Bishops´ Commission Inaugurates Center for Priests

2007-08-17 00:00:00

An Augustinian nun and a business tycoon´s wife aided by the local mayor cut the ribbon to inaugurate a building they helped construct for the bishops´ ministry to priests.

During the Aug. 15 inauguration of John Mary Vianney-Galilee Development and Retreat Center in Tagaytay City, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila described the complex as the result of Catholic Filipinos´ "love and concern" for their priests.

At the inauguration Mass, the cardinal, who chairs the Episcopal Commission on Clergy, thanked the ribbon cutters: Mother Maxima Pelaez of the Augustinian Recollects; Felicidad Sy, whose family owns SM Malls around the country; and Tagaytay Mayor Abraham Tolentino.

The Augustinian nuns donated the two-hectare piece of land. Other individuals, groups, dioceses, parishes and shrines also contributed. Tolentino handed the cardinal the land title and documents for tax exemption.

Donations, Cardinal Rosales said, show "the movement of God is here."

The prelate recalled that only 15 months ago, he was "roaming through coffee trees" on the site in Cavite province, 55 kilometers southeast of Manila. He had only 20 million pesos (about US$434,000) for the project then, but Sy urged him to start construction, promising she would "take care of the rest" of the expenses.

The three-story building has 56 rooms including bedrooms, classrooms, conference rooms and offices. The Catholic Bishops´ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), its legal owners, have placed the center under the administration of the Commission on Clergy.

Cardinal Rosales said center benefactors specified their donations should be for the "exclusive use and needs of priests." The latest Catholic Directory of the Philippines lists 7,980 priests, 5,834 of them diocesan, serving in 85 Church jurisdictions.

Six priests are listed as having "left the ministry." Five had "no assignment" and two were "on renewal." Another 685 were listed as being on leave for studies, on "sabbatical," "abroad" or away with no specified reason.

According to the cardinal, the heart of the center is the Transfiguration Chapel on the second floor, where he celebrated Mass with Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu and about 75 bishops and priests. Around 100 guests joined the Mass, which was projected on a screen on the ground floor.

The cardinal shared his hope that priests participating in programs at the center will be "inspired" by the "apostolic zeal, holiness and simplicity of life" of Saint John Mary Vianney, patron saint of priests.

Galilee, he continued, was "the place where Jesus sounded his first call to discipleship." Noting that the first followers of Jesus were not "holy" men, the cardinal said that what Galilee was to the first apostles, the center would be for priests, a place for renewal and reconciliation.

After the apostles "abandoned" Jesus during his passion, the risen Christ "reached out" to them to return to the place where "their basic and initial formation began by accompanying the Lord." The Tagaytay center will be a place where "trust and friendship will be restored in a climate of peace where everything will be forgiven," Cardinal Rosales said.

Cardinal Vidal chaired the clergy commission 1989-2003. National consultations of clergy initiated under his leadership resulted in a paper on realities and needs of Philippine clergy. This was incorporated in the Acts and Decrees of the 1991 Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.

Cardinal Rosales told UCA News the commission ran its first Intensive Renewal Program two years after the 1992 First National Retreat for Priests. The live-in program for priests in the ministry for at least 10 years currently uses the name Integrated Renewal Program (IRP) for Priests.

Meanwhile, in 1997, 103 priests completed a one-month seminar directed by Servants of the Paraclete Father Peter Lechner on caring for priests "with special needs," such as addictions or problems with authority. This laid the foundation for the CBCP´s Assist Ministry for Priests.

Assist programs scheduled to run at the Tagaytay center include IRP and the three-month, live-in Assisted Intensive Renewal (AIR), Cardinal Rosales said. AIR for formators, also scheduled at the center, will run two months for priests working in seminaries.

Cardinal Rosales said the center has a director for development and programs. The retreat director, Monsignor Jose Bernardo Jr., also serves as house manager.


(Accompanying photos available at here)

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