Pastoral letter on the occasion of the opening of the jubilee year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the elevation of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan in the year 2013
Beloved people of God:
The Church of Lingayen Dagupan is rich and wealthy in the golden graces of God! Indeed the true treasure of the Church is the Lord who is always present amongst His people. And God has always been with us. The Diocese of Lingayen was created on May 19, 1928 with Bishop Cesar Maria Guerrero as the first bishop. It was renamed Diocese of Lingayen Dagupan on February 11, 1954 due to the destruction of the Lingayen Cathedral caused by the Second World War. On February 16, 1963, it was elevated to the rank of a metropolitan archdiocese with the late Archbishop Mariano Madriaga as the first archbishop. It is now the time of grace to prepare ourselves for the golden year of the Metropolitan Archdiocese in 2013.
This jubilee year is a year for remembering and beholding the greatness of the Lord. Indeed, every year, month and day since we were made a diocese is an epiphany of his goodness and bounty. Our thoughts return to the crib where the mother and her child were visited by the wise men: “They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Mt.2:11).
GIFTS OF GOLD
We offer the Lord our gift of golden thanksgiving for blessing us with pious and fervent bishops since we were made a diocese. Our first bishop, Bishop Cesar Maria Guerrero died in the sweet odor of wisdom and sanctity, as acclaimed by one Franciscan priest, at the time of his death. Archbishop Mariano Madriaga, our wartime shepherd, led the diocese during its most trying times—the Commonwealth period, the hostilities of the Japanese occupation, the destruction during the liberation unto the years of the Second Vatican Council reforms—as a faithful sentinel and guardian of the faith. Archbishop Federico Limon, SVD guided our Church to give birth to two new daughters—the Dioceses of Alaminos and Urdaneta. Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz gave a new kind of fire to the call for the Church for social engagement and transformation. With his characteristic passion, he gave his best to bring the Gospel of Christ to every aspect of human reality.
The golden years behind us were blessed years in the company of the missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word and the Order of Preachers. The Mary Help of Christians Minor Seminary in Binmaley and the Mary Help of Christians College Seminary in Bonuan have been bringing forth holy and zealous pastors for the Church indeed more precious than silver or gold. These seminaries have contributed numerous pastors for the people of God faithful to the mandate of the Lord of the harvest: “Don’t take any gold, nor silver, nor brass in your money belts” (Mt. 10:9). The “woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet (Rev. 12:1), whom we know in Pangasinan as Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, has guided us through the years leading us to the heart of Jesus her Son. We cannot forget the innumerable lay leaders of our Catholic organizations and basic ecclesial communities who form another array of soldiers for Christ ready for battle, faithful and loyal, courageous light and salt for the world. The laity of Lingayen Dagupan are golden gifts from God!
SCARLET AND GOLD
And yet our golden year as an archdiocese is not purely lustrous gold for indeed “the mother church dressed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, has in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and impurities” ( cfr. Rev. 17:4).
This jubilee is also a time for repentance. It is time for contrition for blessings wasted, for opportunities squandered, for allowing the powers of malice and sin to prevail among us. We admit as we strike our breasts that we, pastors and flock, are responsible for the endless crosses on which the Good Shepherd continues to be crucified even until now in Pangasinan. The blasphemies, to which our Lord and the Church are constantly subjected to, need to be confessed, healed and forgiven. The neglect of the Sunday duties and laziness to pray; the irreverence shown toward the Mother of God; the calumnies and slanders we throw against one another; the sacrilege thrown against the spiritual treasures of the Church. The Church our mother is in agony and travail as she holds in her hands the abominable crimes of her children.
During this jubilee year we kneel in contrition before the poor whose cries for help we have often ignored. We kiss mother earth and caress with our bloodied hands our dead rivers and ripped sea beds and say “We are sorry!” We have raped our forests and leveled our hills with relentless logging and quarrying blinded by our greed and avarice. Mother Earth is in travail and in agony and we have caused it on her.
We shake our heads with shame and guilt at the scandals caused by the men of the Church upon the Church they were called to serve. When the priests’ lifestyle is inconsistent with his vocation, the Church is hurt. When priests act more like hirelings than shepherds who must be willing to die for the sheep, the lambs leave the herd confused and puzzled. When celibacy is violated, when human respect is not observed, when basic courtesies are laid aside, when revenge is allowed to prevail over forgiveness, when service is always linked to the returning benefit, the Lord is crucified again and again. Our golden chalice is filled with our sins, in fact overflowing. Our golden robes are stained by the blood of our iniquity. Let us lay aside our gold and put on ashes. We beg pardon from the Lord. Let this jubilee renew us. Let this golden year make us new.
GOLD WE HAVE NONE
And Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!" (Acts 3:6). The jubilee is a time for mission. Celebration without contrition is triumphalism. Contrition without courage is lame. Let this jubilee year be a year of courage for the mission of the Lord. We will not be afraid to have neither silver nor gold.
Gold and silver we have none! I hope we will be able to say that with conviction. Our first and only power is the Lord and our first and only way to the Lord is love. We must pray but it is not enough to pray. Our prayer must make us think and talk and listen and act and be like Jesus—that is the apostolic action that we need in the Church. Any pastoral action or assembly that does not come from prayer will fail. Any prayer that does not lead us to apostolic charity will wither. Love without service is mere sentimentalism. Service without prayer is social activism.
We have a dream. We dream of a church renewed. Gold and silver we have none but we are a people who believe profoundly in the love of Almighty God. We are a people poor in the things of the world but courageous in the faith we profess. We stammer when we speak but we pray fervently from the heart and we teach with zeal and conviction. We are ourselves are a people in need but we serve generously disinterested in rewards. We are more than a million Catholic faithful but we are close to all and each one is friend of everyone. Our real gold is God. Our gift of gold is our love.
YEAR OF GRACE
We are opening a year of grace. It is a blessed time to celebrate and blow our trumpets for the Lord. This is a time of grace to seek forgiveness and share forgiveness with hearts humble and contrite. The year of grace is a year of hope. We look beyond our horizon and see beyond the rainbow a renewed and revitalized Church courageously and boldly proclaiming God’s love and joy.
We entrust this year to Mary Help of Christians whose guiding hand has brought many of our young men to the altar as priests of her Son. As we now break the ground for the construction of the theology seminary, may our Mother guide us, give us courage and bring us to live for Jesus her Son.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, February 16, 2012
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan