IN THE NAME OF GOD.
The fiftieth anniversary of the elevation of the See of Lingayen Dagupan to the rank of a Metropolitan Archdiocese on February 16, 1963 gives us a blessed opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of the Christian faith in Pangasinan first planted in our soil in 1571 by the Augustinian friars. Since the establishment of the first Dominican mission in Binalatongan in 1587 which stands until now, to the creation of the Diocese of Lingayen in 1928, the grace of God has been overflowing in Pangasinan.
With the opening of the Mary Help of Christians Minor Seminary in 1929 and the establishment of the Mary Help of Christians College Seminary in 1985, the vineyard of the Lord continues to enjoy a rich harvest of dedicated and pious ministers at the service of this particular Church. In order to foster more priestly vocations so that the needs of the ordained ministry may be met for generations to come (CIC Canon 233) and in response to the collective prayerful discernment of the clergy and the people of God that a theology seminary be opened within our archdiocese, by virtue of the authority granted in me by the Code of Canon Law, we hereby decree the opening of the
Mary Help of Christians Theology Seminary
in Barangay Palapad
in the municipality of San Fabian
in the province of Pangasinan.
The theology seminary shall have a Charter of Priestly Formation in the spirit of the Updated Philippine Program for Priestly Formation of 2006.
Our vision in priestly formation is primarily depth in spirituality with Christ-like zeal in pastoral ministry, rooted in academic excellence within a communion of love in priestly brotherhood and incarnated in our Pangasinan history and culture.
With the prayers of the Blessed Mother of God whom we lovingly invoke as Mary Help of Christians, we invoke the blessings of Jesus the Good Shepherd upon this theology seminary.
Given this twenty fourth day of May in the year of the Lord two thousand and thirteen, Feast of Mary Help of Christians, and the first year of Pope Francis as Supreme Pontiff
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Monsignor Rafael Magno Monsignor Oliver E. Mendoza
Vicar General and Chancellor Founding Rector
The Spirituality of the Alumni Priests of the Mary Help of Christians College and Theology Seminaries
I have a confession to make. I had very little knowledge about and devotion to Mary with the title Help of Christians. I invoked her in the litany with this title. I knew the Salesians have a strong devotion to her but that was it. Coming to Pangasinan, with the high school and college seminaries both named after Mary Help of Christians, I felt the prompting within me to know more about the devotion and love her with this title. With the new theology seminary still carrying her name, I cannot remain distant from Mary Help of Christians.
The invocation of Mary the Helper is older than the definition of Mary the Mother of God. It was first attributed to Saint John Chrysostom in the year 345 who called Mary, the Helper (Boeteia in Greek) while Mary was invoked as Mother of God only by the year 431 in Ephesus. The icon that we now call Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the early depiction of this devotion to Mary the Helper.
Mary the Helper was invoked in the barbaric invasions of the Ukraine in the eleventh century and at the battle of Lepanto against the Ottoman empire. The defeat of the Muslim Turks in Lepanto was attributed to Mary the Helper. The victory of Pope Pius VII against the invasion of Napoleon was attributed to her likewise.
The Biblical Roots
Mary the Helper! And helper of whom?
Mary was the helper of God. She helped God accomplish His plan to save the world. It does not mean that Mary is stronger than God. It does not mean that God is feeble and helpless. In the audacity of God, He sought the politely begged for the “yes” of His creature to pursue His plan.
God cannot be lacking in courtesy for us. He reverences our freedom to choose and decide. Mary was the helper of God. At the house in Nazareth, Mary said yes to God and gave Him permission to make her womb the temple of the Son for nine months. At the annunciation of the angel, Mary became the Helper of God. Atop Calvary, Mary at the foot of the cross of Jesus continued to help Her Son in his last agony. Mary the Helper is source of consolation when the hour of Jesus had come.
