“I hope that what we do externally may penetrate inside our hearts so that as St. Paul said, what we cannot see with our eyes may truly be the most worthwhile thing.” This was the gist of the message of Bishop Ryan to the parishioners of San Antonio during the Fiesta Mass celebration in honor of its patron saints last Sunday.
Taking cue from the Second Reading of last Sunday’s liturgy from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Bishop Ryan reminded the congregation of the ordinariness of life and that our focus should not be the building or what is seen but what is unseen.
Beginning his homily by taking a trip down memory lane, Bishop Ryan recalled his years still as a seminarian going down San Antonio Parish with Fr. Ino and recalling how the parish was alive and vibrant with the construction of the parish social hall.
San Antonio through passed through different parish priests over the years and even a period without assigned priests until the last six years under the spiritual leadership of Fr. Romil Aperocho. Two weeks ago, Fr. Romil went back to his home diocese of Capiz, in the Philippines and now the parish is in a period of transition, waiting for its new assigned priests.
Under the vibrant leadership of Fr. Romil, San Antonio went through a series of construction and renovation projects in the last 4 years resulting in the building of a beautiful Reliquary and the extension of the Church as well as the construction of a beautiful façade of the Church.
While commending the parish for these accomplishments, Bishop Ryan challenged and invited the parishioners to move forward and focus this time on the interior and ‘spiritual renovation’ of the parish community.
“If there is a prayer I will ask this time to San Antonio, it would be that this parish may be a place of communion for the people of God in this village”, says Bishop Ryan. Referring to last year’s document of the Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in which the parish is described as a communion of communities, Bishop said that this image of a parish should make your parish a locus, a place where everyone in this village gathers to center their lives in Christ.
He also take up the problem of the shortage of vocation of the diocese. For years, the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa has been relying on the help from priests from the Philippines on contract basis to assist the local parishes because of the lack of local vocation. The bishop said that, unless we will have local vocations, we will always have this cycle of welcoming new priests (bienvenida) and then saying goodbye to them (despidida) after a time.
Bishop Ryan assigned one of the newly ordained permanent deacon, Deacon Tony Yarobwemal to San Antonio to assist the pastoral needs of the parish while waiting for the new priest. But for the time being, bishop challenged the parishioners that we also should discern as individuals, as a parishioner: ‘what is it that I can contribute (not materially) for the growth of the parish community, so that the parish would truly be a pace of communion of communities within the village?’ He then reminded them of the Gospel reading that doing God’s will is not pushing our own agenda but trying to be humble, trying to be obedient, and trying to increase Christ while all of us must decrease.