State of the Diocese Address
Given during dinner for Residencia Sacerdotal Diocesan Retirement Homes
Thursday, February 24, 2011 at the Christ the King Parish in Greenmeadows, QC
Places are not forgotten. People are always remembered. We always recall those beautiful moments, cherish those meaningful events, and renew those memorable experiences.
We can remember those places, those people with our heads or with our hearts. But when we remember our place which evokes loving memories, we think of Bataan with our hearts. Yes, we remember her with love. We long to hear from home. Home is where is your heart is. Our hearts are still beating for Bataan. To see and to speak to the beloved is an ardent longing of the heart.
We came together here for our love of Bataan. To know more of Bataan is to love her deeply. And to love her deeply is to serve her sincerely. So with what I tell about Bataan is to know her, to love her and serve her.
To know is to be informed of details, of specifics and of conditions. And to be informed is then to be transformed by these details or situations. Jesus tells us in the gospel of Saint John, “I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father. Because of this I give my life for my sheep” (10,14). After many months or years of being away from Bataan, what we want to know in particular about our Diocese, our Church of Bataan?
1. Our priests, the parishes and the religious
With the 2010 Catholic Directory of the Philippines we have forty one (41) diocesan priests and twenty eight (28) religious priests. Another two will be ordained by the second quarter of this year. And I attest to you that our Diocese is blessed with our dedicated and very committed priests. There are thirty four parishes of which twenty four parishes are under the grace-filled guidance of our Diocesan clergy and the remaining ten are ably administered by our religious priests. Another parish church which is situated in Nagbalayong, Morong will be established by June 06. Before the year ends another two parishes in Culis, Hermosa and in Upper Duale in Limay will be erected. We have thirty-two (32) seminarians who are undergoing priestly formations in five major seminaries in Bulacan, Makati, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Quezon City. There are sixty eight (68) religious sisters from eleven countries who are pastorally working in our Diocese.
2. Our Diocesan schools
We have eight Diocesan schools catering to elementary and high school students. With this coming school year 2011 our Saint Nicholas de Tolentino Catholic School in Mariveles will be opened and operate her High School education. Aside from our Diocesan schools, by Diocesan we mean own, organize and operated by the Diocese of Balanga, there are also thirteen catholic schools run by different religious Congregations such as the Siena College, Colegio de San Juan de Letran of the Dominican sisters and fathers; De La Salle by the Christian Brothers and Catholic colleges established by the Franciscan sisters and Somascan Fathers. Soon enough the Teresian Association will have their Poveda School for our Indigenous People in Bagac.
3. Our people
There are about 565,112 registered Catholics in our Diocesan. We have the celebration of Holy Masses for all sectors of our province especially for those who are in the Provincial Jail, Hospital and Military Camps, that is, daily Holy Mass in our private and provincial hospitals, every Sunday Holy Mass in our Provincial Jail, and first Monday Holy Mass for all our chiefs of police and officers of Bataan PNP. The Diocese is after the implementation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities known to us as KrisMa, Kristiyanong Magkakapitbahay.
To love is not a word. It is not a promise. Love is action. To love is to provide. Love calls us to move, to do something, to offer. Jesus reminds us that “there is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15,13).
1. For our priests and seminarians
Like what Saint Peter said to Jesus “we have given up everything to follow you” (Mark 10,28), our priests gave up their future and family for God’s people. Is it not very much fitting that we assure them “kami noon ay inyong pinaglingkuram, amin naman kayo ngayon aalagaan.” As I have said we have to take care of the sowers of the Seed- from formation until they rest from their toil in the field of the Lord. And so this Residencia Sacerdotal Diocesan Retirement Homes come into reality.
This Residencia Sacerdotal Diocesan Retirement Homes is the spiritual renewal, physical recreation and theological updating of the Bataan clergy. Every Monday is designated for theological conferences, general assembly, recollections and outdoor games. In its 5,000 square meters the Residencia Sacerdotal is composed of four (4) singly detached three bedroom unit, Administrative office, clubhouse, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, basketball and tennis courts. As of now we have constructed the first unit and the Administrative office. The construction of the clubhouse is now on going. We want to go full blast in order to have the blessing on August 04 the feast of Saint John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of the priests. But financial needs hinder us. With your caring and loving ways we are encouraged and we firmly believe there will be a fruitful and successful conclusion.
2. For our schools
From the gospel of Saint Matthew we know that when “Jesus saw the crowd gathered here and he had compassion with them” (14,13). We have realized that we are losing our young people after their High School formation from our Diocesan Schools. It is only because our Diocesan Schools are only for High Schools, and so after forming them with Catholic teachings and identities through four years of High School, we let them go. Why not we think and dream of having Diocesan Colleges, even it will offer technical and vocational courses.