At the wedding in Cana, Mary pursued her mission to be a helper not only of men but of peoples–believers or unbelievers, friendly our hostile, fervent or indifferent. She helps them all. She helped the couple threatened by the embarrassing scenario of running out of wedding wine. Even before they could ask, even before they saw the problem, Mary was there to say to her Son “They have no wine”. If we just make the first move to invite her, she will always take care. She will help without being asked. She will help even before we see our need for help. She is helper of peoples.
Finally at the Upper Room fifty days after the resurrection, Mary prayed with the apostles and the Holy Spirit was sent forth appearing as tongues of fire. Mary is Helper of the Church in prayer. Mary is Helper of the Apostles. Mary is Helper among the disciples invoking the True Helper, our Advocate and Paraclete the Holy Spirit. Mary helps priests be more like Jesus. Mary helps bishops, successors of the apostles, become more apostolic. Mary helps us in all our Upper Rooms of expectations for better times. If we invite her, she will join us in praying. If we pray with her; if we trust with her; if we obey with her; if we stand courageously with her; she assures us of her loving help.
Spirituality of Mary the Helper
With our seminaries all placed under her mantle as Help of Christians, what kind of priests must our seminaries produce? Only one is wished for—that all priests be helpers–humble helpers, holy helpers, well prepared helpers.
That every priest is a helper and not a master and lord is clearly laid out by Church and gospel teachings. The helper priest is only a steward and therefore must be accountable and grateful. The helper priest must be like Mary the Helper of God in pursuing the mission of Jesus. It is the priest’s mission but the mission of Jesus. It is not the priest’s opinion but the will of Jesus. It is not the priest but Jesus who must shine. The priest helper of God must be humble and obedient, trusting and generous. Pope Benedict XVI said “This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings; who even though he knows our weaknesses, considers us capable of acting and of being present in place of him; this audacity of God is the truly great reality which is hidden in the word “priesthood”. That God considers us capable of this, that he calls men to his service in such a way and so from within, binds them to himself. (June 11, 2010).
The priest we envision to have must be a helper of humanity. Humanity is created in the likeness of God. Helping and loving humanity broken, wounded and bleeding yet hopeful, loved and beautiful is the only way to Jesus. We cannot love God and ignore humanity. We cannot believe in God and be cynical of the goodness that God has planted in every human heart. We cannot worship God in altars of marble and golden chalices and yet allow the hungers and pains of humanity not to disturb us into action. When we bow our heads and close our eyes in fervent prayer before the awesome presence of God, we must, in the same breath, open our hands to help and open our hearts to welcome humanity. The help that humanity needs from the priest is not just food for the stomach but even more food for the soul. Man’s search for meaning must be satisfied in the Lord and it is every priest’s duty to proclaim this.
Finally, every priest must be only and always a helper of the Church. He helps the Church to pray. He prays for and with the Church. How is this helping the Church to be done? Let us allow Saint Peter to admonish us “This is to be done with courtesy, respect and clear conscience”. (I Pt 3:16). Courtesy is meekness. It is the meekness of the beatitudes. It is the meekness that Paul describes in these words “A servant of the Lord is not engage in quarrels, but has to be kind to everyone, a good teacher and patient. He has to be gentle when he corrects people who dispute what he says, never forgetting that God may give them a change of mind so that they may recognize the truth” (2Tim 2:24-25). Coherence of life with what we proclaim is integrity. The Church has been hurt a lot by priests who fail in moral integrity. We can only be true helpers of the Church by being holy priests. Shame for sin is a gift that every priest must retain. This shame for sin is reciprocated by God with His tender mercy and compassion. It is not a shame leading to despair but a shame with hope in the Divine Mercy.
The Powerhouse of the Priest Helper
Our formation towards being helper priests is founded on the daily Eucharist. It is the source and summit of our priestly formation. The Eucharist can fall victim to monotony and boredom. Its practicality and relevance is oftentimes questioned by churchmen who advocate for social engagement because our mission, so they say, is only to make this world a better place. Nevertheless, offer the Eucharist everyday as an act of love for God and the cosmos, as an act of help for world in great need of intercessors.
