. ‘I became part of them’ “I was new to the parish. I noticed the backyard of the church had lots of blackberries. I harvested them. I was asked by a parishioner what I was doing. I told him how I love blackberries served with vanilla ice cream and a bit of sugar. Two hours later, 2 buckets full of blackberries were left at my doorstep. I remember the simplicity of life at Our Lady of Prompt Succor. They made blackberry dumplings for me. I also ate shrimps and crawfish with them, using my hands. I wore fishermen’s boots as I washed down the church patio. I became one with and part of them.”

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“I ministered to 1,500 families, mostly fishermen, trawlers and workers who worked in the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a small parish for Cajun people. But, it was there that I learned Cajun cooking. The community knew each other and they gave each other tremendous support.” “I became a member of three leadership councils for the diocese. I remember saying, I am only a transplant, let me defer to the older priests. I was quickly corrected that I am of equal standing to them, even if younger and from the Philippines. That gave me a feeling of comfort. I was allowed by my pastor to start programs and ministries for families, children and seniors. I was very proud that at one time, I had 92 altar boys serving the diocese, and many teenagers formed the parish Catholic youth organization. It was a ministry of presence. You are there in every plane of common life of the people, their baptism, their funerals, and I became one of them,” Bishop Solis said. The Episcopal heraldic achievement, or Bishop Oscar Solis’ coat of arms, is composed of three sections. Deacon Paul Sullivan describes it: “ The arms of Bishop Solis are composed of three sections (tierced per inverted pall - an inverted ‘Y’). In the upper left section (heraldic ‘dexter’) is a silver (white) field that is charged with a blue Jerusalem cross. The four Greek crosses surrounding the joined Tau cross is associated with the mission

of the Church (and the four Gospel books) to the four corners of the world. It likewise represents the ministry of the new Bishop to bring the good news of salvation to people of all cultures. The blue Jerusalem cross also appears in the official Diocesan vestment of the Bishop’s home Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, in Louisiana. On a blue field to the right (heraldic ‘sinister’) is a garb of rice, with silver stalks and golden seeds. Representing his home province of Nueva Ecija, the “rice granary of the Philippines,” rice is also the Asian equivalent of ‘wheat,’ a common food to many including the State of Louisiana. Like wheat, rice can be transformed to many uses. The base of the shield bears a golden sunburst on a red background.” Representing the origin of the Bishop’s family name from Latin: “Sol” the center of our universe, it also refers to the SON, the center of our lives whose blood freed and saved us. At the center of the sun is an eight-pointed blue star representing the Blessed Virgin Mary in her title, “Stella Maris” (Star of the Sea). Our Lady, Star of the Sea, is the patroness of the seafaring people of Asia and the inhabitants of Louisiana whose lives and livelihood depend on the waters of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Having his first and last parish on the bayou communities of Lafourche (Golden Meadow and Thibodaux ), the Bishop has been invoking the guidance of the Our Lady, Star of the Sea, on his pastoral ministry.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 69

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Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

REV. FR. ROBERTO JARANILLA JR. Pastor, St. Joseph’s Church, Pomona, CA

Acquiring multiple fluencies to serve God! By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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“ALWAYS be open and discern God’s will for your lives. Blessed are the single hearted, for they shall see God. Saints have learned to fix their gaze on God, on heavenly treasures, not

earthly, and with their lives they are able to create, works of art by what they do. With God’s grace to ful­fill His dream for you, therein lies your deepest joys,” - Fr. Roberto Jaranilla, 2011.

Jaranilla is the name given to a little flower that grew in Spain. Inside an office of St. Jo­seph’s Church’s rectory, a plaque read: “Soar­ing High and Beyond Years” awarded to him for Excellence in Community Service to Fr. Roberto Jaranilla, Jr. I mistook it for 50 years of service and glanced at his young face. It is not possible, I told myself, until I realized it was for the 50th an­niversary of St. John’s Institute, his high school where he acquired a fluency in three languages: Mandarin, Tagalog and English. After high school, he acquired a fourth flu­ency, a BS degree in computer science at De La Salle University in Manila on a Knights of Colum­bus scholarship. He got a fifth fluency, in sports and dancing because he played basketball, table tennis and volleyball. He also became the presi­dent of the De La Salle Dance Troupe during his last year in college. After graduation, he worked for a year at Security Bank and Trust Company. While walk­ing along Ayala Avenue, and holding a banana cue (three plantains skewered and cooked in brown sugar) in his hand, he looked up to the skies and asked a rhetorical question: “Is this all to my life?“ He imagined greener pastures and decided to pursue post graduate education on a US student visa, through the sponsorship of his good uncle. He completed his Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering at West Coast Univer­sity, Los Angeles. A Personal Experience Converting Him to serve God. While completing his Master’s de­gree in Los Angeles, he mysteriously got ill. He got so weak and could not do much. He went to several doctors to obtain a diagnosis. Believ­ing he had a terminal illness, as nothing worked to rejuvenate him to wellness, he got desperate and he complained to God: “Why me?” He heard the answers, re­flected back in his thoughts: “I did not abandon you. You were the one who turned your back on me. You were not serious about your faith in college. Some­times, you went to Mass, and your prayer life was not as important as you did in high school.” It hit him hard. He got even more desperate. He kept crying and wrote his last will. But, be­cause he was brought up to believe in God, he leaned on his faith. He went to confession, daily Mass, and bought his first bible. I asked him how he got well. With such an assurance, he replied: “God accompanied me during that dark time. He led the way. I paid at­tention to God and I listened to him. Reading the bible I bought I came across Psalm 116, “The Lord rejoices over the death of his faithful.” I figured, even if my life is over, I still can give joy to God. I went to daily Mass. I heard at Mass that the whole heavenly court rejoices more over one repentant sinner than over the 99 who are already righteous. God is telling me it is okay, you can start over, as long as you repent and start a new life. I was really forced to question life: “Is there life after death?” It made me look at my faith and develop

a closer relationship to God. When I finally accepted God in my heart, I experienced a sense of peace. I became involved in the work of the Legion of Mary and I prayed the rosary with them. After prayers, it would bring me consolation and peace. Just as the ill­ness mysteriously appeared, it also mysteriously disappeared.” Was it possible that God is calling on him to serve at 24 years old? Because of this conversion experience, he considered it and went to several retreats and went to Sierra Madre with the Pas­sionist priests. He inquired about the Marian priests, and he kept praying with the Legion of Mary. After Mass, while praying the rosary with the Legion of Mary at St. John of God in Norwalk, the pastor tapped him on the shoul­ders and asked, “Would you like to be a sacristan and help set up what we need for Mass and open the church?” After a short time of serving his sacristan duties, he was again asked if he thought of becoming a priest. He was sur­prised that the associate pastor knew about his inner aspirations, as he had not shared it with him. The associate pastor asked if he already found the right girl. When he responded “not yet,” he excitedly replied, “See God is calling you. If you decide, I will help you.” God unfolds His process. A seminarian invited him to visit the St. John’s seminary in Camarillo during the summer, and he went. After this visit, he realized his de­sire got stronger and decided to apply at 25 years of age. He went through a discernment program with the Archdiocese and attend­ed monthly get-togethers with the vocation directors. He sought the permission of his mother, Be­linda and his father, Roberto, Sr. who said, “Think well before you decide,” while his prayerful mom Belinda was ecstatic. He entered at 26 years of age and acquired a sixth fluency: a Master’s degree in Divinity, af­ter five years of study. He was ordained a transitional deacon and after six months, he was or­dained a priest on June 1, 1996. He is now on his 15th year of service. He first served at Christ the King in Hollywood where he met a Filipino group, called “One Heart, One Mind,” that remains active till today. At St. Raymond, he served as an administrator. Along with the youth ministry, he organized talent shows with them. At All Souls, he served as an administrator for 10 months, until he got his assignment as a pastor at St. Joseph in 2005. He continues to serve in this church, where there are 2000 registered families and 166 school children that are in K-8th. His spiritual goals are focused on the youth ministry. He wants to start a child care program and looks forward to the assembly of Filipino priests this Novem­ber 8-11, 2011 as “we can cel­ebrate our fraternity, share our gifts with one another and share our blessings from God to the local churches in Los Angeles. I am happy as the pastor here. I have a lot of fulfillment and joy in serving God. This is the green pasture that God had in mind for me.”

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Rev. Fr. Jose Vaughn A. Banal

PhD - Pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Altadena, CA. By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

His surname is Banal, which means “holy” in Tagalog. Its antonym is prosaic. He embraces fully his origin and his holy name. His spiritual development has led him to a civil degree in philosophy from the Minor Seminary in Naga City, Philippines, to an ecclesiastical degree in theology from University of Navarre, in Pamplona, Spain and a doctorate degree in philosophy, defended before a panel of Italian – speaking priests, (his birth languages are Bicolano and Tagalog) from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He acquired fluencies in languages and cultures: English, Tagalog, Bicolano, Spanish, French, Italian and Latin. Most Reverend Benjamin Almoneda, D.D. ordained him a priest on Dec. 3, 1996, on the feast of St. Francis Xavier, in Daet, Camarines Norte. His calling to the Priesthood started when he was asked by the late Bishop Celestino Enverga, D.D., as he received his elementary school diploma: “Do you want to enter the seminary?” Without any idea of what and where the seminary was, he responded to the invitation and entered the seminary at age 12, and completed high school 4 years later. He was later sent to Pamplona, Spain to finish his studies in the Priesthood, and came back to his diocese to serve as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Daet and formator of seminarians as well. He worked with the youth and altar servers, while teaching part-time in the Holy Trinity College Seminary. After two years of pastoral ministry, he was sent to Rome for further studies. Challenged to learn Italian, he stayed at the Casa Internazionale del Clero. He was the only Filipino amongst 30 priests of various nationalities. He completed his doctorate in Philosophy, after successfully defending his dissertation, “Un’analisi del legame tra gli abiti e la libertà in S.

“WITHOUT virtues, man is not acting according to the image of God.”- Fr. Jose Vaughn A. Banal, Ph.D. Tommaso d’ Aquino.” He obtained the grade of “Summa cum laude.” He later published his work in Italian. His research study focused principally on the relationship between the created dispositions in human actions and the free exercise of such actions. In synthesis, he wanted to understand the role of freedom in moral life. What is freedom? Can one increase or diminish it? Would one be able to say that man is more or less free? What is its link with the habits? Or do habits have nothing to do with freedom? What does the exercise of freedom consist of? How can man achieve the perfection of his freedom? What is the relationship between freedom and the final end? These are the questions, whose answers he pursued in his dissertation, because, according to him, this is an actual argument of the present and of great importance for its potential contributions to culture, in general, and to the development of philosophical knowledge. After finishing his doctorate, he was assigned as Dean of Studies and taught Philosophy of Man, Ethics, History of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Latin and Spanish in Holy Trinity College Seminary for two years. With his bishop’s permission, he took a sabbatical leave that led him to a pastoral ministry in the United States. He was first assigned to St. Joseph’s Church in Pomona for three years, where as an associate pastor, he created a Filipino ministry, amongst a predominantly Latino congregation and a youth ministry developing altar servers. He later served at St. Augustine Church in Culver City, where as an associate pastor, he took charge of the Latino Ministry, led their Grupo de Oración and Bible studies. He is the current Administrator at Sacred Heart Church in Altadena, where he has revitalized this community of 2,500 Latinos, Afro-Africans, Anglos, Vietnamese,

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and Filipinos. He has organized these hard-working and highly respectful parishioners into more active members of the church. His goal is to form the Community of the Sacred Heart Church into a vibrant community of faith who believes and lives out the Word of God. He established an evangelization program in the parish to help the people understand the Church and the need of God in their lives. He believes that when the people are formed, much like he was formed as a priest, they will be more aware of the different aspects of the Church and the community will begin to grow. To end, he reflected on the Woodcarver ‘s Tale. He said that he ‘carves’ the wood based on the steering of the Holy Spirit in his life. He got the feel of the Holy Spirit from his personal prayers, from mentoring that he got from his superiors and his spiritual director, reading and reflections of the Gospel. He stressed that prayer life nurtures him, while his physical body is nurtured by exercising regularly at the gym. Likewise, he always has a positive outlook in life. He elaborated it by telling a tale about how a farm manager solved a cattle crisis. ‘According to the story, there was a drought, the grass was brown and the cows were not eating. What did he do? He put on green eyeglasses on the cows and the cows started eating the grass again!’ This anecdote helps him in shaping his view of the ‘world’ in a different and wonderful way. Above all, he allows the Divine Providence to work on his life. Looking back, he said that he did not plan on being a priest, yet he became one. He did not plan on going to Spain, yet he did. He did not plan to study in Rome, yet he finished there. Now, he is a joyful servant of the Lord – “Servite Domino in laetitia.”

