Cabanatuan is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. Its titular patron is St. Nicholas of Tolentine whose feast is celebrated September 10.
The Diocese of Cabanatuan lies on the North Eastern portion of the central plains of Luzon, Region III, hemmed in by Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Viscaya and Quezon provinces. It comprises 15 municipalities of southern Nueva Ecija; and the cities of Cabanatuan, Palayan and Gapan. Constituting the 3rd and 4th districts of the largest province in Cental Luzon, it covers a land area of 2,743.5 square kilometers.
As of 2016, the Catholic populace in the Diocese is 1,142,000 which is 87.90 percent of the total population of 1,298,500. The growth rate of the province is 2.0 percent, compared to the national growth rate of 2.04 percent. The average household size is 5 members per family.
Creation of the Diocese
The Diocese of Cabanatuan was created on Feb. 16, 1963 out of the territories taken from the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan and the Diocese of San Fernando and inaugurated on June 4, 1963. It comprised the entire civil province of Nueva Ecija and the chartered cities of San Jose, Cabanatuan and Palayan. It prides itself as one of the eight (8) provinces in the entire country which cried and fought for national independence from foreign denomination in the later part of 19th century and the early part of the 20th century.
On July 14, 1984, the Diocese of San Jose was canonically erected, paving the way for the partition of the diocese of Cabanatuan. The diocese retained 25 parishes in 18 municipalities and cities of the province.
To date, there are 28 parishes in 5 vicariates. The diocese is served by 47 active diocesan priests, 2 religious and 1 deacon. There are 4 priests on leave, 1 on study leave, 2 on sabbatical leave and 3 on loan to dioceses of other countries. Two (2) of the five retired priests are still helping in their respective mother parishes and another one in the seminary.
Pastoral Thrusts and Concerns
In consonance with its newly revisited Vision-Mission and in accordance with the recommendations of the three Diocesan Pastoral Assemblies, and fully aware of the challenges and concerns of the present, the Diocese has resolved to pursue the following thrusts and pastoral priorities 1) Renewed clergy and committed lay leaders; 2) Relevant Programs and Structures; 3) Unity and Solidarity Between and Among the Priests and Laity and 4) Renewed Evangelization.
The Diocesan consultation meeting on July 2, 2005 and Pastoral Consultation on July 11-13, 2005 came out with Action Programs such as creation of the self-managed Health Care Program of the Clergy; Clergy on going formation, annual retreats, rest and recreation; Clear cut policy on Arancel and parish finances; Mobilization of diocesan commissions (WESSTYF) and special ministries; Empowerment of lay organizations; Implementation of Diocesan uniformity on guidelines and policy on Chancery/parish transactions especially on the prescribed requirements on the celebration of sacraments and Inventory of parish properties.
Bishop Soforonio A. Bancud, SSS, DD, has also outlined the main thrusts and priorities of his episcopate that address the needs and concerns of the clergy, the lay leaders, and the local Church.
1. On Going Formation and Care of the Clergy - This has been articulated during the many retreats and seminars in the past. The Commission of the Clergy has been tasked to create programs, activities and fraternal encounters that would help and equip every member of the Clergy at any stage of his priestly life and ministry to address the needs and challenges of priestly life. This also includes the proper training of seminarians, the promotion and strengthening of vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life, the care of retired and elderly members of the clergy. For this reason, the Bishop has been doubling his efforts and prayers to solicit support for the ongoing formation programs of the clergy, the training of seminarians and the construction of the proposed Bahay Pari (house for priests) for the retired and elderly priests of the diocese.
2. Formation of Lay Leaders and Renewed Evangelization - Aware of the many challenges and present circumstances of the Church, the Bishop has been working hard for the renewal of Christian life and the rekindling of faith among the faithful. Through the office of the Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Action and the Pastoral Commissions, the lay leaders are regularly invited to various evangelization and catechetical seminars, leadership training and workshops, and pastoral consultations and planning both at parish and diocesan levels. Lay empowerment is being realized in their on-going formation, religious studies, discernment and active involvement in the various pastoral activities and programs, as well as in the exercise of their duties and responsibilities in their respective parishes and barangays. Active participation and responsible involvement are greatly promoted and encouraged. To say the least, the diocese is truly blessed with many generous, active and committed lay leaders and collaborators who even go extra-mile in their involvement.
3. The Full and Efficient Implementation of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan - With the creation of the new Vision and Mission of the diocese, the Bishop has constantly rallied the clergy to fully implement the Diocesan Pastoral Plan (DPP) from the parish down to the barangay. Every pastor is encouraged to work hand in hand with his Parish Pastoral Council, the Barangay Pastoral Council, members of the different Lay Organizations and Religious Movements, and the parishioners in making concrete the intent and words of the DPP. In line with this is the honest observance also of the existing diocesan policies and norms in the administration of the sacraments, financial management and priestly ministry.