The best help we can offer the Church and humanity is to pray. Fidelity to prayer specially the Liturgy of the Hours is a mandate of our priestly vocation. Beyond the call of duty, the Liturgy of the Hours is our way of helping those in need although we might not be able to meet them in our lifetime. From the Annunciation to Cana to the Upper Room, Mary helped the Church by talking and listening to God. Talking to God and listening to Him is our task as helper priests.
Finally, the power of the priest is not shown forth from the pulpit or the altar. When the priest kneels down confessing his sins, he helps the Church and humanity regain holiness; a kneeling penitent priest is powerful As we help our flock at the confessional absolving them from their sins, we must not forget that the confessional invites us first to kneel as penitent so that we can credibly sit down as merciful confessors.
Mary Help of Christians
Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christians,
how sweet it is to come to your feet
imploring your perpetual help.
If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children,
how can you, the most loving of all mothers, forget me?
Grant then to me, I implore you,
your perpetual help in all my necessities,
in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.
I ask for your unceasing help
for all who are now suffering.
Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.
Grant through your intercessions
many vocations to the priesthood.
Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians,
that having invoked you on earth,
we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.
Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral, Dagupan City, May 24, 2013
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Technorati Tags: Mary Help of Christians Theology Seminary,Mary the Helper,Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas,Prayer to Mary Help of Christians
My dear brothers in the priesthood:
The faith of our people is vibrant and strong. The flock of the Lord is a blessing of infinite consolations for us their shepherds. Our parish churches and selected barangay chapels are filled with people on Sundays athirst for the Lord and seeking to express their love for God. While there is great reason to believe that the faith is alive and strong in our archdiocese, the truth must be told that there are still many more communities deprived of the Eucharist on Sundays, the day of the Lord, due to their distance from the pastoral centres and due to the lack of priests.
This deprivation of the Eucharist is leading to an alarming spiritual malnutrition which on many occasions our people fill up by attending Sunday prayer fellowships of other sects. Attempting to reach out to the Catholic communities in far barangays, many priests have started the pastoral practice of celebrating Masses on weekdays to fill the thirst for Sunday Eucharist among the barangays. But the truth need be told that the Sunday Eucharist occupies a primordial place in our Catholic life.
PRIMACY OF SUNDAY MASS
It is true that, in itself, the Sunday Eucharist is no different from the Eucharist celebrated on other days, nor can it be separated from liturgical and sacramental life as a whole…But because of its special solemnity and the obligatory presence of the community, and because it is celebrated “on the day when Christ conquered death and gave us a share in his immortal life”, the Sunday Eucharist expresses with greater emphasis its inherent ecclesial dimension. It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations (Dies Domini, 34)
Among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist” (Dies Domini, 35)
This light-and-shadow situation must be addressed so that the present thirst for the Sunday Eucharist may not worsen into a widespread spiritual desert. It can also result in the waning of appreciation for the primacy of Sunday in our Catholic life (cfr. Dies Domini, 5). Because nature abhors a vacuum, our absence in the barangays can result in unimaginable spiritual harm to the flock of the Lord which, if not remedied now, can take generations to reverse and heal.
SUNDAY MASS FOR EVERY BARANGAY
I am inviting my brother priests especially those in the ministry of Catholic education and members of team ministries to avail of the privilege granted by archdiocesan laws to celebrate two Masses on Saturday evenings and four Masses on Sundays. I admonish all priests to use this privilege fully by going to barangay communities and offering the distant poor the Body of the Lord on Saturday evenings and Sundays. It is considered liturgical abuse to use this privilege to accommodate special groups of the Catholic faithful in exchange for monetary gain.
The perennial complaint is that “the people are not coming to our Masses so we might as well not go”. It is time for us to be missionaries in spirit and disposition. We cannot just demand that the people be there when we are there. We have lost them by our long absence. The time has come for us to reach out patiently and recover their lost faith. The Sunday afternoons and evenings cannot be relaxed moments for a good pastor of souls. We must initiate a schedule of barangay Masses even on Sunday afternoons and evenings so that the poor, the marginalized and the distant may have an opportunity for Sunday Masses weekly. The children and the youth must be the favoured recipients of our pastoral presence in the barangays.