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Rev. William Antillon Fr. Ariel Valencia

Associate Pastor at St. Rita Catholic Church in Rockford, Illinois By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

FATHER Ariel Valencia is a jack-of-all-trades. Currently the Associate Pastor at St. Rita Catholic Church in Rockford, Illinois, Father Valencia has worn many hats and filled many capacities for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford. He has taught and served as an assistant principal for a local catholic high school, served as pastor in several churches and worked as a parochial administrator. Born in 1976 in San Fernando Pampanga, Philippines, Fr. Valencia grew up in Quezon City. He attended Mount St. Aloysius College Seminary in Calauag Quezon and taught at a local high school before continuing his studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. At Mount St. Mary’s he earned a Master’s Degree in Divinity and an MA in Sacred Scriptures, according to his bio. Bishop Thomas Doran, the eighth and current bishop for Rockford ordained Valencia on May 17, 2003. In his first capacity after ordination, Fr. Valencia served as parochial vicar at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Algonquin and taught sophomores at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock. In 2007, He served a year as parochial vicar at St. James Parish in Belvidere before becoming parochial administrator at St. John the Baptist Parish in Somonauk. One year later, he became pastor of St. Mary and St. Joseph parishes in Freeport, and assistant principal of Aquin Central Catholic High School. In 2009 and 2010, Fr. Valencia then went on to serve as pastor at St. Monica Parish before serving in his current role as Associate Pastor at St. Rita Catholic Church.

Pastor at St, Mary Parish in Morrison, Illinois By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

WHEN Father William Antillon arrived to the US, he brought more than just God’s words with him. As parochial vicar at the St. Catherine of Siena parish in West Dundee, Illinois in 2000, Father Antillon made a mark in the community when he introduced Simbang Gabi to the congregation. “Every time a new family moves into our community, we are all made richer by the knowledge and experiences that its members bring. This is especially true if they bring some of their customs that they can share with all of us,” wrote Barbara Ferguson of the Daily Herald in 2002. “About 2 1/2 years ago, St. Catherine of Siena parish was assigned the Rev. William Antillon, who was newly-arrived from the Philippines. Now, he has brought us the opportunity to take part in some of the Filipino Christmas customs.” Ferguson went to write Father Antillon taught the parish the “different Filipino virtue or gift” for each day. “Father Antillon said these virtues are respect for elders: remembering the dead; hope in God’s providence; compassion for the small and weak; family unity; communal solidarity; gratitude; forgiving and asking for forgiveness; and, finally, hospitality.” What started at that church soon spread to the other parishes in the Rockford Diocese and continues to this day. Antillon is currently the pastor at St. Mary Parish in Morrison, Illinois. Born in 1954 in Burauen, Leyte, Philippines, Antillon attended Sacred Heart Seminary, Palo Leyte and Seminario Mayor De San Carlos, Cebu City, Philippines. According to his bio, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Julio Card R. Rosales on June 1, 1979, in Cebu City, Philippines and he was incardinated into the Diocese of Rockford on Aug. 1, 2003. From 2000 to 2003, he served as parochial vicar at St. Catherine Parish in Dundee and St. Mary Parish in Gilberts. He then went on to serve as parochial administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Lena. Prior to becoming a pastor at St. Mary in 2008, he served as parochial administrator. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 73

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Fr. Loreto ‘Bong’ Rojas

Pastor at St. James Parish in Davis, CA By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

ENDURING hardships in life are part of faith building. For Father Loreto Rojas, a pastor at St. James Parish in Davis, California, and the 33 youth members (ages 14-24) from the Diocese of Sacramento, they know hardships well when they embarked on a journey to see the pope. Last month, Father Rojas and the 33

youths traveled to Madrid for World Youth Day where Pope Benedict XVI oversaw a mass in front of 1.4 million people outside gusty winds and pouring rain in Cuatro Vientos. The pope’s message: Faith entails “a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings,”

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reported the Catholic News Service. “Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own,” said the Pope. “Let me urge you to strengthen this life of faith which has been handed down from the time of the apostles,” he said. “Make Christ, the Son of God, the center of your life.” During their travels, the Catholic News Service reported Father Rojas and his group “handled the hardship of getting to Cuatro Vientos — squashed like sardines on the Metro and walking miles in the heat — shows they got the message, especially about charity.” “They may not be able to verbalize it on a theoretical level, but on a practical level, they are there,” said Rojas to CNS. “It’s very real. We’re a big group and they are very mindful of each other. Some were not up to the walk and others, who wanted to experience the 8-kilometer (5-mile) walk, volunteered to stay with them.” Rojas was born of Loreto and Aida Rojas in Bato, Catanduanes, Philippines. According to his bio, Rojas is the youngest of eight children. His father was a doctor who often helped those that could not afford his service or medical attention. Seeing this at an early age made a strong impression on him. “He grew up with the desire to be of help to other people, especially those who are in need. He later realized that he can reach more people by becoming a priest,” according to his bio on St. Isidore Church website in Yuba City. Rojas entered the seminary at the age of 11. He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas earning a Bachelor of Philosophy, Licentiate in Philosophy, and a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies degrees. He came to the US in 1994 and attended St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. He earned other degrees, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Master of Divinity, and a Master of Theology. He also spent time in Rome and completed his Licentiate in Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Bishop William Weigand ordained Rojas as a priest for the Diocese of Sacramento on May 29, 2000 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Among his assignments, he served as parochial vicar and pastor at St. Isidore’s in Yuba City until 2007. He was then assigned to where he is now, as a pastor at St. James Parish in Davis.

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By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

LAST June 5, 2010, the bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, ordained Rev. Jose Michael O. Lecias to the Catholic priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. Born in the Philippines, Fr. Lecias earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from St. Thomas of Villanova Institute in Quezon City and the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, Philippines, in 2001. He pursued studies in chemistry at the Colegio de San Agustin in Bacolod City, Philippines, in 1999; and in biology

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at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City in 2000. Fr. Lecias also took up theological studies at St. Vincent School of Theology in Quezon City, in the Philippines in 2002. In an article which appeared on the website of Serra International, a Catholic organization made up of clubs around the world, Fr. Lecia shared, “I started to think of entering the seminary when I was nine years old because at that time I started to serve at the Church as an altar boy. I have an uncle who is a priest-monsignor in the Philippines, and who serves as my inspiration to study at the seminary, but aspiring to become a priest really comes from within as I’m attracted to serving God and His people.” “Before coming to the United States, I was working at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila, Philippines, which is managed by the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans, as part-time instructor in philosophy; and at the same time, a part-time instructor in theology and recollection facilitator and speaker at the Philippine Women’s University in Manila, Philippines. I served as an English teacher to Korean and Chinese students as well,” he said. In 2005, Lecias was accepted as a seminarian for the diocese of Wheeling in West Virginia. He arrived in West Virginia in April 2006 and was assigned to St. Alphonsus Parish in Wheeling before he began his studies at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.. While studying at the seminary, Lecias spent his 2007 summer assignment at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston; had one year of pastoral service at St. Leo Parish in Inwood, from 2007 to 2008; spent time in Mexico to study Spanish and worked at the United Nations during the summer of 2008; and was assigned as a deacon at the Cathedral of St. Joseph during the summer of 2009. Lecias earned a Master of Divinity and Ministry at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland., in 2010; a diploma in paralegal from Penn Foster School in Pennsylvania in 2008; and a diploma in professional and forensic science from Ashworth University in Georgia in 2008. Fr. Lecias’ areas of Ministerial Training/Experience are in the fields of Parish, Elementary / High School Education, College Education, Hospital Chaplaincy, Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Non-profit / Social Service Work.

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Rev. Arlon M. Vergara

OSA - Parochial Vicar at St. Isidore in Yuba City By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

WHEN Father Arlon Vergara was assigned to the Diocese of Sacramento, he felt it was a “sign.” The name Sacramento is a derivative of Sacrament. And for any priest, that is a sign in and of itself. Father Vergara is the parochial vicar at St. Isidore in Yuba City, CA, a small town about 40 miles North of Sacramento. “I have come to serve and to fulfill the solemn mandate of the Lord, ‘Go, and preach the Gospel,’” he said on the Parish website. “I am sent as a missionary: sent to proclaim, sent to heal, sent to teach, sent to sanctify, sent to serve, and sent to bring hope. There is no boundary, there is no limit, and there is no difference in culture or race or color, for we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord.” Vergara is a worldly priest, who has served all over, and comes from a religious family. Born and raised in Magallanes, Sorsogon, Philippines, Vergara is part of a large family with eight siblings. His eldest brother is also a priest assigned in Manila. Vergara credits their grandmother, who relentlessly shared to us her gifts of intense prayer and biblical story-telling,” for passing on the strong religious catholic faith in their family. “With my family’s religious experience, I have allowed myself to commune with God in prayers and generously responded to God in the ministerial priesthood,” he said. He studied and finished Philosophy, Sacred Theology and received a Masters in Theology at the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. He was ordained as a priest for the Order of St. Augustine, Province of Santo Nino de Cebu, Philippines on Dec. 7, 1990, according to his bio. One of his first assignments was a mission to serve in Korea. 76 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

For more than ten years, starting in 1993, Vergara served in the Diocese of Inchon as pastor of St. Therese Parish until being called back to the Philippines in 2004. After serving in Korea, he taught teach in a seminary in the Philippines and established a new Augustinian mission parish in the southern part of Luzon, in Bagacay, Gubat, Sorsogon. He said within three years, “through the help of God, I was able to pioneer a parish with almost 10,000 parishioners. Most of the parishioners were below the poverty line. “As a pastor of that parish, I initiated some simple ways to answer their needs and to uplift their living standards a bit. I introduced a weekly feeding program for undernourished children and livelihood programs for indigent families. I was grateful that I was somehow able to help them through the kindness and generosity of heart of some people whom I had been blessed to meet and know.” Father Vergara then went on to serve on another foreign mission, this time to the United States. Upon serving at his current parish in Yuba City, he was initially stationed in Richmond, Virginia where in his time there, he served in the Church of Transfiguration in Fincastle, St. John the Evangelist in Newcastle, Parish of St. Bede in Williamsburg, St. Matthew Parish in Virginia Beach and then became a pastor in Sacred Heart in Covington. His message to parishioners: “We must be true and faithful to our Christian vocation. We are all called to build a community of disciples of Jesus Christ in this modern era, living with one heart and mind intent upon God. Let us all together share the love of Christ and be a witness to others that through us they may discover that Jesus is real and is truly risen and alive.”

