PRIESTHOOD is the highest dignity on earth. In the Catholic faith, the dignity of a priest surpasses that of the emperors and even the angels. No one can convert bread into the Body of Christ by the mere power of his word; nor can forgive sins except the priest. The priest stands between God and man. He is God’s representative and ambassador. Hence, whatever honor we pay to the priest, we render to God Himself.
On June 21, 2008, when super typhoon Frank lambasted the Island of Panay causing great floods and destruction in the City of Iloilo, the parishioners led by a priest offered a prayer-on-air and the storm calmed down in the afternoon of the same date.
On December 4-5, 2012, the power of prayer-on-air led by a priest and other parishioners saved the Ilonggos from the killer super typhoon Pablo that might hit the Region within the period. In the afternoon of December 4 until the morning of December 5, 2012, classes in all levels and the offices were automatically suspended when the Iloilo area was placed under storm signal number 3. An untold phenomenon, or a miracle, happened. The whole City of Iloilo was sunny and very calm on December 4-5, 2012. The Director of the Police Regional Office-6, despite the typhoon signal, declared the “zero casualty” scenario.
In 2018, we were saddened by successive killings of priests in the country. On June 10, 2018, Father Richmond Nilo was shot and killed by two unidentified gunmen in a chapel as he prepared to celebrate Sunday Mass. Father Nilo, 43, was the parish priest of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Zaragoza town. He is the third priest killed in the country in the past eight months.
On June 6, 2018, a former police chaplain, Father Rey Urmeneta, was shot by two gunmen in Calamba City. He survived the assassination attempt as he suffered wounds to his left arm and back.
Another priest, Father Mark Ventura, 37, was shot and killed shortly after celebrating a Sunday morning Mass in Barangay Peña West in Gattaran, Cagayan in April 2018. Fr. Ventura was known for his anti-mining advocacies. Police have yet to determine the motive behind the shooting incident.
On December 4, 2017, Father Marcelito “Tito” Paez, coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of Philippines in Central Luzon, was shot dead in Nueva Ecija. Father Paez was a former parish priest in Gumbia and the regional coordinator of Rural Missionaries of Philippines in Central Luzon. He was shot by unidentified assailants riding a motorcycle while driving his vehicle in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.
Our parish priest requested to pray for them as this country lacked priests. Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said that the Philippines is in need of more priests to serve the growing number of Catholics.
Our country is the only Catholic nation in Asia. The ratio of priests to Catholics here is approximately 1 to 8,000. Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the ideal number should be 1 priest per 2,000 Catholics. In Manila, the ratio is 1 priest to 20,000 parishioners. In 2013, at least 9,000 Catholic priests in the country attend to the spiritual needs of roughly 76 million Filipino Catholics.
Furthermore, as noted along with the studies conducted, there was an 8% increase in the number of Filipino Catholics in 2013. This is because many Filipinos inclined to leave the fold of other religious denominations. Hence, in some places, Mass is celebrated every other week.
Programs leading to priesthood education are unpopular in school today. Young boys on the “calling” are very rare and hard to find. Studies showed that most of our young boys turned off priesthood on the prospect of living their lives alone. Furthermore, only 3 out of 154 higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Region are offering programs leading to priesthood education.
Very few or around 0.2% of the total enrolment in higher education in the Region are enrolled in such programs. The religious education program is one of the priority courses identified by CHED this academic (AY) 2018-2019 under the Arts and Humanities discipline.