CREATION OF NEW PARISHES
By a unanimous vote of the Board of Consultors, all the vicars forane were mandated to prepare new clusters of barangays to become pastoral stations eventually to be created as parishes within the year. After consulting the priests and lay leaders in the vicariate, the vicar forane can recommend which cluster may take the priority pastoral attention. The primary criterion will be the openness of the Catholic faithful in the area to become a parish. The material sustenance of the priests may be provided by the Chancery for the first year of creation, in case the community lacks material resources. It is not necessary to have a big church as a pastoral centre. Modest living quarters for the priest to live within the mission community will be enough.
The only goal is to strengthen the base communities. The strength of the parish is not in overflowing Sunday crowds; it is rather in the vibrant distant barangays where the life of the parish truly shows. If the barangays are weak and cold, the Church is sick and bleeding. The poor cannot afford to go to our centres. We cannot leave them in the periphery. The Sunday Mass must be brought to them every Sunday.
Big and expansive parishes do not help nurture the faith. Faith will be impersonal and pastoral care will only be token ministries. We must create new pastoral centres. Small is beautiful. Small is the way to greatness. Strengthening the small is the only way to survive and stay relevant as a Church.
I plead with you brother pastors to take this vision to heart and adopt it as yours. We cannot allow the times to reduce us to be functionaries and temporal administrators. We are pastors first and foremost. Let us regain the shepherd’s heart when we were ordained.
May Saint John Marie Vianney set our hearts on fire again!
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Pastoral Letter for the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan
My dear people of God:
As responsible citizens of heaven and citizens of our nation, we must face the forthcoming elections always from the viewpoint of faith and with the mind of the Church enlightened by the values of the Gospel.
What can the Church—bishops, priests and laity gathered by the Spirit of God—contribute to the forthcoming elections?
Our best contribution is to PRAY that the Lord of history guide every voter and guide every candidate in the forthcoming exercise of civil responsibility. It is only the Lord who can give us peace during elections. It is only God who can enlighten us in our decision making so that the voice of the people can truly reflect the voice of God. If we cease to be a praying people and lose our link to God, our humanly inspired decisions can only lead to the loss of our soul as a nation. Prayer is the most important untapped resource in nation building often ignored and even ridiculed. The Church must restore the confidence of our citizenry in prayer. Remember EDSA.
The Church can also contribute a reverential SILENCE in the forum of public discussion. Silence is the language of God. We must regain our vision to be a contemplative Church and refuse the temptation to be popular and attractive. The silence of contemplation is the only antidote to the insane and ridiculous campaign strategies that we watch. The silence of contemplation is the cure to the disgusting, unreal and chaotic flavour of the election period. The Church can be a prophetic sign of the mystical silence of God in the midst of the cacophony of mud throwing and name calling in campaign platforms.
The Church is the CONSCIENCE of society and it must remain so. The beatitudes need to be re-proposed. The Ten Commandments need to be re-injected into the lifeblood of our national conscience. The Catholic social teachings about the promotion of the common good, the challenge of solidarity, the spirituality of stewardship and similar teachings must be taught more vigorously and passionately. The best time to teach these gospel lessons is now as we choose our civil leaders.
The Church must be a MOTHER and TEACHER of voters and candidates together. The Church must be a mother and teacher also for all the candidates from opposing political parties. As mother she loves all and refuses no one. As a teacher, she rebukes with love; she corrects with mercy; she guides firmly always celebrating what is right and beautiful among her opposing children. She must be an example of humility in the midst of arrogance. She must be a reminder of the presence of the divine among us.
What must the Church—bishops, priests and laity—not do during this campaign and election period?
When the Church ENDORSES CANDIDATES in political elections she always ends up a LOSER. The endorsed candidate may win in the votes but the Church never wins with him. In endorsing candidates, the Bride of Christ the Church tarnishes her spiritual mission with the stain of the mundane. The endorsed candidate might win but religion has been reduced to a political party; religion has been used for political gain and our spiritual mission has been compromised. We will be lonesome widows after the elections for marrying partisan politics during the campaign.