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BORN in Hamtic, Antique, Philippines,Fr. Carlos Melocoton is presently serving in the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, West Virginia, under the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. He belongs to the Religious Order of the Former Augustinians of the Assumption Brother. Fr. Melocoton earned his BS in Accountancy from the University of the East in Manila, Philippines. He then attended Assumption College in Worcester, MA where he graduated with a Pre-Theology course. After that, Fr. Carlos went to St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, MA where he took up his Masters of Divinity. He was ordained in June 27, 2009. His areas of Ministerial Training/Experience lie in the fields of: Parish, Elementary / High School Education, College Education, Hospital Chaplaincy, Youth and Young Adult Ministry. In a church newsletter in his diocese of Wheeling- Charleston, Fr. Carlos wrote about himself and the calling of God on his life. “I responded to the call of priesthood after discovering God’s love for me. I marveled at His love that in thanksgiving to the many blessings I received, I was able to say YES to the call of pastoral ministry and share the charity God enriched my heart and mind for my brothers and sisters,” he said. Fr. Carlos continued, “When Mother Teresa described her journey as “A call within a call,” while reading her biography on my canonical preparation for deaconate ordination on a peaceful night at Paul IV Pastoral Center, I could not control my emotions as I recall and ponder my personal journey coming from the Philippines to the United States, then from my religious community to serve the people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. God indeed plans things for us all; thus, we need to listen and obey where He wants us to be. It was so peaceful and wonderful as soon as I commit myself to surrender to God’s love and respond to that love.” “In thanksgiving for the education and enlightenment I received from the sisters of the Religious of the Assumption during the Martial Law era; how God helped and guided me where to get some means personally to finish my college education; the experience on how to be a mediator between the costumers and the company while working as an accountant; assisting me how to help my family alleviate the social disease of poverty; and when things all prepared for me to answer the call of priesthood – God was there to show me the way.” “God indeed plans things for us and we should be open to surrender to His love,” Fr. Carlos concluded. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 77

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Rev. Fr. Hernan Cañete

OAR Associate Pastor, St. Catherine Of Siena In Reseda By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Fr. Hernan belongs to the Order of Augustinian Recollects, and serves at St. Catherine of Siena in Reseda. Fr. Hernan served as assistant parish priest in Valencia; as a formator and professor in Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary; as property administrator and high school principal in the University of Negros Occidental - Recoletos in Bacolod City; and as a formator and professor in Kabankalan Diocese Seminary in Negros Occidental, while he was finishing his teacher board exams and doctoral studies. He now serves as an associate pastor for St. Bridget’s, a sister parish to St. Catherine, as well as an associate pastor to St. Catherine of Siena. “It was an accidental first calling, when I was recruited by a local priest, Fr. Oscar dela Rosa, a vocation director for San Carlos. He went to see the nuns in charge, who called all the first section males.” Out of curiosity, all five of his friends applied, and two reported to start in the seminary. He spent two years in Toledo, Cebu, and completed high school at minor seminary in San Carlos, Negros Occidental. Though he went to regular mass with his parents, Hernanie (an OFW) and Hermelina Canete (a teacher), he didn’t think of becoming a priest. Still, he was curious. He completed his AB Philosophy in Seminario Mayor Recoletos in Baguio City. Still unsure of his direction, he completed his Master’s in Theology at their seminary house in Quezon City. He was ordained on Sept. 7, 1996. His first assignment was to work as a high school chaplain to 200 students. He also became an associate parish priest at Our Lady of the Abandoned in Valencia, Negros Oriental. He traveled on a motorbike

“AS I am a priest, and though I am not 100% prayerful, when I say Mass and get the body of Christ, the Eucharist is my source of strength and so is my devotion to Mary.” - Fr. Hernan Cañete, OAR to the mountains, on rugged roads that got slick during rains. But, his idealism and his energies got him going at full speed. He then taught Latin and Moral Philosophy at their seminary house in Baguio, where he became the formator of 80 seminarians. He found his assignment refreshing, as he helped form young minds and at the same time, got to form himself, while living a structured life in a community of priests. He became a high school principal and a property administrator to 600 students and the faculty at University of Negros Occidental - Recoletos. He learned budgeting and administrative skills. He also managed the flow assignments of teachers. He became aware of labor union constraints, which protected underperforming teachers. He was transferred and became the formator of seminarians in the Diocese of Kabankalan. Being a formator was a good fit, as it forged a new discipline and an academic rigor for him. It instilled a prayerful life and most importantly, the formation of one’s heart and totality as a person. He emphasized that a heart towards service, where one’s direction is firmed up solely for God’s service and others is quite the hardest to form — not just for him, but for the seminarians he was in charge of. He described that compassion cannot be taught in just one setting — rather, it is a trait that we all acquire throughout our lifetime. There comes a time he said, that the mind gets saturated and you simply do not want to learn anymore. After years as a formator, principal and associate priest, he challenged himself to find a way to help his aging parents. He also wanted to expose himself to new ways of discernment, and to grow more in his spirituality in a new

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culture and a new environment. He applied to become part of the San Agustin Province in the United States, as part of the Augustinian Recoletos’ community. While waiting for his religious visa to be approved, he took his Master’s, passed the licentiate examination for teachers, and completed his doctorate in education at the University of San Jose-Recoletos in Cebu. His application was approved and he was first assigned to St. Benedict’s in Montebello, where he experienced jolting culture shock. After six months, he went back to the Philippines and later, applied at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. When his application to go to the US got approved, he was assigned to be an associate pastor at St. Catherine of Siena to minister to a multi-cultural group composed of 3,000 registered families. He is currently adjusting to a life of rugged individualism — pursuing service by himself, while finding more connections with priests who are located near his assigned churches. He enjoys the new bonds of friendship he formed with Fr. Ramon, Fr. Altaire and Fr. Leo, who also serve in churches in the Valley. Barely two years in the United States, he misses the structured community life of the Agustinian Recoletos: their communal meals, prayers and reflections. On Sept. 7, he celebrated his 15th year as a priest. “The continuous formation of the heart, how to relate to people, how to relate with your brothers who are priests, is a lifetime challenge. Forming the mind is not as important as the heart; for you must be able to lead them to God. You also need to be a communitarian, one who is able to love and support your fellow priests,” he advises those who want to become priests.

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Fr. Rey Bersabal

Pastor at St. John the Baptist in Folsom By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

FOR Father Rey Bersabal, growing as a priest is of vital importance. Bersabal is the pastor of St. John the Baptist in Folsom. Last year, he participated in a new program that provides priest with leadership training called “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds.” The program is designed to help priests be better leaders after the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd, teaching skills to help them excel as Christian leaders and Christian witnesses, according to the Catholic Herald. “I’ve been looking for something like this to enhance my ministry for a long time,”

Bersabal told the Herald. “I wanted to be part of the program for my own personal growth, as well as for my present and future ministry in the diocese.” Bersabal, Visayan originally from Bohol, was among the 31 priests serving in the Diocese of Sacramento that participated in the leadership training program. For Bersabal, the reason he took part is because he wears many hats at St. John the Baptist. Aside from serving as a pastor of a parish with more than 3,400 families, he also serves as an administrator of finances and programs, and provides pastoral ministry, the Catholic

Herald reports. “I hope to learn skills that will help me deal with any situation that would arise in my parish,” he said. Bersabal was ordained in 1991. Prior to serving as a pastor for St. John, he previously served in the same capacity at St. Paul Parish in Sacramento for five years and as parochial vicar of St. Anthony Parish in Sacramento and St. James Parish in Davis. Bersabal’s training is invaluable. For him and many of the priests that participated, the training program would help them with the challenges they face on a daily basis in the parishes they serve.

Rev. Patrick Longalong

Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of the Snows Church in Floral Park, NY By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

FR. PATRICK Longalon was born in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. He is the son of Benedicto and Amparo Longalong. He was educated at Francisco Benitez School, in Makati, Philippines before his immigration to the US in 1993. Fr. Patrick then attended Parsons Junior High School, Flushing; Francis Lewis High School, Fresh Meadows, and St. John’s University, Jamaica. He began the formation program at Cathedral Seminary Residence in 7200 Douglaston Parkway, Douglaston, NY. Fr. Longalong attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in 440 West

Neck Road,Huntington, New York. He was ordained at a Mass in St. James Cathedral Basilica in Brooklyn on June 7, 2008. He served his pastoral year at Blessed Sacrament Church, Cypress Hills. Having studied music theory, he has had musical training and plays the piano and organ. He composed the theme song for his alma mater, the Francis Lewis High School. After his ordination in 2008, Father Longalong celebrated his first mass at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Cypress Hills. He now serves as a parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Snows parish church in Floral Park, Brooklyn, New York.

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Rev. Maynard Ubaldo A. Parangan

Administrator of St. Jude Thaddeus Church, Highlands Texas By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

REV. Maynard Ubaldo Parangan was appointed the administrator of St. Jude Thaddeus Church, Highlands Texas effective July 2011. He serves under the GalvestonHouston Diocesan which was the Diocese of his ordination in 2006. Fr. Maynard has also been connected with the St. John Neumann Church in 2730 Nelwood Drive Houston Texas. Father Maynard was born in the Philippines and speaks six different languages. He entered the priesthood late in life, but that doesn’t change his strength as a priest. He was formerly a Chemical Engineer, but left that lucrative career to follow his call from God to the priesthood. Fr. Maynard has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering, a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, and a Master of Divinity. He attended the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary Seminary in Texas. His areas of Ministerial Training and Experience lie in the fields of Parish and Post Graduate Education.

FR. JO-ANDRE BELTRAN

Associate Pastor Notre Dame de Chicago By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

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WHEN Father Jo-Andre Beltran tells you he comes from a religious family, he really does come from a religious family. Beltran, the associate pastor at Notre Dame de Chicago, is the fifth priest among his Beltran relatives not including that several cousins who are also priests but not with the Beltran surname. “Our house was like a second rectory,” Beltran told the Catholic New World. “It was only 15 steps from the church.” Beltran recalls attending mass every morning at 5:30 am with his grandparents, whom he credits with planting the seed of his vocation, accord- ing to CNW. After graduating from Cagayan National High School, he attended the University of the East before heading into Thomas Aquinas Seminary. He told CNW that it wasn’t until he was in Thailand, a mostly buddhist country, when he realized the importance of his catholic vocation. While in Bangkok, he volunteered with the Redemptorist Fathers, served as a minister at a jail and also worked with refugees. He said that he truly became a servant of Christ when he worked with Bishop Clarence Duhart, who had gone blind. After briefly return- ing to the Philippines, he joined a diocese in the U.S. Prior to serving at the Notre Dame de Paris, he served at St. Mary of the Woods. He said the key to recruiting younger people into the priesthood is to lead happy lives. “Priests need to be involved in others’ lives and show them we are real people,” Beltran said to CNW. “Many youngsters harbor wrong impressions of what priests’ lives really are like. Some think they lead conservative, ‘locked-in-the-seminary-type’ existences. We must bait them with our happy lives.”

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Fr. Pol Gumapo

The first Filipino priest in Sacramento By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

WITH Sacramento’s growing Filipino population, it is no wonder the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento has so many Pinoy priests. One priest, in particular, Father Polycarpo (Pol) Gumapo has led the path that many Filipino priests have followed. Father Gumapo came to the Diocese of Sacramento in April 1983. He became the first Filipino priest to serve in the Diocese and has since “become role model, mentor and inspiration for the great number of Filipino priests who have truly blessed our diocese by following him to Northern California,”

according to officials at Holy Family Parish where he is currently serving as parochial administrator. Born January 26, 1942, Father Gumapo was the youngest of eight children and was raised in Medina, Misamis Oriental in the Philippines. After being ordained by Pope Paul VI on November 28, 1970 at Luneta Park in Manila, he served in the Archdiocese of Cagayan De Oro City, Philippines for 13 years before coming over to the US in 1983. Since arriving, Father Gumapo has served in many of the churches around

the Sacramento area as a parochial vicar or pastor including the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Saint Vincent Ferrer Parish in Vallejo, Saint Anne Parish in Meadowview, All Hollows Parish, and at St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln before his current position as parochial administrator at Holy Family Parish. Aside from serving God as a pastor, he is also known as a gifted singer. In 2005, he formed a touring performance group called “Priests Evangelizing Through Song.” The group served as a support group for Filipino priests new to the diocese adjusting to life in a new country.

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Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“The crowd, all peoples, the community of the Church, everyone must put in common all they have, insignificant as they may be, in order that the ‘miracle’ of feeding may take place and food may be available for all. Only when people accept to put in common their abilities and their time, their own five loaves and two fish, will the great problems of mankind stand a chance of being solved. And as long as everyone acts on their own and selfishly, taking into account only their personal interest and welfare, we shall always have in the world, situations of immense riches right next to situations of utter poverty.” - Fr. Roland Astudillo, 2011.

