Urbiztondo, PANGASINAN – “It was through the Archbishop [Villegas] that God calls us [Recoletos] to be here,” recalled Fray Samson Silloriquez, OAR, prior of Recoletos de Pangasinan community, just before the end of the afternoon thanksgiving mass held at the Our Lady of the Visitation Parish church on March 15, 2019.
The votive mass in honor of St. Ezekiel Moreno was presided by His Excellency Socrates B. Villegas, DD, archbishop of Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, to which the Recollect-administered parish belongs. Just before it started, the renovated wings of the church, including the altar where the image of the commonly revered Sto. Cristo Divino Tesoro de Urbiztondo was enshrined, were blest.
It was followed by the reading of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan and the OAR concerning the former’s donation to the latter of the church and convent edifices as well as the lot of the parish. Father Provincial, Fray Dionisio Selma, representing the OAR, and Archbp. Villegas, representing the archdiocese, affixed their signature. The document was handed over to the Prior General, Fray Miguel Miró, OAR, who showed it to the people.
“(It’s the) first time in the history of the OAR that a parish is donated by an archbishop. Today is very exceptional,” Fray Silloriquez, noted with gratitude the generous act on behalf of the Recoletos Family gathered for the celebration. (In the past, it was either the local ordinary allowing a religious congregation to administer a parish then, at an appointed time, he might re-take it from them; or allowing a religious congregation to establish a parish church within the latter’s property.)
In his homily, Archbp. Villegas said: “Ten years ago, hindi ko naisip na darating dito ang mga Augustinian Recollect. … pero alam niya [ng Diyos] na darating sila dito. Si Hesus ang nagdala sa kanila dito.” (“Ten years ago, it never dawned on me that the Augustinian Recollects would come. … but He (God) knows that they will come. Jesus brought them here.”)
Despite the renovations and repainting, the archbishop told the massgoers, the parish church is not the most beautiful church. Rather, “the most beautiful church,” he said “ay kayo” referring to the parishioners, the people of God, who broke into thunderous applause. “Man-made buildings cannot have souls. In our beauty, the Holy Spirit lives,” he clarified.
The Our Lady of the Visitation Parish was once a small chapel in Brgy. Pasibi East under the patronage of Sto. Cristo Divino Tesoro de Urbiztondo. In 2011, through a Decree, Most. Rev. Socrates Villegas, D.D., Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan elevated the chapel into a Parish. It was then named Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish.
Fr. Romeo Namalata, from the Servants of the Risen Christ Monastic Community, was appointed as the first Parish Priest serving in that capacity for four years. In 2015, Fr. Oscar Roque became the second parish priest who served for two years.
At the end of 2017, a new chapter in the life of the parish began. On October 9, 2017, the new administration was formally transferred to the Recollects. On December 12, 2017, Fray Joseph Cyprian Panaligan, OAR, was installed as the third parish priest in the history of the parish.
Faithful to the community life of the Recoletos, the community was headed by Fray Amado Emmanuel Bolilia, OAR, local prior. Fray Jayferson Baldelovar, OAR, the youngest of the three-member Recoletos de Pangasinan community was also Local Procurator and Parochial Vicar.
On May 2018, with the change to the new administration of the Province of St. Ezekiel, Fray Samson Silloriquez, OAR took over as the newly appointed local prior while Frays Panaligan and Baldelovar continued with their previous appointments.
The historic celebration of thanksgiving marked the conclusion of the renewal visit of the Prior General to the Recollect community here.
Present during the said celebration are the twenty-four priests, Secular Augustinian Recollects from various chapters, OAR Seminarians from Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary in Baguio and the coristas from the Recoletos Formation Center in Miranila who served as the choir.
With additional reports from RCI