The Church must refuse to play with the fire of political power or it risks burning herself. The Church does not win when her endorsed candidate wins. The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such. Paraphrasing the Lord in the Garden of Agony, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. RELIGIONS THAT WALTZ WITH POLITICS WILL DIE BY POLITICS.
When elections are PEACEFUL and HONEST, the Church WINS in the elections. When elections are morally credible and losers and winners stay civil and courteous, the Church wins in the elections. When every vote is cast from CONSCIENCE and not from convenience, the Church has truly become the formator of conscience and has shown herself as a mother and teacher faithful and obedient to her Master and Lord. Candidates and voters are children of the Church. Candidates against one another are brothers and sisters in God.
The Church must guide and not dictate.
The Church must unite and not contribute to the division.
The Church must pray and not add to the confusion.
The Church must heal and not inflict hurts.
The Church must be in the world but not belong to it.
How can we your shepherds help you to exercise your civic duty as Catholics? What guidance can the pastors give to the flock entrusted to their care? We your archbishop and priests in Lingayen Dagupan admonish you to examine your candidates diligently in the light of our Catholic faith. We advise you not to vote for the candidates if:
1. The candidate cannot declare a categorical and clear NO to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages or D.E.A.T.H issues. Pro choice is anti life.
2. The candidate has been linked to drug trade, drug possession or drug use or receives money from illegal gambling or has done nothing to stop illegal gambling specially jueteng. Silence is consent.
3. The candidate has been convicted for a criminal offense. Government officials must be honourable.
4. The candidate supports black sand mining or tolerates irresponsible quarrying or illegal fish pens. Nature is our mother; if you can rape your own mother, what else will you not do?
5. The candidate has not done anything until now to uplift the plight of the poor. Performance is better than promises.
6. The candidate is giving money or distributing goods to voters during the campaign period. Vote buying is prostitution.
7. The candidate has been involved or linked to terrorism or the use of goons for self protection within or outside the campaign period. Peace is the only way to peace.
8. The candidate shows off religiosity only during the campaign period or is antagonistic to church teachings and practices. Corruption and hypocrisy are twins.
9. The candidate is unfaithful to his or her spouse and children. Corruption begins at home.
10. The candidate has other members of the immediate family in government positions already. Promoting family welfare and promoting the common good cannot mix.
We submit these guidelines to you and plead with you to bring them to prayer. If Jesus would vote, for whom would he vote? Vote like Jesus. If you cannot find Jesus from among the candidates just make sure you do not make Judas or Barabbas win.
If you sell your vote, you sell something sacred; you make yourself a cousin of Judas too.
May Mary, Mirror of Justice, whom we tenderly venerate in Manaoag as Our Lady of the Rosary, help you to be good disciples of the Lord and patriotic citizens of our country.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 14, 2013
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Chrism Mass at Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral, March 28, 2013
Our Chrism Mass this year is celebrated under the glow of the newly elected Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Many people from within the Church and outside the Church refer to the Pope as head of one billion two hundred million Catholics all over the world. Head of the Church!
But wait. Let us review our catechism for a moment. The Pope is not really the head of the Church. Christ is the head of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ. The Pope is the visible symbol of Christ on earth; he is the symbol of Christ the head of the Church. For the universal Church, the Pope presides in charity in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. When the Pope speaks to us, it is Christ the head who speaks. When he blesses, it is Christ the head who blesses. When he serves, it is the service of Christ the head that he continues to do.
Like the Pope, you my brother priests share in the ministry of Christ the head of the Church. In the Chrism Mass of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us priests that when we preside at the sacraments and offer the Mass, we act in the person of Christ. Through the years, we priests have invoked those words “in persona Christi” to refer to our priestly actions, priestly witnessing and priestly preaching—speaking and acting in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the head of the Church.
What kind of head does the Church need? What kind of priests who act in the person of Christ the head must we be? Are we really signs of Christ the head for his body the Church? What kind of a head are we, my brother priests?