Fr. Roland Astudillo

Associate Pastor, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Palmdale, CA By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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Growing up in the Cordilleras On muddy, dirt roads, wearing only flip flops, he carried 25 lbs. of rice on his shoulder and walked to where his parents lived. He is an Ifugao and lived close to nature — the verdant green mountains of the Cordilleras, the lush rice fields, the crows of the rooster and no electricity. When he told his father about becoming a priest, he was challenged to prove himself by being on the top 5 of his elementary class. He became one of the top 3 and graduated from St. Joseph’s Elem., Kiangan, Ifugao. But his father broke his promise. He insisted that Fr. Rolly finish high school and he did. By the second year, he quietly applied to St. Francis Xavier high school/seminary in Baguio. He got accepted. He showed the letter of acceptance to his father. His father finally honored his promise to his son. He studied for 3 years, until the high school/seminary shut down, due to dwindling enrollment. He went back to St. Joseph’s in Kiangan and graduated in high school. He took his BA in Philosophy and a minor in sociology in San Pablo College Seminary in Baguio. He then went to Immaculate Conception School of Theology in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and after 4 years, he became a deacon. He was ordained as a priest on Nov. 8, 1989 by the Most Rev. Ernesto Salgado, then the Vicar Apostolic of the Mt. Provinces and now the Archbishop of Vigan. His first assignment was to minister to the diocesan youth of the Mountain Province: from Baguio, Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao. He became fluent in six languages: English, Tagalog, Kankanaey (Igorot native language, Northern Benguet), Ilocano, Ifugao, and Ibaloy (Igorot native language, Southern Benguet). He used a three pillar-strategy — formation, organization and mobilization — when it came to reaching out to high school students, out-of-school youth, non-sectarian colleges and universities. He helped in the formation of 20,000+ youths, working with different parishes and high schools through education, spiritual retreats and ongoing seminars. He calls it “The Golden age of teeming youth, thousands and thousands of them, who were excited, and who were animated by the spirit of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.” “It helped in forming them into core groups, interlinking these core groups into a malaking network, called Montanosa Youth Ministry, with more than 60 parishes and schools scattered all over the Mountain Province. We zeroed in on the core leaders and their team priests. In mobilization, they helped in clearing the roads and they developed self-sustaining projects. It was about the young, jorneying with the young, to become their ministers,” he shared.

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The current debt ceiling negotiations brought out various self-interests: from the super-rich billionaires and mega corporations, who sought that their tax breaks be preserved and those who want to preserve the safety net for the most vulnerable — the sick, the disabled, the elderly, children and working students. If the policymakers in the White House, House of Congress and the Senate heard the homily of Fr. Roland Astudillo, would they have been persuaded to feed them with their own five loaves and two fish? Perhaps not quite yet, until they know how Fr. Roland has invested his own “inner mountain of gold” in all that he has done. When he was barely 9 years old, Fr. Roland became morally aware. His grandparents, Tomasa Saguing Bulong and Clemente Bulong, asked him what he wanted to become. “I want to be a priest,” was his response. He was raised in a spiritual home, where it was mandatory for all to be home at 6pm, to pray and to eat together. He got to see his parents on weekends, as his mother taught elementary grades in public schools in the barrios.

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They were taught organizational skills in pastoral planning and management. They knew their situations and acted on them. They looked at situational challenges and became aware of their own weaknesses and were taught to focus on their strengths. “They are like the Sarao Jeepneys, inside and outside, you will see different colors, different lights, different shades. When applied together, they got stronger. They stopped asking for funding from the diocese and they became self-sufficient. They organized sports leagues competed against teams of various parishes. They were also involved in buttressing walls on the mountains, clearing roads in far flung areas, and some of them helped in caring for their own rice paddies. It would take me 13 -20 hours driving to reach Kalinga and Apayao, Ifugao, to Bontoc, another 8 hours; and back to Baguio, my base.” In the evenings, he went to St. Louis University College of Law to study, but his bishop pre-empted his studies and assigned him as the pastor of Immaculate Conception in Sablan, Benguet. He ministered to 2,000 families and crossed mountains 2-3 times per month. He would start walking at 4pm to get to their homes at night. On his trip to Balbalan for a seminar in Kalinga, he had to make stops at checkpoints of the New People’s Army and the Philippine Army. His journey got delayed because a car was held at gunpoint and roads had to be cleared. But he was fearless. “As long as I am serving God, I feel safe,” he said. He then became the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Itogon in Benguet, where he started building a church in a short span of two years. He got as far as replacing the front edifices, but got pulled by the Bishop to minister to San Jose Parish, in La Trinidad, Benguet for 2 years. While there, he got involved with the farmers, whose biggest challenge was the construction of the San Roque Dam which flooded their rice fields. For three years, he was the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Lepanto Mines, Mankayan, Benguet. He ministered to thousands of families who were miners of gold and copper in Lepanto Mines. Workers went on 100-day strike to seek just wages for their labor. A council of church ministers from Anglican, Episcopalian and Catholic Church became a source of support for the miners, and after the strike, their demands were met. The strikers, however, were dismissed with a severance package. Fr. Roland’s involvement led to a much-needed sabbatical. Upon the completion of his sabbatical leave, he served as the editor of the Baguio Diocesan Newsletter and a member of the Diocesan Episcopal Commission on Media. He got assigned as Associate Pastor for Our Lady of the Miraculous Parish, and enjoyed the trust of his pastor, who assigned him to work with the lay ministers and the religious education department. He initiated a formation program for all lay liturgical ministers and brought the mass to the sick and the disabled in Montebello Care Center, including the Simbang Gabi Faith Community as lead singers, in senior resident centers on special occasions. He credits his uncle, Fr. Tony Astudillo for helping his transition from Baguio to Los Angeles, serving first with him in Holy Innocents Parish, then, San Lorenzo Ruiz in Walnut, to Our Lady of Miraculous Parish, and now his current position as associate pastor in St. Mary’s. “My uncle, Fr. Tony showed me lots of love and concern. My Bishop, Carlito Cenzon gave me his recommendation and support to come to the United States. Lots of folks welcomed me to their churches. My dreams are just a shadow of God’s dreams for me. I look forward to serving more in whatever capacity [God chooses]. It is so appropriate that you would ask me about the Woodcarver, as I grew up as an Ifugao, working closely with woodcarvers, who can look at a tree and knows what it will become, who taught me that you become what you are committed into doing. As long as you are committed to the ministry, it is your whole body and soul already.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 83

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Rev. Fr. Melanio Viuya, Jr.,

M.J., S.S.L. - Pastoral Ministry of Precious Blood Church By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“We are called to discover and uncover the face of Jesus - hidden in every person [that] is scarred by poverty, indifference and injustice.

We are invited to have the patience of the woodcarver in carefully removing the things that hide God’s face.” - Fr. Melanio Viuya, M.J., 2011

Melanio, is a name from the Greek word, melas (meaning black ink) — a dark-skinned person. While he was with the Congolese, Fr. Melanio discovered what his name meant. It is an African tradition to give folks ordinary names, yet with a subtext in folk practices, to trick the spirits and to protect and spare these folks from diseases. He lived in Congo for 7 years, with the Congregation of Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM). To get to the Catholic Congolese, he travelled through rivers, forests and fields. He learned Lingala and French. He acquired his licentiate in Sacred Scriptures at the Biblicum in Rome. He learned English, Tagalog and Kapampangan in the Philippines, and in his travels abroad, he became familiar with French, Lingala, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish, German, Aramaic, Latin and Greek languages. He is by far the most fluent in multiple languages that I have met, and conversant on what each culture brings to his Kapampangan, Belgian, Congolese, Italian and American – influenced identities. He heard confessions early in the morning, next to a trap for tse-tse flies (which caused the sleeping sickness disease, Tripanosomiasis). By sunset, he ministered to hundreds. He ate like the Congolese, who harvested their produce and caught their game, whether it’s antelope, squirrels, deer, alligator, crocodile and snails as big as turtles and catfish from the rivers. Caterpillars were pounded into cassava leaves, a paste now enriched with protein and iron. Cassava flour was mixed with corn flour. He witnessed how people made salt: banana peelings were gathered, dried, grass added, burned, filtered, then water evaporated until only the potassium salt remains. Salt was added to the cassava leaves that have been boiled and red palm oil was added. This became their prime source of food. Given the lack of iodine, the common ailment was goiter, including amoebiasis, tripanosomiasis and AIDS. He transported medicine for AIDS, which were purchased in Europe by CICM. He travelled 3-4 days, through rough roads and riverbanks, and various military checkpoints. Congo, at the time of his assignment, was in the midst of civil war. When stopped, he said the French word for AIDS, SIDA, and was quickly cleared. He learned how to get along with the Congolese, how to be in a large family of 12. He grew up listening to his father, Melanio Sr. who gave recollections, retreats and cursillos. His mother, Luring Reyes, gathered them at 6pm to pray the Angelus, and then, they all sat down for dinner. She gathered all 12 of them, inside a mosquito net, and they prayed the rosary. Melanio, Sr. time and again read bible stories, creation stories, complete with pictures of Noah, Moses and the Exodus, until they all fell asleep.

When Student Catholic Action (SCA) came to his high school to recruit for members, Melanio Jr. joined. He became an altar server and a choir member. He visited the sick, the prisoners, and taught catechism. He went to Tarlac High School, and attended Mother of Good Counsel Seminary in Pampanga. He found it odd that his teacher did not call him during bible studies. So, he informed the priest that the bible was his bedtime reading. He became a friend of the professor. He went to the University of Assumption but, one summer, a priest corresponding with him through letters, Fr. James Desmedt, invited him to visit him in Baguio. This led to taking the entrance exam at Maryhurst Seminary. He got admitted and there, he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Philosophy. He went to Maryhill School of Theology where he earned Masteral degree in Theology. Then he was sent to Congo for seven years. Fr. Melanio shared visiting a political prisoner, Fr. Pepito Bernardo, later released in 1982, during Dictator Marcos’ times, to the custody of Archbishop Oscar Cruz, then the ordinary of Pampanga. While in St. Louis in Baguio, Fr. Melanio joined rallies, similar to EDSA, to call for a return of democracy and the rule of law in the Philippines. Later, he was sent to pursue a licentiate in Sacred Scriptures in Rome. During his last year in Rome, he, together with 40 other missionaries - two Belgians, and one American, founded the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) - looking for a new way of responding to the new challenges wrought by the changing times. MJ’s first supporter was Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who handed Php 300,000, contributed by his friends. An artist, Rey Contreras sculpted 41 faces of Jesus to represent the founders. He doubled the sculptures, and these additional art pieces were sold to benefactors to form the initial seed monies of MJ. Many more faces of Jesus were sculpted for those who wanted to help the MJs financially. Supported by families, relatives, friends and donors all over the world, MJ has now built a seminary house, a dozen seminarians are in formation, and in two years, they await the ordination of the first priest of their seminary. Fr. Melanio became part of the Missionaries of Jesus, a group of 38 Filipinos, 2 Belgians and an American. They found a common purpose in doing God’s mission of taking The Gospel to far-flung, underserved communities: the Mayan people in Guatemala, the indigenous people in Papua, New Guinea, Lumad in Davao, to Aetas, Igorot and Benguet communities in Baguio and the Mindanao communities, where Christians and Catholics are in the low 4%, while predominantly populated by Muslims. As I left, I asked for his blessing: “May you uncover the face of Jesus in her, continue to shower her with blessings, so she may grace everyone she meets with her vitality in life, vibrant energies.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 85

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Rev. Fr. Riz J. Carranza

Pastor, St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Santa Maria, CA By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“It seems easier to build a physical church, much like the initial work I did securing donations to help build St. Philomena, but it is much harder to build a spiritual community wherever I am. I am the instrument of the Master

Artist [God], who finds kindred spirits, who draws pictures, who sees the potential in the way I see church people. God is the master artist that shapes the best from what I can see from that person.” - Fr. Riz J. Carranza

