Bishop Sergio Utleg leads the blessing of the Jubilee Cross on June 4 to mark the arrival of Christianity in the province four centuries ago
Villagers in hinterland areas of the northern Diocese of Laoag
vowed to continue holding regular liturgical celebrations even in the absence of a priest. Bishop Sergio Utleg said this commitment of the lay people had been incorporated as a "priority mandate" of the diocese's pastoral plan, which was presented to the faithful during the jubilee Eucharistic celebration yesterday. The bishop said the weekly liturgical services conducted by lay leaders in remote villages will address the diocese's lack of priests. The Diocese of Laoag has 44 diocesan and religious priests serving 28 parishes with more than 400,000 Catholics, the majority of the population of the province of Ilocos Norte. Bishop Utleg said the conduct of liturgy celebrations in remote villages by lay people will carry on the mission of the Church to spread the Good News and for parishioners to be nurtured by the Body of Christ. "This is our humble, simple and doable plan," the bishop told the faithful who attended the jubilee celebration. The bishop earlier announced that the diocese will open a new seminary to address the lack of priests in the province. Bishop Utleg said they are recruiting high-school graduates wanting to study theology to enter the new college seminary that offers mass communications courses with a major in philosophy.