Some heads have thick hair; some heads have no hair. Some heads have grey hair; some heads have hair as black as midnight. Bald or hairy, grey or black, all heads need a body. A head that has no body is dead. A body that has no head is dead. In other words, the first duty of a good head is to remember that it is only part of a body; that cut off from the body, the head loses life. The head cannot go right while the body goes the other way. Where the body goes, so goes the head!
A leader is someone who is strong and can command a following but this strength as a leader is best shown by listening to those under our care. The ears have been put on both sides of our head. The eyes have been put in front of our heads. The eyes and ears are on the same level on our head. The duty of the head is to watch with love and care. The duty of the head is to listen with respect and obedience. The lips have been put below all these because talking is the least of all our duties. Go and teach. Use words if necessary. The most important role of headship is watching with care and listening with love. That is the headship of Christ.
When the eye is impatient, love is lacking. When the ear wants to speak rather than listen, love has been lost. Can we still watch by with patience and joy without complaining about time lost and wasted? Have we become so used to talking and being listened to that we cannot sit down anymore without chatting? Can we still listen to litanies of worries without interrupting and without getting annoyed? The head may still be connected to the body through the neck, but if we have lost the capacity to watch lovingly and listen tenderly, to keep quiet respectfully, to stop senseless murmurings trying to sound funny, and to resist useless chatter, we have in fact beheaded the body.
How are we as heads of schools and shepherds of parishes?
Can the head be without the heart? Should logic always prevail over emotions? Can intellectual understanding be enough without fervour? The head needs the heart and the heart needs the head. Intelligence needs to feel and feelings need logic.
Chinese wisdom says “The mind resides in the heart”. At the sunset of life, we will be judged according to love, not according to intelligence. Brilliant minds can be admirable but only love can save peoples from sin. It is only with heart that we can see rightly. Love is blind indeed. See the sinner in the confessional not with the mind of canon law but with the mercy of the heart of Jesus. See the beggar at the church door not with the eyes of first impression but with love and first intuition. Listen to your heart my brother priests.
If we keep on repeating too often that we are signs of Christ the head we can grow in self importance and exaggerate our ego. A regular pilgrimage into our hearts through prayer and frequent confession can shrink our ego to normal size and remind us that we are only signs of the real head; that we are not the head ourselves.
My brother priests, can we still think with our hearts? Can we still be tender like the Good Shepherd? Are we afraid to receive compassion because it reveals us as vulnerable priests? Are we afraid to admit our thorns in the flesh because it will shatter our myth that we are super heroes? We are only earthen vessels. We cannot let Christ glow unless we let our glamour go.
How are we as signs of Christ the head? What kind of head should we be?
On the day of our ordination, the bishop laid his hands over us. Our heads were put under the hands of another man. Although those hands were lifted only after a few seconds, the laying of hands over our heads continues to this day. In other words, the good priest must always remember that his head is under the hands of the Church, under the hands of the Lord. The head must learn how to kneel. The head must know how to bow. The head must learn humility. Humility is the only crown that the head must wear. Humility is the crown of all virtues. When the bishop wears a miter, he does not wear it as a crown to extend the head and make him taller. He wears the miter as cover over his head. It cuts the head to a smaller size. The miter is the roof of God’s power. We are all under it. We are not bosses. We are servants.
The head is on top of the body; but on top of our heads, the hands of the Church will always be there. The head must submit to a power higher than it. We are disciples not Masters. We are stewards of the mysteries of God, not owners.
The Church has been hurt a lot by our arrogance and conceit. We would be better signs of Christ the head with greater humility, deeper piety and lifestyles of simplicity.
My brother priests, tonight when we remember the institution of the Eucharist, let us thank God for trusting us to be signs of his headship in the Church. In a minute when you renew your priestly promises, promise also to be humble signs of Christ the head—always one with the body, always one with the heart, always under the power of the Lord. The sign cannot be the head itself. We must decrease so that Christ the head may increase.
Let us bow our heads and enter the heart of the Lord.