Fr. Riz managed to give us a half hour interview, between confessions from 3 to 430pm and an anticipated mass at 5pm. His schedule was non-stop since 3pm, and we ended our interview at close to 10pm. From his original name, Rizal Jose, his name was shortened when he got his American citizenship. He was born on June 19 and shares the same birth date the Philippine National hero. As the oldest Mother Church organized in 1905, St. Mary of the Assumption Church has bloomed its registry to 1,300 families. Msgr. John Ukaegbu spoke of faith as “being active, progressive and sometimes unduly aggressive.” “We must push, pray until something happens. Pray as if everything depends on God, and act as if all depended on us,” he said. He must be referring to Fr. Riz, for he seems to be doing all he can, as if all depended on him and his parishioners. He volunteered to become the pastor at St. Mary’s, 13 years ago. “I identify with The Woodcarver Tale of Lao Tzu, as I draw objects on paper, mostly kids. I am an animator, ” he said. Fr. Riz is also the lead guitarist and the lead singer for the liturgical songs. He will also be a performing artist for a Pinoy priests’ musical, starring 30 Pinoy priests, to support the convening of a historic first National Assembly of Filipino Priests Nov. 8-11, 2011, led by Bishop Oscar Solis and organized by committee members, including Fr. Rodel Balagtas and Fr. Albert Avenido of Los Angeles. Fr. Riz is excited that he will join hundreds of priests in a historical formation in the USA. At age 5, he became morally aware. Over dinner one night, his father, Sergio Carranza queried him and his siblings about their dreams and ambitions. To which Fr. Riz replied that he wanted to be a priest. He went to Our Lady of Penafrancia Seminary in Sorsogon and graduated from college at Holy Rosary in Naga. He studied abroad and completed his Masters of Divinity (specializing in theology) at St. John Seminary in Camarillo. Despite a national student travel ban in the Philippines during the martial law years, he became one of only two

students who were allowed to travel. He was ordained a priest by Cardinal Timothy Manning on June 21, 1980. On May 20, 1999 he became a deacon. His first assignment was at Holy Family Church in Pasadena, the very first person of color in a predominantly white community. He became the spiritual director and catechist of schoolchildren and attracted more Filipinos to the church. He is credited for encouraging Filipinos to organize themselves into a community and become active members. He gives credit to the Church’s leadership for helping him become a good priest. But, God had bigger plans for him. He met some challenges at St. Robert Bellarmine from the pastor, who felt threatened because the parishioners referred to Fr. Riz as their pastor. He was asked to leave but then the pastor became ill and had to be replaced by another one, who ended up quitting the priesthood. That first challenge taught him lessons: “How to be a good administrator, how to be a good shepherd to the people, how to guide them, how to be obedient to my pastor. Though those trying moments could have left me bitter and discouraged from continuing, I learned something that there is more good in me and I prefer to be good than resent negative things.“ His second challenge came at St. Mel’s in Woodland Hills. The pastor was a retired colonel and was 32 years older at that time. He did not welcome, entertain, nor respect Fr. Riz’s opinions, despite his hardwork. “ I asked myself – who benefits from all my work? Nobody can make the decision for me to be happy except myself. I recognized that I owe nobody here, that it was my parents who raised me, loved me and affirmed me. That realization inspired me to relate even better with the students and to actively be with them: Whites, Blacks, Filipinos. I was involved in forming a community amongst the Filipinos,” Fr. Riz said. He was then assigned to St. Mary’s and as an associate pastor, where he made the youth ministry visible and had a turnout of 30 to 40 altar servers. During his tenure here,

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he joined 25 priests for continuing education in Biblicum in Rome, studying the sacred scriptures, proceedings of various offices and got introduced to the Vatican’s offices. Here, he was fortunate to have met the soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul II. He was then assigned to St. Philomena, where as a pastor, he ministered to a diverse group of ethnicities. They grew spiritually and thrived as a community. In 2003, their sacred place of worship was built in completion. Fr. Riz helped lay the foundation of securing donors, oversight for the master building plans, and secured permission to construct from the City of Carson. He became the pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption in Santa Maria, where he educated the parishioners about Vatican II (it was introduced in 1965 but was only implemented here in 1999.) Liturgical renewals, seminars and spirit of Vatican II became the focus for a year. By the second year, the spirit permeated the community and their participation started to increase. Today, after 13 years, the pastoral council has been

established, along with the parish finance council and a leaders committee. More folks came forward through various ministries. Under Fr. Riz’s stewardship, 90 individual families are visited by Lay Ministers of the Eucharist for the sick and by the Legion of Mary. Communion is given to convalescent parishioners. He now looks forward to meeting priests fired up to serve the Lord and to establish new ministries in the upcoming Assembly. He wants to see more evangelization done by his parish, for when they become one with the Lord, “ they take the word of God into their lives and others.” He has been a priest for 32 years now. It struck me that I too have been married that long. Fr. Riz gave a special blessing, for me and my husband, Enrique, who willingly drove me. “May you grow in this journey together, along with your dedication and devotion to the community you are serving. May you make life decisions with acceptance and respect for one another. May you grow in Christ as you go through life in pain, in struggle, in peace, and in joy!” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 87

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Fr. Joy Lawrence Liwag Santos

Associate Pastor, St. Raphael Church In Goleta, Ca By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“I learned to balance pastoral, spiritual, social and physical care from my spiritual gurus, and from my practical experiences. I leave many things to God and by ministering to folks from diverse

ethnic origins and in different settings, I learned to be God’s co-worker, bringing out the gifts he gave to me and using them with joy, passion and enthusiasm.” - Fr. Joy Lawrence Liwag Santos

His last name (Santos) means of the Saints. Fr. Joy Lawrence Liwag Santos was born to Manuel Santos, Sr. and Jesusa Liwag (whom I met in person, when she visited her son). I am currently reading “Life with the Saints” by James Martin — a Jesuit, who worked for years in the business world and whose life was inspired by the lives of the saints. Saints led lives of service with obedience to God and joy of service to others, with humility. Fr. Joy’s surname and his personal demeanor reminded me of the saints’ lives that I am reading about. Fr. Joy went to high school at St. Louis School in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya. There, he played varsity basketball for ten years. It helped formed his personality, preparing him for inter-seminary competitions against colleges in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Baguio. After high school, he decided to enter the San Pablo seminary and earned an AB degree in Philosophy, with a minor in sociology. He took his graduate studies in St. Louis and was appointed as Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Bayombong. On October 26, 1991, he was ordained by Bishop Miguel Purugunan, a representative of Bishop Ramon Villena. He will be celebrating his 20th year as a priest next month. He was first appointed to St. Joseph — an upland parish where hiking for hours and a day got him to some of the parishioners. He celebrated mass in their villages, conducted catechism and studied the Bible. He made these trips once every 3 months. At St. Mark’s, he focused on building Basic Christian Communities for six years. He was the Episcopal vicar of the bishop to the communities in Quirino. He took on increasing responsibilities as Chancellor Economus — a treasurer for 4 years, directly working for the Diocesan Bishop Ramon Villena. He became aware of the diocesan needs in supporting different parishes and exposure to the financial aspects of a diocese. He acted as the Secretary to the Bishop, overseeing a staff of five and was in charge of correspondence, minutes and representing

the Bishop as the Episcopal Vicar for 6 years (in confirmations, weddings, leadership summits, provincial meetings ), including becoming the Bishop’s appointments secretary. In this leadership position, he met the local town leaders and national political and faith leaders visiting the diocese. He then became the Diocesan vocation director for 6 years. He was in charge of promoting vocations, overseeing the ordination of recruit priests, and working with 150 active vocation promoters to host national conventions of vocation directors throughout the Philippines, attracting 700 folks. It was an organized way of forming a culture of vocations in the Philippines. At each level of his assignments, his responsibilities increased and so did his exposure to people of various backgrounds. It enlarged his spheres of influence. When his term was about to end, he applied for a 3-year leave, which got approved. A priest friend introduced him to Fr. Alden Sison, pastor at Our Lady of Valley Church, while in the US. He helped in organizing the Filipino community and started the parish’s San Lorenzo Ruiz celebration. For a year, he assisted Fr. Alden in St. Genevieve, where he was warmly accepted. He is now the associate pastor at St. Raphael in Goleta, CA. Recently, he conducted a seminar about Christianity in the Philippines and led the singing. He credits his current pastor’s support for his active participation in the Filipino Priests sa America musical, where he stood out with his confident performance, deftly singing, acting, and even doing a few dance steps. Fr. Joy’s roots may seem humble, but his illustrious service reveal depths of leadership at various capacities. “I always try to do my work and ministry with enthusiasm and joy. So in everything that we do, let there be joy and love in it. There is certainly joy in serving the Lord. We take part in God’s plan to build His kingdom and contribute humbly our capacities and giftedness,” he said.

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It’s easy to spot Father Moises Apostol. Just look for a priest carrying a camera. Father Apostol is an associate pastor at St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles, Illinois. In a newsletter last year, the camera-toting Fil-Am priest says he loves it when people approach and him says, “here comes Father Paparazzi.” He says the reason why he carries a camera with him at all times is because it’s a way for him “to document our (St. Patrick’s) parish life.” “Since we have become visually cultured, we make use of our captured parish life and activities through pictures. A way to build our parish community and faith-life,” he said in a column in the November/ December 2010 issue of the Paddy’s Press. “During the year, or the coming years – we would need these pictures to teach and appreciate our parish life here at St. Patrick Church.” “Ready? Smile,” he adds. “Click. Really, God sees and continually takes pictures of us all in his love. He treasures not only the pictures but each one of us in a special way. (sic) We are his children and it is very good to have Him as our God.” Father Apostol is from the Philippines, according to his bio. He came to the Diocese of Rockford in Illinois in 1999 and served as an associate pastor at Saint Margaret Mary Parish Family in Algonquin, Illinois for two years. During his time at St. Margaret’s, he is credited with bringing a “loving message of unity for the Hispanic and Anglo communities.” “During his time as pastor, the Hispanic community flourished, along with many parish groups and ministries,” according to St. Margaret officials. Father Apostol also made great progress in building an addition to the church, helped form a Pastoral Planning committee and “set the parish on track creating vision and mission statements to further unify the parishioners and keep our sights on common goals.” Father Apostol has also been recognized by the Respect Life Office with the “Blessed Miguel Pro Priest Recognition,” for speaking out against injustice when it comes to the life issues.

Rev. Rufino Enno H. Dango

CP - Parish Priest at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat in Michigan By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

BORN and raised in the Philippines, Rev. Rufino Enno Dango is presently working in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan. He is a parish priest in the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat at 23335 Schoolcraft, Detroit, Michigan 48223. A member of the religious order of The Passionists (CP), Fr. Dango has several degrees to his name: Bachelor of Philosophy from the University of San Carlos, Cebu City; Master of Divinity from the Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois; and a Masters of Theology in Inter-religious Dialogue from the Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois. Fr. Rufino Dango was ordained last year, 2010, in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 89

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Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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Rev. Fr. Altaire Fernandez Associate Pastor, St. John Baptist De La Salle Church

His Solid Focus to Serve God! By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“When you quit when you experience frustration, and you do not try again, you cannot succeed. But when you try again, and you somehow succeed, you no longer need to quit, you simply continue. When you are clear about your goals, God knows it. [Goals] are for your own good, as well as others, therein lies the blessings. Focus and don’t divert your attention away from God’s [plan for you].” Fr. Altaire Fernandez, 2011. Fr. Altaire was one of the six priests I interviewed in one week, providing a unique window to a range of motivations, convictions, and attitudes. Those with deeper faith about God’s calling, shared no spiritual crisis and asserted that doors to opportunities just opened. They soared to the next levels in their vocations with ease. While those with ambivalence, faced prolonged challenges. Those with crisis, learned to lean heavily on their faith, and they found a more personal relationship with God. Fr. Altaire is one of those with solid focus to serve God. He has served in 9 parishes before working here in the US, and with each assignment, he became much more engaged with his moral calling: “The joys of my priesthood come when I meet people, I find God in them, and they share their woes, they want to make an appointment, they want some advice, and when I am able to help them, I see them uplifted, I see their sufferings abated, and I am happy, “ he said. He can say four masses straight but an hour of confession can be draining: “ Sa totoo lang, isip ang gumagana. I release the burdens I absorb through prayers, meditations and physical exercise.” He pursued high school in a minor seminary, not with the intentions of becoming a priest, but because it was a secure environment, suggested by a family friend, Fr. Senen Encarnacion. By the end of high school, he enrolled in the seminary. His parents came to visit and

prevailed upon the rector to allow him to explore secular life first: finishing a degree, pursuing a business and working. The rector relented and he, too, went along with his parents’ plans to pursue electrical engineering in the University of the East in Manila. He worked for a fast food chain and a year later, he helped manage his family’s duck farm. A friend, Msgr. Melchor Barcenas, kept tabs on him and reminded him about his plans to be a priest. He sought his parents’ blessings. He told them he was not happy in not pursuing his dream, and when he got their blessings, he enrolled in St. Peter College Seminary in San Pablo, Laguna for his AB Philosophy course. After completing his AB Philosophy, he went to Divine Word Seminary for his four years course in Theology and Master in Pastoral Ministry, and on May 23, 2000, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Francisco San Diego. He served different parishes: San Pablo Cathedral as an associate pastor for the youth ministry and altar servers; St. John Baptist doing the same; St. Francis de Assisi Parish working with youth, altar servers and catechists; San Ysidro Parish, Santa Rosa de Lima and St. Policarp Parish. When he was offered to be a pastor, he deferred to his classmates. He considered the offer of working here in the US while visiting his parents in Florida. After six months, he went back to the Philippines, sought his bishop’s permission, to be with his father who had a stroke.

