“To Follow The Voice”

On March 9, Bishop Mesiona presided over the Chrism Mass in his cathedral, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Puerto Princesa (Palawan). Thru this liturgical celebration, he has exercised for the first time ever the office of his episcopacy in what is deemed as an expression of the fullness of the priesthood of his being bishop. At the celebration, he was surrounded by his priests at the altar as an expression of unity in vocation and mission. Though this kind of Mass is to be officially celebrated yet on a Holy Thursday (April 13 this year), it has been permitted to be held in advance on account of the distance that separates the missions of priests around Palawan. The early celebration could be coincidental since the new bishop was then just one day shy of becoming a one-month old spiritual leader. One month has already passed after he was installed and inaugurated as the new bishop, our new shepherd. The religious event was a suitable sort of capping the period of one month to have a glimpse of the path that Bishop Mesiona, as a shepherd, covets himself.

After one month of survey and perhaps after an appraisal of capabilities and possibilities, Bishop Mesiona sets sights on the missionary landscape of Palawan. He has come up with a to-do-list in matters pastoral and spiritual to the flock entrusted to him. This is the proverbial voice of the shepherd that every sheep must heed.” It is this voice that he explicitly echoed in the presence of all his priests in their recent general assembly. It is tantamount as his marching order to his collaborators. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn. 10:27).

To wit:

– A Church Vibrant: Like a normal young father of a budding family, Bishop Soc envisions a church in this Last Frontier as alive as it can be. Referencing Pope Francis, he aspires for a church that will become relevant to the life of the people. A people who are involved in the mission of the church. Moreover, the new bishop hopes to actually recapture the missionary energy of the church in Palawan especially that the culture of the land is rapidly becoming globalized courtesy of booming tourism industry and burning ecological issues.

– Special Focus on the Young People: Without relegating to the sideline those who are non-youth, Bishop Soc sets special sight and care for the youth and the children. This same shepherd comes from the backdrop of “holy anxiety” on account of the phenomenon in other countries where the church has lost the “grip” on the youth. Some, in one way or the other, might had been turned off both by the old-timers and the churhleaders. Similarly, young people had been drifting away towards the altar of secularism. For Bishop Soc, “we need to counter this influence by intensifying our efforts to reach out and to evangelize, especially the youth, the un-churched, and those in the periphery”. To gain back the youth to the embrace of the church is straightforwardly a gain not only for the non-youth members but to the whole flock in general.

– Concern for the Clergy: While every clergyman shares only in the priesthood of the bishop, it goes without saying though that every bishop in a particular locale is first of all father to his priests. Cognizant of this tie that binds bishop and priests together, Bishop Soc looks after the welfare of his “obedient sons”. He lays down plan for them: hospitalization and retirement plan, completion of a retirement house (priests have nowhere to go to when they retire having left behind family when they decided to enter priesthood), on-going formation and enhancement of learning, formation of future-priests, among others. What is more, he fancies to spend time with them (formal meetings, bonding moments and the like) to get to know them well. As a matter of fact, he has personally shared his contact information with all his priests encouraging them to connect with him directly. Too, he has already scheduled pastoral visits to parishes belonging to his missionary turf.

– In Matters Administrative: On the whole, the bishop is the overseer of his territory, an administrator. Bishop Soc adheres to the fundamental principle in administration that competition in the organism is to be avoided. Instead, every effort is towards “a synergy by aligning thrusts and directions according to the overall pastoral plan… While it is true that they may have their own charism to fulfil it is crucial that they all lead towards a growth and enrichment of the church.” (Mesiona, The Missions, 2017). That said, Bishop Soc draws a blueprint for a much-awaited pastoral program for the entire vicariate, a uniform financial system in all parishes, a unified policies in the discharge of functions of priests as pastors in their respective parishes, an established system in the operations of offices, ministries and apostolates, to mention a few. It goes without saying though that all these plans and efforts are actually geared towards the administration of the salvation of souls. Otherwise, any organized system in the church is deemed vain and imprudent.

All things considered, this is the voice that the concerned flock are wont to follow in the incumbency of the new bishop of Palawan. Will this same voice lead the flock to a higher level in the ecclesiastical map, like from being a contingent vicariate to a reliant diocese? Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, our business is just to follow that voice.

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