The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Clergy (CBCP-ECC) thanked the Lord for the unique opportunity that brought together priests for a period of reflection on their vocations.
Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo Lazo, the commission’s chairman, expressed his appreciation for the gathering of the clergy during the National Retreat for Priests 2023 (NRP 2023). He emphasized that it was a significant occasion for priests to strengthen their commitment to serving the people of God.
“My gratitude to God who called these priests to get together, a beautiful experience of being one serving God’s people. For me, this is a wonderful way of telling the people that we priests are called to be holy,” Archbishop Lazo told Radyo Veritas.
The theme of NRP 2023, ‘Priesthood: A Call to Holiness,’ resonated well with more than 2,000 priests from across the country who gathered to contemplate the fulfillment of their vocation as shepherds of the Church.
Archbishop Lazo highlighted that while the call to holiness is universal for every baptized Christian, it holds a special significance for priests called to serve the community of God.
“The starting point of the call to holiness is our baptism much more if you are gifted with the priesthood to serve the people, so, I humbly ask our faithful to pray for us priests because we need prayers as well. Our desire to serve the people of God has to come from the source which is God,” he said.
Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. of Novaliches emphasized the profound awareness of the vocation of each priest as the path to holiness that can be demonstrated to the faithful they serve.
“This retreat is significant for us priests to seek holiness in the Lord. The quality of the Christian life in a parish or diocese depends on the quality of the priests who serve them. If the priests are saintly, then the people are holy,” Bishop Bacani shared in an interview with Radyo Veritas.
Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Ruben Labajo acknowledged the immense challenge priests face in maintaining holiness, particularly in the current times with various societal challenges.
“Ang pagbabago is a long process so hopefully sapag-attend naming mgaparisa retreat may naitanimnabinhisa puso ng bawatparinakailanganamingi-nurture para lumago at mag-mature ang amingpananampalataya at maisabuhay ang tunaynadiwa ng pagigingpastol,” Bishop Labajo said.
The retreat, led by missionary nun Sr. Briege Mckenna, OSC, and Spanish priest Fr. Pablo Escriva de Romani at the IEC Convention Center in Cebu City from November 7 to 9, included participation from Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown and 31 bishops from various dioceses and archdioceses across the country.
Initiated by the CBCP Commission on Clergy in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Cebu, CHARIS Philippines, and Marian Solidarity, the NRP 2023 was originally scheduled in 2021 as part of the Philippines’ 500 Years of Christianity celebration but was postponed due to the prevailing pandemic. (Luis Angelo Sta. Maria/Volunteer Writer-San Felipe Neri Parish | Photo from Radio Veritas)