Instead he became the pastor of San Vicente Ferrer Parish in Real Calamba, Laguna. He provided oversight to their church’s construction, and a year later, he supervised the church’s construction of St. Joseph Parish in Pila, Laguna. He got additional responsibilities of handling Eucharistic ministers and training lay ministers. He finally got to leave for the US in 2008, after being granted his bishop’s permission to work in the US. When he got to the US, he got a call from Fr. Leo del Carmen, who requested help in St. Rose de Lima in Simi Valley, CA. He took the train and travelled from San Diego to Simi Valley. An hour later, his ride arrived. He credits the support of Fr. Leo and Fr. Joe Shea, who accompanied him to apply to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He now serves as the associate pastor for St. John the Baptist De La Salle, where 60-70% of the 4,000 parishioners are Filipinos. In the last Filipino Priests sa America’s musical, held on September 11, 2011, Fr. Altaire actively participated, performed and sang as part of a chorale group of 30 priests. The musical was seen by over 1,400. “To achieve your dreams, you must have dedication, sacrifice and focus. Spiritual goals sustain my priesthood, I become a good priest, not just in sacraments, but in all respects. It is like racehorses, where their eyes are covered sideways, so they have one focus, to run straight to the finished line. I stay humble to accept God and learn more from others.”

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Rev. Fr. Lazaro ‘Larry’ Garcia Revilla

Associate Pastor at St. Mariana De Paredes in Pico Rivera By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Photography by Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

Fr. Revilla is by far, the youngest priest to participate in the Filipino Priests sa America Musical, which was held last September 11 at Citrus College. He was ordained on June 5, 2010 by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, together with Fr. Raymond Marquez and Fr. Bao Huy Nguyen. His recent ordination belies his spiritual depth and how grounded he is: “ I never let go of my prayer life. I anchor myself tightly to the source of our being, strength and joys,” he said. Prior to becoming a priest, he worked s a respiratory therapist for 13 years in the neo-natal ICU, at Torrance Memorial Hospital. He cared for premature infants who were barely a pound in weight — sometimes, even on the brink of death. He would rescue them, intubate them, and connect their fragile lungs to the respirator, until their organs developed. This required him to be on critical watch, with the parents, for 72 hours. Some developed and became normal, others did not. “Some of the adults and parents I dealt with were wealthy and famous, yet their fame and riches could not save them, nor their babies. We all prayed. I became a bridge — a tool. And though I was not a priest yet, nurses referred parents to me, and they called me Fr. Larry, so we could pray together for healing. When priests were not around, I asked the parents if they would let me baptize their babies before they died, and I did. “ That led him to a discernment journey, compelled by a serious car accident, which injured his C2-cervical spine in 2001. Released from the hospital and accompanied by his sister Teofista, Fr. Larry made a stop at a church before going home. From the crowd, he was spotted by the pastor, Fr. Gerald O’Brien. “Come, I would like for you to come to the front of the church,” he called on Fr. Larry. Fr. Larry felt as though Christ was looking at him. For about three months, he wore a halo traction to immobilize his neck and head. He describes his long and tedious recovery, which lasted for 8 months. He was fully focused on God, praying to Him morning, noon and night. Complications from injuries of this nature generally lead to becoming a quadraplegic. Yet, he didn’t experience them. “I was up and down in my faith while in the hospital. I thought God was away, yet, he was faithful to me. I asked God to meet me halfway and carry some of my burdens. I prayed to the Blessed Mother, I prayed the rosary and I felt the Blessed 92 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

“If you look up to the mountains, you may think you cannot climb them, but look at the ground, take the first step, by staying grounded, you can reach the top.” – Fr. Larry Revilla, 2011. Mother coddling me, for I felt no pain,” he shared. Today, Fr. Larry is mobile and fully recovered. It led him to ask the question: What would be his legacy, if he passed away tomorrow? Fr. Gerald became his spiritual guide. He asked Fr. Larry if he would consider joining the priesthood. “Yes, I actually entered the St. Vincent Seminary when I was in my first and second year high school. But, I was sickly and my mother doubted that it might not be my calling. So, I went to finish my high school in St. Paul in San Miguel, Bulacan. Then, my family immigrated in 1985,” he said. Fr. Larry was then referred to one of the Archdiocese’s vocations directors. He gives credit to many for making him who he is today. “Sister Kathy Bryant, one of the vocations director, suggested a discernment group for me. I was with lawyers, doctors, and other professionals who were considering late vocations. Then, I got into St. John’s Seminary, where I finished my Master’s in Divinity, following two years of philosophy and five years of theological studies. Fr David Gallardo was one of my wonderful mentors in my first assignment, he took me under his wings but also allowed me to soar on my own in my ministry; and the staff here at St. Mariana de Paredes are so dedicated with their work, they make my ministry much easier.” Then, he asked me if I believed in dreams. I said yes. He had a dream about Our Lady of Guadalupe. He was about to leave the seminary because of his doubts. He prayed until he reached the hill. At the top was Guadalupe. “Where have you been? We have been waiting for you. Go to a church down the hill,” he was told. The church was packed and he was asked to lead the prayers. When he consulted his spiritual guide about his dream, he was asked: “Is this not enough of a sign? What more do you need? An apparition?” Fr. Larry affirmed his vocation choice and shared his gratitude and insights about his physical and spiritual service. “ It is the people of God [who] allowed me to become a good priest. Just like the woodcarver had to give 100% of himself to build a bell stand, I have to give 100% of myself in service. I sometimes hold back, but God calls me deeper, and He wants complete trust and surrender. Allow yourself to be God’s instrument, his hands, his eyes, his mouth, his ears. “ I cried while hearing the story of his transformation.

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Rev. Vic Teneza

Pastor at St. Paul Catholic Church in Sacramento By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

WHEN Reverend Vicente “Vic” Teneza was ordained in 2001, Bishop William K. Weigand urged him and fellow Luis Urrego priest to “let God’s people love you into your ministry.” “I know that in the years ahead you will count many blessings as your grow in your ministry among the blessed people you will come to know and love, even in challenges,” said Weigand, according to the Diocese of Sacramento website. “Carry the Gospel in your heart, not only in your hand. Live it by your example and listen to the hearts of others as they interpret God’s message of love in their lives.” Ten years later, Father Teneza, a pastor at St. Paul Catholic Church in Sacramento has took Weigand’s word to heart as he continues to spread God’s work in the Filipino community in Northern California. “As pastor, I am blessed to experience God’s love through the many people who are generously involved in our parish,” he wrote on the welcome note of the St. Paul parish website. “I see it everyday in the church, in our meeting rooms, social halls, and

throughout the entire compound.” Father Teneza is a fixture in the FilipinoAmerican community. Where there is a Filipino party or event, Father Teneza is sure to be there. Most recently, Teneza blessed a Seafood City in South Sacramento where he told the Filipinos in the crowd “to unite and be of one heart and one mind,” according to the Sacramento Bee. As one who always works on his craft, Teneza has helped guide young people interested in the priesthood. He’s also participated in a new priest leadership training program called, “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” — a program designed to help priests tackle the complex challenges of priestly ministry and be better leaders. Father Teneza has served the St. Paul Catholic Church as pastor for the past few years. Prior to serving there, he served as parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Vallejo and chaplain at St. Patrick-St. Vincent. His first assignment by the Diocese of Sacramento was as parochial vicar of St. John the Baptist Parish in Folsom.

Rev. Eurel Manzano

Prince of Peace Catholic Community LAST June 2011, Fr. Eurel Manzano, 26, became the youngest priest in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston following his ordination. But Fr. Eurel did not get the “call” early. He originally planned to become a doctor and went to the University of Washington where he studied pre-med. Then, came God’s call to the priesthood and Manzano switched to “pre-clergy,” taking up Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. He then went on to attend seminary at St. Mary’s in Houston, Texas, where he also earned his Master’s of Divinity in the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary Seminary. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, when Manzano decided to seek ordination, he had to deal with dueling

pressures from his Filipino parents: devotion to the church and the importance of family. Giving up the opportunity for marriage and children “was an obstacle from the getgo. As Filipinos, they have great reverence for family and family life. It helps that my brother is able to carry on the family name, as it were,” Manzano told the Chronicle. Talking about his ordination a few months ago, Fr. Manzano said, “It’s amazing. It’s humbling. It’s the day that you dream of since you first have an inkling about becoming a priest. This is the start of a new life.” Fr. Manzano now serves at the Prince of Peace Catholic Community, 19222 Tomball Pkwy.Houston, TX 77070-3510. His areas of Ministerial Training/Experience are in the fields of Parish and Hospital Chaplaincy.

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Fr. Benjamin Escosura Alforque

Parochial Vicar St. Catherine of Alexandria By Joseph Pimentel / AJPRESS

FOR Father Benjamin Escosura Alforque, the Parochial Vicar at St. Catherine of Alexandria in Riverside, California, activism is an important part of his life. Aside from serving God, Alforque is a spokesperson for People’s Rights International Solidarity Movement (PRISM) and president of The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON-US). He’s also a priest of the religious congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), an international missionary order. Father Alforque is also a former political detainee under Martial Law in the 1980s and became founder of founding member of the association of former political detainees in the Philippines (SELDA) and founding member too of the human rights group, KARAPATAN. These past several years, Father Alforque has been in the forefront of every major issue affecting the Filipino and Filipino American

community. He’s spoken out about the importance of the DREAM Act, the Spratly Island conflict and justice for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Born in General Luna, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, Alforque was raised by parents who were both farmers in origin, but who worked their way through college to become leading educators in Gen. Luna, Surigao del Norte, the Philippines and in Minglanilla, Cebu, the Philippines, according to his bio in the Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernardino website. Father Alforque graduated salutatorian in the secondary education from the Sacred Heart Seminary, Lawaan, Talisay, Cebu. He obtained his AB-Pre-Divinity with minor in Philosophy from the Ateneo de Manila University, and an MA in Theology from the Loyola School of Theology, in Quezon City, the Philippines, his bio states. He further specialized in the studies of

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Sacred Scriptures, obtaining a Licentiate in Sacred Scriptures, cum laude, from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Prior to arriving to the US, he served as parish priest in the mission of the MSC in San Luis, Agusan del Sur, in the Philippines, and organized a secondary school for the native Filipinos, with an alternative curriculum that uses mathematics and the sciences to further the cause of the native Filipinos that promote their cultural identity, ancestral domains claim and prosperity. For years, Father Alforque has promoted justice and peace and integrity of creation. His bio states, he has co-chaired the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (JPC-AMRSP) and the Promotion of Church People’s Rights and Response (PCPR). He has also given several lectures around the world for justice and peace promotion.

