03 - 20 - 17
Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary News

Disclaimer:      To my fellow priest-to-be aspirants

This is neither about how I spent my Christmas vacation nor about the images that Sem. Saturcito Velasco, Jr. and I captured in our involvement with the Balay sa Panday Foundation of St. Joseph the Worker Parish of Bugsoc, Sierra Bullones, Bohol. This article is all about how the parish priest and his flock unite in the service of the parishioners in dire need. I am hopeful that this unity will inspire us in our  future ministry.

 Joseph the Worker Parish of Bugsoc, Sierra Bullones is much poorer if compared to most parishes in Bohol. Its lot is small, just enough for the church building and rectory.  Surviving only with meager operational fund, the parish is never financially stable; yet,  it is abundant in oneness and  hospitality  –    a treasure that  is more than any bank account.

Within more than a month of my 2016 summer apostolate  in Bugsoc, I was not able to know enough of the people there. What I knew was their simple lifestyle. The parishioners are mostly farmers. The fruits and crops  they  reap are the source of survival of the parish. The mass offerings are not money but the work of their hands and the fruits of their lands. Sadly, the seasons are not always favorable to them. When droughts and storms come, all that they work hard for are gone. As almost all of them suffer  losses, the parish is  affected. When such situation surfaces, their shepherd, Rev. Fr. Eusebio “Tata” Soliano has to let go of his own savings for the sustenance of the parish.

Fr. Tata lives up to the ideals that priesthood is not for the self but for others. That is why he looks after the needs not only of the parish as a whole, but most importantly of the individuals in his flock. Being a son of a farmer, Fr. Tata applies his own knowledge in farming and teaches it to his parishioners. He personally spearheads conferences and even invites agriculturists to help him in facilitating. He is convinced  that the church is obliged to help its needy parishioners; not only that the church keeps on asking. To intensify such service,   he plans to buy agricultural equipments to help his farmer parishioners so that  when  their finances improve, they will be capacitated to answer to the needs of the community.         Fr. Tata has many plans for his parish, but due to financial deficiency, his plan  will take a long time to materialize. Meantime, he entrusts everything  to the Lord.

Fr. Tata is very simple as he is pious. When he says Mass, he always has a crucifix at hand. He is not materialistic; all he has are necessities, not luxuries. He does not  even have a vehicle of his own; he uses the parish old multicab to transport him in carrying out his apostolate and ministry. One time, when we were on our way to Talibon, the front wheels of the multicab loosened. Mockingly, I asked him why he should not buy a new vehicle. His answer pleasingly amazed me: he said that if he buys one, then he will not anymore have money to support the students that he personally sends to school.  True enough, the rectory has seemingly turned into an orphanage because in there, he houses kids whose parents cannot afford their schooling.  Everytime we eat with the kids, he does not discuss foolish matters. For me, staying with him is like having once again my forty days of retreat. That is  Fr. Eusebio Soliano, a diocesan priest who has the fortune of charity, and a principled man who keeps saying no to the worldly allurements that may distract him in his service of others and of God.

 

His being a priest exemplar was the reason why I  returned to his parish      Christmas of 2016 with Sem. Velasco.  I experienced his new initiative, the Balay sa Panday. This initiative is the BEC’s program of building houses for the indigent parishioners. He had no funds at hand  —   only his trust in God’s providence through his parishioners. I was there and so I could stand on my words. I was able to experience lalin,  a  traditional carrying and transferring of a house.

 

Since the schedule was tight and because of our desire to help in the lalin, Sem. Velasco and I extended our visit for another day. We went  to the site at eight o’clock in the morning. While we were riding in the multicab of Fr. Tata, we saw  people waiting for us at the roadside. Some brought  donations of rice for our food, junk food,  beverages, sacks of cement, and  scrap metals. I  joked to Sem. Velasco that we would become carpenters at no time; yet deep inside me, I was trembling since I never ever  had any experience in carpentry. But I was relieved when we arrived at the place because I saw a dozen of people willing to help. More people came. I was laughing seeing more people coming to build a very small house; yet I became quiet when I knew that they came to volunteer. I was really inspired, delighted, and  speechless.

 

That was a very dramatic and unforgettable experience; tiring yet relieving,and fulfilling. Seeing Fr. Tata and his parishioners work together made my vocation alive. The male volunteers worked on the house while the females  prepared lunch. Fr. Tata came not to instruct but to be instructed by his parishioners. Despite the rain, Fr. Tata continued digging a hole and removing the soil with his bare hands. I joined the male parishioners in lifting the house from where it was first built. One shouted, “Sige! Uno, dos, tres! ( Ready! One, two, three!)”  Together we lifted the house, but suddenly, the bamboo that we used broke.  Good thing was that not one of us was hurt. After few minutes, we started again. “Hala bira! Sige… Abante… Taysa kay ang akong tsenilas nahabilin. (“Okay, pull! Ready… advance! Wait, I left my slipper.“) At last the work was done. Serving as the gift of the parish to Nanay Asuncion, the recipient, the house was blessed on Christmas day.

The project was completed through bayanihan. Fr. Tata had no funds at       hand  —   only his trust in God’s providence. He begged for donation for the project, and with my own eyes, I saw people came and gave the little they had: P100.00,  P300.00.  It is really true that people would continue to support if they see the fruit of their giving. For me and Sem. Velasco, the most important lesson we learned  in the  Lalin experience is giving of oneself to the service of others and be a gift to everyone. It is in giving that we receive, it is in service that we have unity. And there is no plan or mission impossible if unity is  within the community.

-Sem. Christian P. Lamoste

First Appeared on Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary

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