To serve is to offer our time, talents and treasure. To serve is readiness to sacrifice something for the beloved. Service entails sacrifice even to the point of suffering. The life of Jesus is a supreme example of service. He showed us that he “has come, not to be served but to serve and to give his life to redeem many” (Matthew 20,28).
1. from our priests:
In spite of devoting all their efforts and dedicating their very selves, our priests are united in working for the realization of this Residencia Sacerdotal Diocesan Retirement Homes. With their AGAP, that is, alay sa pagpapasakit our priests have personally offered twenty five thousand pesos (25,000) as to start the construction of our Residencia Sacerdotal. With their physical availability and pastoral creativity our priests initiated projects such as municipal basketball games between clergy of Bataan against the Local Government Officials. And to bring you back to the memories of Bataan and to make feel that you are still in our hearts and mind, we have these Holy Mass for our beloved Bataenos residing outside our historic and beloved province and Dinner for a Cause. This Residencia Sacerdotal Diocesan Retirement Homes is visible proof of our gratitude for the services rendered by our old and retiring priests. It is our showcase of how much we love them and how far we will take good care of them.
2. from our young people:
There is always constant invitation of Jesus as He says “le the children come to me and don’t stop them”(Luke 18,16). Our province is blessed with young people, who are respectful and very obedient. They are very promising. They are our hope and inspiration. With spirit of sacrifice, our young people will value what they have and what they acquired. With a sense of belongingness, they will feel that we are one with them in their aspirations and ambitions, that we love them and we are taking good care of them. How we can foster in them this spirit of sacrifice and sense of belongingness? Our Diocese is embarking this lifetime project envisioned as “one snack a week I sacrifice for love” which is being spearheaded by our young people. It is not just one time but as a way of life. We will not take one snack a week and the money that would have spent for that snack will be saved and spend for the construction of their future Blessed Pope John Paul II Summer Youth Camps in sitio Peas, Barangay Duale in Limay. This praiseworthy project in which our young people are very much willing to embrace is tangible manifestation of their self-sacrifice towards personal sanctification. Here they are willing to forgo comfort and pleasure. And their availability to sacrifice is their formation to the virtue of sharing and self-control. The end result of this “one snack a week I sacrifice for love” cultivates the values of sacrifice, sanctification, sharing and services.
3. from our diocesan Schools
Our Diocesan Schools are not only evangelizing our young people to be configured to the ways and will of Jesus. With Catholic values and identities, our Diocesan Schools are in reality forming them to be responsible and God-fearing sons and daughters of the Church. Our eight Diocesan Schools are in solidarity with each other. They help each other, assist and cooperate with one another. What one lacks, others provide. What one needs, others supply. Reconstruction or renovation takes turn according to the priority needs of each school.
Taking into consideration the continuity of Catholic teaching and formation, we plan in the near future the establishment of Diocesan Colleges in which we cluster our Diocesan Schools within the center, within the first and second districts of Bataan.
Our plans for the Diocese are not easy. It is not light. Everything entails sacrifices. There will be hard works. And we admit that we cannot accomplish all of these by ourselves. For, we too are also limited and lacking. But with you we can do something. We can make a difference. We can dream and succeed. We can plan and achieve. With you with us, there will be hope. There is help. Everything will be attainable. All will be beyond our reach. Like Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians we say, “I thank god every time I remember you” (1,3).
Our plans for our beloved Diocese will surely take time. Or the result could be long in coming. Our patience could be tested. Our own resources and our pockets will be sacrificed. Yet we will hold on. We will go on. With our plans for our dear Diocese, we could lose our hair or it could turn to white. We could lose our weight or have sleepless nights. But one thing is sure: we will not lose our faith in you. We will continue to turn to you, and trust. And we believe that with you with us we could turn our dream into a successful reality, our plans to a fruitful result.
One with you I recite this prayer for Bataan:
Almighty God, our merciful Father
You are our hope and our help.
You are our life and our love.
We turn to You and trust You.
You have blessed us and have given us the best.
We humbly pray.
Bless Bataan, our beloved province.
Bless our lands, our seas and rivers.
Bless our priests, our religious sisters and our people.
Bless our families, our schools and our government officials.
Bless our workers, our police force and our students.
Make us a blessing to them.
Guide us to give our best.
And with Your grace may we bear a bountiful harvest to Bataan.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos
Bishop of Bataan
22 February 2011