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Fr. Manny Ediza

St. Michael, Paradise Hills, San Diego, USA By Cynthia De Castro / AJPRESS

FR. MANNY Ediza was born on June 17, 1954, the second among five children born to Mr. and Mrs. Augustine Ediza. His mother, Segunda, is a retired schoolteacher. His father, Augustine, was a World War II veteran who became a schoolteacher, a school principal, and a politician. At the age of twelve, Father Manny entered the seminary with five friends but without the intention of becoming a priest. He said that his ambition in life while he was a kid was to become a doctor of medicine. However, he finished high school in Pope John XXXIII Seminary, Cebu City, Philippines at the age of sixteen. He pursued his college studies in the seminary, and graduated college in San Carlos Seminary College in Cebu City, Philippines in 1974. His bishop, the late Julio Cardinal Rosales, discovered in him the good material for priesthood, and sent him to Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City, Philippines to continue his four yeartheological studies (1974-1979). On June 1, 1979, Fr. Manny was ordained to the priesthood by the late Archbishop of Cebu, Philippines, His Eminence Julio Cardinal Rosales. Conferred on him on that day too was an “STB Degree (Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology),” with Cum Laude honor in it by Pontifica Universitas Urbaniza, Rome. From 1979 to 1983, Father Manny worked in his home diocese in Cebu, Philippines as an Associate Pastor then became pastor of the same parish. Father Manny’s hunger for missionary work and idealism drove him to ask permission from his new bishop, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, Philippines to work in the mission. Cardinal Vidal sent him to Paua New Guinea for about ten years (late part of 1983 to 1993). In those years, Father Manny was appointed a pastor and later added to his pastorate was another responsibility. Father Manny was appointed a Diocesan Director for Catholic Schools. Later on, Father Manny

was appointed Chaplain of the University of Papua New Guinea. In 1994, after ten years and having completed his contract in the mission, Father Manny came to the United States for vacation. However, with the permission of his Bishop, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, he ended up working for the Diocese of San Diego with the endorsement of Father Jovencio Ricafort, his good friend while still in the seminary. From 1994 to 1996, Father Manny was an Associate Pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa (San Diego), California. In 1996, Father Manny was appointed as Chaplain of Sharp Memorial and Children’s Hospital. In November 2003, Bishop Robert H. Brom incardinated him into the Diocese of San Diego. Since then, he was assigned to St. Kieran in El Cajon (2004 to 2006), then to St. Mary’s in El Centro as the Pastor (2006 to 2007), and currently as Pastor to St. Michael Church in Paradise Hills, San Diego. His academic achievements are as follows: • Certified Supervisory Pastoral Management (2007) • CPE – Clinical Pastoral Education (1997 and 1998) • STB – Baccalaureate of Sacred Theology, Cum Laude (1979) • Media and Communication (1978) • Business and Pastoral Administration (1977) • AB-BSEE in Philosophy (1974) He speaks the following languages: • English • Spanish • Tagalog (Philippine national language) • Cebuano (his mother’s tongue) • Pidgin (Papua New Guinea national language) • Motu (one of the many languages in Papua New Guinea) • Latin (read and understand) • Greek (a little) The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 95

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Rev. Fr. Freddie Chua

Pastor Our Lady of Lourdes Tujunga, CA By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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“We all have different gifts. It would be sad, if we [live in a] cookie cutter world. I like to bring the joyfulness that my faith

brings - like the joyful presence of my pastor in the Philippines who changed me - to persons that I meet,” Fr. Freddie Chua, 2011.

It was an unlikely way to know God. He was listening to a line from John Denver song Follow Me: “You see I’d like to share my life with you/And show you things I’ve seen/ Places that I’m going to places where I’ve been/To have you there beside me and never be alone/And all the time that you’re with me/We will be at home” occupied his heart, mind and soul. From then on, since lis­tening to those lyrics with his Religion 101 classmates in college, he was hooked on God. He got more connected and followed God’s way by joining the parish’s choir. He admired his pastor “whose joyful, friendly and welcoming ways brought life to the parish and the parish blossomed.” He added, “I kept this notion to myself and did not discuss it with anyone, but as I got more involved in youth ministry, in apos­tolic work, I found deep friendship and camaraderie as we did a lot of community ser­vices together. It opened up an interest for priest­ hood for me.” Singing be­came one of the things he loved to do. With his choir, he did ap­ostolic work in orphanages such as Tahanan na walang Hagdan, as well as with old people, some of whom were abandoned in the streets by their families. Once or twice a week, he did fundraisers for religious orders. His faith got stron­ger when he went to college. He completed a double degree in Commerce and Accounting at De La Salle College in Taft. He is a licensed certified public accoun­ tant (CPA) and worked for three companies in the Philippines, prior to coming to the US. It was in the US when he finally got the courage to pursue priesthood. He was connected to a vocation office and conversations with the spiritual director got him enrolled in St. John’s Seminary which he remembers fondly. “The seminary years were good. I enjoyed the whole experience throughout, aside from the occasional angst and struggle with test and papers,” he said. “The first year, called pre-candidacy, was the hardest for me, – adjusting and going back to school after six years, taking a number of Phi­losophy classes all the same time for a whole year, and learning the ropes as a seminarian,” he recalled, adding “The next four years were good. I relished the whole experience. I had my share of spiritual crisis during those years, questioning if I am worthy to be a priest, if I have the neces­sary qualities of a priest, if I could make it as a priest,” he said. “I turned and relied heavily on prayers and on my spiritual director, I trusted in the whole semi­nary process of discernment that it will guide and show me if this is really my vocation,” he also said. Eventually, Freddie became Fr. Freddie, or­dained as a priest on May 30, 1998. His first as­signment, off the mint press, was at St. Anthony’s in Long Beach, which he found challenging and exciting. Now, he is part of people’s lives and not just books and lectures. One day, someone sought counseling from him and his first reaction was “wait, let me tell the pastor.” Then he real­ized he was one of the pastors who can help. It dawned on him he is no longer dealing with theoretical

problems, but is now faced with mo­ments of need and difficulties and is being asked to share in happy moments as well. He credits his pastor, Msgr. Richard Krekelberg for his spir­itual development. Another pastor, Msgr. Ber­nard Laheny, helped in guiding him how to be an inner city pastor to a congregation that spoke Spanish, Filipino and English. When he was assigned to St. John Louis Fisher in Rancho Palos Verdes, he marveled at their entrepreneurial abilities and generosity of spirit, where folks were conscious of their privi­leged status in life, and used their business skills in creating a thrift shop where immigrants can shop and the funds were used to help the poor. To the cynical, it is like handing their hand me downs to the poor, to feel good about their faith. But to those with conscious spirits, it is a great example of how to be generous with one’s entrepreneurial skills with the less fortunate, a practical program of social justice. His next assignment was at St. Louise de Marillac in Covina, where he learned conflict res­olution skills to help calm the community which was going through changes with parish leader­ ship. He learned to be more emotionally pres­ent, patient with his listening skills and trusting enough to share his personal insights with the parishioners. He was then assigned as an administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes in Tujunga for two years, and has been its pastor since 2007. The church is composed of Anglos, Filipinos and Latinos and bridging cultures is a challenge. “We hold big celebrations and no longer label it as Filipino or Latino, instead it is called Our Lady of Lourdes in Tujunga’s dinner dance or Our Lady of Lourdes’ celebration of Thanksgiv­ing, Christmas, Easter and even select special events for the Latino and Filipino cultures,” he said referring to how he helps bridge the cultural differences. “This way, the whole congregation can par­ticipate and everyone can be more open to God’s workings in their lives. For example, we have the Pasture which is a pantry program for the poor families. We are focused on education, evan­gelization, preparing for the new English mass, scriptural studies, children’s and youth choirs. This way, we become One Church,” he added. Fr. Freddie’s insights to Asian Journal read­ers: “We are all called to be a conduit for God’s grace to flow to the people. We should lose sight of different things, like creating the bell stand, in­stead, [we should] hold the bell, that is God, and create an environment where joyfulness, which changed me, is what we bring to persons that we meet.” At the recent Filipino Priests sa America musi­cal, he acted credibly as a pastor who just im­migrated, stung by culture shock. He received resounding applause and members of his con­gregation went to support, as part of over 1,400 audience members who watched. Fr. Freddie’s joy comes from the Holy Spirit’s gift of radiance, which makes his work glide in effectiveness. He is now in his 14th year of priesthood.

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Rev. Raymund M. Reyes (aka Fr. Ray) Pastor at St. Anne of the Sunset Parish in San Francisco, CA

His heartfelt love for God creates spaces for sacredness By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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“It revolves around moments of prayer, and each moment of the day and night is consecrated with God’s presence. The life inside revolves around prayer, here we see the big contrast with life outside, such as Church on Sundays, as it involves our work and other activities. I was given a challenge to balance my

life where I do not compromise my priestly duties along with the demands of my administrative work and my time with God. It is something we priests need to emulate and to show people how to lead good, spiritually healthy lives that brings out a more meaningful way of living.” - Fr. Ray Reyes, 2011

He went on a sabbatical in North American College in Rome. During the last leg of his trip, he stayed at a monastery in Quebec, in the middle of winter. The quote above describe his insights. For 12 days, he lived a life structured around working in the cheese factory, a farm, prayers, meditation, silence, stillness, including a perpetual vigil to pay respect to a monk who just died. The white snow blanketing the Lawrence River mirrored the depths of stillness he felt. His name is Raymond, meaning “protecting hands” and his last name means “of the kings.” Taken together, one can say that his life has been designed by faith, serving the King of kings as God’s servant/leader. I felt a certain sense of awe around Fr. Ray, a feeling I get, when I meet holy priests. It is what Fr. Miloy refers to as “an undeniable priestly character.” It is a feeling of sacredness -- an inner radiance and a serene yet joyful face. Fr. Ray describes a sacredness from feeling God’s presence within. Of his first visit at Our Lady of Lourdes (perhaps the most visited Marian Shrine in Europe) he said, “ All I could do was pray to God, mindful of other pilgrims, we are here for a mission, including praying for those who are not able to come here and pray. I saw one pilgrim who carried six handkerchiefs and everywhere we went, she touched the statues with all six, and they will be given as gifts to her friends, a little sacramental gesture. We never explain how we talk to God, we are good talking about God, yet, we seldom describe our own experiences of encountering Him in our lives.” He joined the Charismatic movement in 1975. He said of prayer groups: “We share our unique experiences of discovering Him.” Each visit to the Our Lady of Lourdes in France left him with a unique sacred feeling. I told him about my visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into the mesas of Sedona red rock in Arizona. I cried uncontrollably, as I entered the chapel. I could not stop. There was a feeling of peace, a wholeness that I desire nothing else, except to be there, to be part of that stillness. He smiled, because he makes spaces in his life to feel those, too. He finished high school at Don Bosco, a school run by the Salesians. He lived in a small farm owned by his parents, Mario and Elisa Reyes. There he learned the discipline to harvest eggs, feed the chickens, raise pigs and provide water. Just like the care he gave these animals, he too was cared for inside the seminary. Fr. Ray was first called to priesthood at age 12. He remembers

the love and the special respect shown to the pastor by the parishioners, which attracted him to priesthood. But most especially, he remembers their disappointment, when their pastor did not arrive to say Mass because of an accident. He vowed to become a priest “to be there for their needs.” He entered the Seminary of the Mother of Good Counsel with his brothers Chito, Ronnie and Red, but he was the only one who became a priest. He completed 4 years of philosophy and 4 years of theological studies. He was ordained by Bishop Jesus Galang on Dec. 8, 1988. He was assigned to the Cathedral of San Fernando, Pampanga where his beginner’s task was to administer the sacraments and to give confessions. He served as pastor of San Agustin in Caingin, Masantol. During rainy season he rode the banca (a small boat) to get to parishioners. Sometimes, he would walk through rice fields to reach them. Because he was young, he enjoyed the travels, including celebrating mass at 3am and 430am for Simbang Gabi. In his recent visit to the Philippines, he requested his nephew, Renz Mendoza, to help him, as he said masses in six different barrios within the parish. His nephew is now enrolled in preparatory college at a seminary, inspired after seeing the hunger of people to receive Jesus. He became pastor at San Jose Malino, Mexico, Pampanga, where he was asked at the middle of his pastorate to minister to the Kapampangans in St. Patrick’s Church in San Francisco. After several years, he became parochial vicar of St. Isabella Church in Marin. Three years after, in 2006, he was asked to serve as Administrator and then Pastor of St. Anne’s. He currently serves as the pastor of St. Anne of the Sunset Parish in San Francisco. He was recently appointed as the Liaison to the Charismatic Renewal of the Archdiocese. He serves as pastor to 1,000 registered families and to St. Anne’s School -- a pre-school to 8th Grade, with 586 students enrolled. Some of their ministries include a homebound ministry -- visiting facility homes to administer the sacraments. Every July 18-26, St. Anne’s Church celebrates its anniversary. “As people get older, they experience disappointments and all human elements get in the way. It is our tasks as priests to take them to a deeper understanding and to help them move on and to discover God’s love to change for themselves and others. We need to create, more than we expect, and we must create spaces for sacredness to settle in,” he said. He then handed me an unsolicited gift of holy water from Our Lady of Lourdes, with a companion prayer to St. Bernadette and a special blessings to gain wisdom, grace and perseverance. The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 99

