Fr. Lito Villegas, our newly installed rector and parish priest; dear brother priests; beloved parishioners; devotees of Nstra. Sra. de Guia, brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fr. Lito, congratulations on your installation. Thank you for accepting this assignment. Earlier, during the rite of installation, you professed your faith. You made your oath. You renewed your priestly promises. That was Jesus’ way of asking you, “Do you love me?” Thank you for saying “Yes.” Jesus then tells you, “Feed my sheep.”
While the priestly ministry is indeed a task that we are to fulfill conscientiously, may we not reduce it to a mere obligation. Fr. Lito, let your priestly ministry be borne of your intimate encounter with our merciful Lord. While it is true, that bearing the sheep on our shoulders includes carrying the cross, this synodal and compassionate shepherding is not a burden to us because we are to serve out of love. Strive to echo Saint Peter’s response to the merciful invitation of the Risen Lord, “You know, Lord, that I love you” (John 21:15-17). Like Saint Paul, we gratefully recognize that we are entrusted with ministry because we know that we are first and forever mercifully loved by our Lord amid our human failing and frailty (cf. 1 Tim 1:12-17).
Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudiumsaid: The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. (EG, 28). This is my prayer for this community. I am sure Fr. Lito will be able to lead this community to the realization of this vision.
My dear people of God, this rite of entrusting this chapel to a new shepherd is a manifestation of God’s never-ending care for his flock. Your parish priest is a reminder of God’s love for his people, a fulfillment of his promise that he will continue to send shepherds after his own heart. We entrust to your care Fr. Lito. Love him and take care of him. Teach him to be a good priest. Your deep faith in God, your fidelity to prayer, your daily struggle to be faithful, your love and concern for the chapel and for each other will help Fr. Lito to be a good shepherd to this community.
We entrust your new shepherd and the whole parish community to the care and maternal embrace of Nstra. Sra. de Guia. (photo by Maricar Santos/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)