Urbiztondo, PANGASINAN – Two years after inviting the Augustinian Recollects to do mission work again in Pangasinan, Archbishop Socrates Villegas graced the first ever Recoletos Day in his archdiocese last Sept. 4, 2018.
The archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan presided over the pontifical mass and blessed the newly readjusted rectory of the Augustinian Recollect parish of Our Lady of the Visitation in Pasibi East, Urbiztondo, Pangasinan on the day the Order celebrated the solemnity of its patroness, the Our Lady of Consolation.
Community Prior Fr. Samson Silloriquez, OAR said when the Recollects accepted the archbishop’s invitation and took possession of the parish last year, half of the church ceiling was in ruins and the rectory, which used to house only one priest, was too small for the community of at least three religious, the minimum number required by the OAR Constitutions for a community.
With the help of generous benefactors and sponsors, the community prior said they were able to renovate the church ceiling and enlarge the rectory, a development which visibly delighted the parishioners and the archbishop.
“We feel the maternal care of Our Mother of Consolation because of the blessings we received and also the paternal concern of our archbishop who is ever supportive of our work here,” Fr. Silloriquez said.
In September 2016, Archbp. Villegas informed the Prior Provincial Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR through a formal letter of “my wish that the Recoletos open again a mission in Pangasinan,” a request graciously received and approved, after a prior consultation with the Prior General in Rome, by the Provincial Council on October 9, 2017.
Consequently, the first community of three Recollect religious took over the parish in November 2017 headed by Fray Amado Emmanuel Bolilia, OAR. The other two friars were Fray Joseph Cyprian Panaligan, OAR, parish priest, and Fray Jayferson Baldelovar, OAR, parochial vicar.
Recollect presence in Central Luzon
Before the 10:30 a.m. mass, Dr. Lino L. Dizon, director of the Center for Tarlaqueño Studies of Tarlac State University, gave a lecture on the historical presence of the Recollects on the Tarlac–Pangasinan border.
He said the Recollect missionaries were the first evangelizers of the towns in Bataan–Zambales areas which presently comprise western Pangasinan, southern Tarlac, Zambales and Bataan.
Only three (3) years after their arrival in 1606, the Recollects headed by Fray Andrés del Espíritu Santo founded the western Pangasinan mission of Bolinao dedicated to St. James the Great in 1609.
The following year, missions in Agno (dedicated to Santa Catalina), Balincaguin, the present-day Mabini (dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus) and Suyang, present-day Alaminos (dedicated to San Jose) were opened and became Recollect footholds.
In the succeeding centuries, the Recollect missions also included, among others, Alos, Alaminos; Zaragoza, Bolinao; Bani; Anda; Burgos; Dasol; Eguia; and Infanta.
Among the Recollect martyrs of Japan, Blessed Francisco de Jesus and Blessed Vicente de San Antonio initially resided in Bolinao (1620–1622). A month before they sailed for Japan via Bolinao, their convent was burned.
The Recollect Fathers were finally rooted out of Pangasinan because of the bloody rebellion that killed the missionaries in 1898, signalling the end of their apostolic labors in the area that lasted 289 years.
“With your presence here now after 1898, there could be reconciliation and peace between the Recollects and Pangasinan,” Dr. Dizon said.
In his post-communion exhortation, Archbishop Villegas asked the parishioners one thing.
“The Recollects are so generous to us, and I don’t know how to repay them,” he said. “But if you could give your sons to the Church by serving as members of the Augustinian Recollects, that would be coming full circle.”