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“I FIND fulfill­ment as a priest when I serve and minister to the people, the faith­ful, whose mar­ riages and status in life before the Church need help. I believe in this ministry of justice, truth, healing and reconciliation, for even though truth might be difficult, it is what it is, that some folks are not meant to be mar­ried. Through the annulment process in the Church, we find what really happened, it is not to pinpoint the blame, but when the whole truth is known by the parties, while painful, truth can become a source of joy [later on]. The annulment, a closure to pain­ful chapters of lives, can be the beginning of healing, and folks can move on.” – Fr. Reynaldo Matunog, 2011

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REV. FR. REYNALDO BONITE MATUNOG, JCL

ADJUTANT JUDICIAL VICAR, ARCHDIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

His last name means reso­nant and vibrant. And such was the early life of Fr. Reynaldo Matunog who comes from a family of eight siblings, along with devout churchgoer Supre­ma S. Bonite, his mom and his father, Melecio G. Matunog, Sr. Fr. Matunog got his moral calling while in high school, when he heard bout the priest­ly vocation from a priest. This encouraged him to join a minor seminary, Pope Paul IV/St. Jo­seph College in Maasin, South­ern Leyte. He completed three years of philosophy at Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, Leyte and finished his Bachelors in Theology at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He was then ordained by Bishop Vi­cente Ataviado to priesthood on April 11, 1991. In his first assignment as associate pas­tor of Maasin Cathedral, Fr. Matunog was in charge of the catechists in their formation and ongoing formation semi­nars. For four years, he was also the cat­echetical director in the larger diocese of Maasin. When he was assigned pastor of Assump­tion in the Hills Parish, he over­saw the building of a new rec­tory and a new church, which seats 750 parishioners, costing Php 8,000,000. While serving as pioneer priest for this parish, he was in charge of formation of the parishioners and aware­ness of their parish’s identity as separate from the cathedral. Fr. Matunog travelled by foot, motorbike or jeepney to reach distant chapels within the parish. He travelled as if on a boat when he would walk or ride unpaved, muddy, pock­marked dirt roads. This sum­moned not only his patience, but also a willingness to under­take personal sacrifices to pro­vide pastoral services. Later, he became the pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Visca, Baybay Leyte. Here, the focus of his ministry was the aca­ deme, the agricultural farmers, fishermen, students, university workers, and the member cha­pels located in the neighboring barangays. In his 10th year of priesthood, he requested per­mission to pursue further studies. He completed a Licentiate in Canon Law in Universidad de Navarra in Spain and completed all the academic require­ments, but for his dissertation, towards a doctorate in the same university. While in Spain , he got exposed to the practice of faith by the Spaniards. This is where he gained appreciation for the deep faith and the Catholic heritage of Filipinos. Like the United States, he sensed a declining attendance for Sunday masses in Spain, yet most Catholics participated actively in processions, fiestas, and traditional celebrations during Holy Week and Devotion to Saints. While he recognizes the difficulty of generalizing and while he believes faith is personal

and internal, he witnessed that most of the locals’ attendance were during cultural festivals. Fr. Matunog, in the interview, shared his knowl­edge on the process of annulment for the benefit of Asian Journal readers. “Canon law referes to the laws of the church, but founded on Theology. It is basically Theology being applied to the practical and juridical life of the Church. It is theology in the laws of the Church,” he said. He explained that annulment in the Philippines is two fold: one done by the state and another done by the Church. In the United States, he described annulment as a ministry to couples whose mar­riages have ended in separation and divorce. He said an investigation takes place before it is de­cided on. The process, at the shortest, can take six months. It takes longer for complicated cases. Annulment can be heard or based on several grounds that are supported by evidence and proof within the common life: problems existed at the moment of exchange of marital vows: incapacity, impediments caused by previous bonds to another creating a defect from the start, and incapacity to give consent traceable to intellectual, psycho­logical and emotional factors and lack of canonical form. He handles more than 300 annulment cases per year. Fr. Matunog said he finds fulfillment in his cur­rent assignment. He said after the tribunal com­pletes the investigation and proof is found that grounds of annulment are present, the parties reach a point of truth and reconciled to that truth. Their marriage, once an integral part of their life, is now succeeded by annulment which becomes a spiritual aspect of their healing. At this state both are recon­ciled to God, their Church, and to all others. When asked about the Taoist tale on the bell stand, he shared, “The Woodcarver was able to make the bell stand only because of his total be­ing’s oneness with God. The Gospel is so clear; our Lord Jesus said: “If you want to follow me, take up the cross and follow me.” “By Divine Providence, although I did not see it before, I found my studies in Spain providential, as I got to know Spanish, I am able to serve a Latino parish,” he said. “Being a Filipino, I can help minister and I handle cases involving Filipino couples and par­ties to annulment. I just celebrated 20 years of priesthood while I get to serve people from my line of expertise as a canon lawyer,” he said, adding, “Priesthood is a very fulfilling ministry. To the young, single people out there, consider being a priest as a vocation in life to pursue.” The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 101

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Rev. Fr. Geoffrey Baraan Pastor, St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Union City, CA

The Family Roots of His Faith and the Heartprints of His Ministry in Social Justice! By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

“Where do the wars and conflicts come from? Perhaps they stem from selfishness, from putting ‘me’ first rather than putting my neighbor first. A person is justified by works and not by faith alone. It is no easy task to reach out in

mercy, kindness, generosity and love to everyone we meet, every single day. Feel the extremes of desert live. Open yourself to change. Let God’s enduring love give you courage to be reborn in justice and peace.” Fr. Geoffrey Baraan, 2011.

I came across these quotes from Fr. Geoffrey’s Lenten message to his parishioners, who are supportive of him, and whose social justice ministry in St. Anne’s Church keeps growing. When I did this interview, a UC Berkeley graduate, Erin Pangilinan, immediately recognized her pastor: “Our parish is truly a community that cares, because our pastor cares and he gives us homilies that we can apply. Last August he showed us “Modern Day Slaves”, a film about undocumented workers, whose immigration status is used against them by their employers to get longer hours of unpaid work, making them indentured servants.” As the evening progressed, Fr. Geoffrey shared more news items from his IPAD, having been covered extensively by Balitang America on The Filipino Channel for their novena masses or Simbang Gabi, and by the Catholic Voice Online which reported: [“95 percent Filipino,” the social justice ministry is concerned with issues of homelessness and the dignity of the poor. The committee is focusing on educating people, through gatherings and flyers on “the right of human beings to dignity, joy and happiness, a lot of people don’t realize, that’s the Gospel challenge: social justice,” Fr. Baraan said.] It is comforting to know that Fr. Geoffrey hails from the Baraan family, an example of moral certitude, an awareness that their lives must abide by the truth. His brother, Francisco Baraan III, serves as the current undersecretary to Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima. He is described in the San Beda College website as a paragon of honesty in his law profession, and whose life embodies the college’s values of faith, knowledge and virtue. He spoke highly of his father, Francisco Baraan II and his mother, Imelda Baraan, who showed him life examples of honesty and compassion to others. Rafael, his older brother, serves as the provincial administrator in Pangasinan. Two brothers (Rafael and Francisco) are ex-seminarians and two

cousins are priests: Msgr. Manuel Baraan, now deceased and Fr. Armando Baraan, a Capuchin priest. Fr. Geoffrey went to Dasol Catholic School in Pangasinan. When his parents went on vacation, he tended the grocery store that they owned. But, instead of selling, he gave them away. Finding the empty shelves, his mother anticipated lots of pesos earned, instead, “Mom, no, I gave the food to the needy.” She got mad at him, but later, she realized his compassionate heart for the poor. He started at a Franciscan seminary at age 16, and later, joined his family to move to the US. He worked at Security Bank’s data processing center for 8 years, but the call to priesthood got louder. He struggled and ignored the call, but the spirit’s call was strong: “Everytime I went to church, I got more emotional, that I had to do something about it.” His father at first demurred, but Geoffrey persuaded him: “Papang, it is time to go. But what gave me courage was my brother Jerome, who said “ I will take of care of our parents, don’t worry,” Fr. Geoffrey tearfully shared. Jerome struggled for ten years with mental illness, yet generous in helping the family, until the family found the treatment that works for him, therapy and prescription drugs, which stabilized his brain’s chemical imbalance. He now enjoys a normal life, drives his own car, and goes to weekly movies with Geoffrey. Fr. Geoffrey took Philosophy at Joseph’s College in Los Altos, CA and theology at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Geoffrey became Fr. Geoffrey when he was ordained on June 14, 1997 by Bishop John Cummins. He was part of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Bishop’s Special Commission on Diaconate Formation, Diocesan Filipino Pastoral Council and No more Secrets Committee. Currently, he is part of the Clergy Formation and Education Committee and the Dean of the Diocese, overseeing some parishes. He served at St. Ignatius, whose first pastor was replaced, The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A) 103

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after abusing the altar servers. One Sunday, in 2003, he greeted one of the early church-goers, unbeknownst to him, was abused by the first pastor of St. Ignatius. He welcomed him to the church, gave him a hug and this sexual abuse victim declared that for the first time in 16 years, he is back as a church-going Catholic. Fr. Geoffrey showed love to him and this love enabled him to come back to the Church. In speaking to other seminarians in formation, he would ask: “Who would you like to imitate when you become a priest?” Some would answer Fr. Geoffrey, but his response is certain: “No, it can’t be me, it should be Jesus Christ. When Jesus is your model, you have compassionate love, a higher form of love.” On Yelp.com, reviews of St. Anne’s Parish were shared: “The pastor, Father Geoffrey has done a fabulous job too. He is very lively when he presides over a mass. He cares about the community and truly loves what he does. When my grandmother was in hospital for terminal cancer, a few days before she passed away, Father Geoffrey was out of town, but he found a way to visit my grandmother in the hospital to pray with her. That was really great of him to go out of his way to visit, even though it was really late at night. My family isn’t super close to Father Geoffrey, we never had a chance to invite him to the house for lunch or dinner prior to that hospital visit. Father Geoffrey is just a very genuinely good person, and I am thankful that he did that for my family.” Julz P. “This Catholic church has a modern church feel and a ton of weekly worshipers. It’s always a “homely” family experience when I come here. The community puts a lot of volunteer time and love in making this a wonderful place to worship.” Robb J. Serendipity is at work in Fr. Geoffrey’s church, a predominantly Filipino parish with 4,500 families, who will now be joined by hundreds of Indonesian and Polish families, as they lost their place of worship, deemed unsafe, requiring extensive repairs, which the Archdiocese chose to forego in these hard times. “Welcome, this is your Church!”, Fr. Geoffrey and his parishioners at St. Anne’s said to them. Every December starting Dec. 16 to 24, 9 days of novena masses are held, and the parishioners take vacations from their day jobs, to celebrate the coming of Baby Jesus. At 5am, cars line up the streets for blocks on, and inside, the church is teeming with parishioners. The choir is singing, and after mass, Filipino traditions come alive: bibingka, puto bungbong, pancit, arroz caldo, pandesal. Families congregate, they sing, they dance, and raffles are held that include flat screen televisions. Funds raised go to special projects that support 50 ministries in St. Anne’s, a new ministry in Bicol, and ministries in Pangasinan, where Fr. Geoffrey Baraan’s family come from. The circle of love, giving and compassion is being completed and parishioners’ hearts are being prepared for Baby Jesus’ coming. It is no longer of consumer goods first, but folks come to connect with and to each others’ joyful hearts beating with love and compassion, the heartprints of Fr. Geoffrey and his St. Anne’s parishioners of Filipinos, Polish and Indonesian descent. “I am a happy priest, with a lot of passion. I love what I am doing, but I am not perfect. We are not here to build a perfect community. We are here to build a loving community. My being here is not an accident. When you go to Mass, don’t take it as an obligation, but a celebration of what God has done for us. Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian experience. This is a mountaintop experience.” Fr. Geoffrey said. 104 The National Association of Filipino Priests (U.S.A)

Paintings of Fr. Geoffrey Baraan

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Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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Photography by Hydee Ursolino Abrahan Photography by Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. / AJPRESS

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