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Philippines

Lay Filipinos find careers in church work

Church offices and organizations increasingly require professionals to do work beyond the scope of the clergy

Mark Saludes, Manila

Mark Saludes, Manila

Updated: October 02, 2019 02:37 AM GMT
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Lay Filipinos find careers in church work

Mario Ian Mosquisa, deputy director of the social action arm of Borongan Diocese in the central Philippines, is seen here being filmed while presenting a  program for farmers in August. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

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Mario Ian Mosquisa's journey to service and mission started when he finished his studies some 30 years ago. His parents wanted him to pursue a job in the city, but the young man opted to become a lay missionary.

"I was not sure what to pursue back then," he recalled. "I tried to work in a company but I knew I needed some time to find myself and discover what I really wanted to do with my life," said the 53-year-old accountant.

Mosquisa, who was born and raised in the southern Philippines, joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, an organization of lay workers who volunteer a year or more to do community service in poor communities.

"My first choice was to go to a tribal community," he said. "I was trying to find myself and I thought it might be best if I went and learned from indigenous peoples," he added.

Instead of sending the then 23-year-old to the mountains of Mindanao, the organization deployed him to a small parish on Samar Island in the central Philippines.

The young man who grew up in the city of Davao did his best to adapt to the laidback life in the town of Balangkayan in Borongan Diocese. He had to do everything from being an altar server to taking care of administrative work in the office.

It was not easy. There were times that he missed home, but he was still "contemplating" what he really wanted with his life. "I gave it a shot," he said.

Slowly, he started to love the things and the people around him, especially when he was assigned to work on the parish's social action desk.

At the end of the program, Mosquisa requested a year’s extension. It was then that he fell in love, not only with his work but with a woman who would become his partner for life.

No turning back

He accepted more responsibilities in the parish during his second year as a volunteer. When the parish priest learned that Mosquisa had a degree in accountancy, he was asked to manage the parish’s financial records as well as work for the social action office.

At the end of another year, he was offered the chance to join the diocese’s social action office.

He was confronted with the dilemma of staying or going back to Davao. "I got married," he said, recalling that his parents wanted him to raise his family in his hometown.

In his process of "discernment", he asked himself: "Where am I needed the most? How can I live a well-to-do life knowing that there are people suffering?" 

Mosquisa said he realized that "serving the Church was the best way to serve those in need the most."

In 1992, he became director of the diocesan social action commission. At first, he was anxious knowing that he had signed up for a job that required most of his time but had little or no financial rewards.

"I can’t explain the feeling," he said. "Sometimes it is not just about the money or the things that you can get. It is about how I translate my faith into action," he said.

Professionalism with a heart

Mosquisa is just one of a growing number of Filipino professionals working in and for church institutions and organizations.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said: "Faith has a lot to do with it."

"A human person seeks fulfillment," he said, adding that there are a lot of instances where people don't seek fame or money anymore.

"That is faith. You follow your heart," said Father Gariguez. "We are professionalizing the Church. We hire people who can perform duties that we priests are not familiar with." 

He said many positions in the Church require professionals "who know what they are doing and who are best at what they do."

Father Gariuez said "jobs" in the Church are now competitive and lay workers receive "reasonable compensation that they deserve." He admitted, however, that there are a lot of challenges in poor dioceses.

Like secular firms, the Church also needs to upgrade the skills of its workers. This year the social action commission of Mosquisa's diocese underwent a series of training workshops.

Father Juderick Paul Calumpiano, current commission director in Borongan Diocese, said "education is a never-ending journey."

He said laypeople have to be empowered because "they have a huge role in the apostolic life of the Church."

In 2000, Borongan Diocese sent Mosquisa to the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippine capital to take up a master’s degree in development management.

"I think our role in the Church as laypeople is to stand witness to God’s love in the secular world," said the former lay volunteer. 

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