By Msgr. Regie Pamposa
Another expression of renewal introduced by Archbishop Joe in Capiz can be gleaned from his overarching concern towards the welfare of his priests, particularly by paying attention to the needs of old, sick, and retired priests.
For this purpose, he established a religious group called Merciful Missionaries of St. Joseph to work in Capiz to primarily take care of the old, sick, and retired priests.
He spearheaded the construction of a two-storey facility called Lolek’s Home located inside the compound of St. John Paul II Parish in Roxas City.
With the generous support and donation of Capizeños, benefactors, friends from abroad, and various fundraising activities of priests and parishes, the dream will soon become a reality.
His concern and love for the clergy are as palpable and tangible as that of a father for his children. He would personally visit his priests in hospitals or sick beds, and even be at the side of his dying priest. He never hesitates to make an unannounced visit to a particular parish for a cup of coffee or join a simple birthday lunch for his priest.
He would always make himself available by being the mass presider during parish fiestas or Misa de Gallo in far places or towns. In several instances, he did not mind waking up as early as 2 am just to be on time for the celebration of the Eucharist for people in far-flung parishes and newly created mission churches.
Like a true shepherd to his flock, Archbishop Joe shares the joys, hurts, and trepidation of his priests. He was, for instance, exuberant when Monsignor Victor Bendico, the former vicar general of the Archdiocese of Capiz, was appointed Bishop of Baguio in 2017.
Archbishop Joe’s love for his priests goes beyond the construction of a retirement home for them. Starting in 2012, he carefully planned out the continuing education and formation of his priests after ordination.
Though scant in financial resources, he sends priests to various universities in Manila and abroad. He is convinced that continuing education of the clergy is needed for seminaries and schools.
Aside from the usual pontifical degrees pursued by priests, Archbishop Joe encourages his priests to enroll in other sciences including civil law that would eventually help the Church of Capiz. As of now, some priests have already taken courses in Educational Management either at De La Salle University, the University of Sto. Tomas, the University of the Philippines, or St. Paul’s University.
Recently, two priests have already earned their professional licenses as civil engineer and architect, respectively. Despite the high cost of education abroad, he does not stop sending Capizeño priests to Rome, where one of his young priests has been admitted recently to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the school of future diplomats, papal delegates and nuncios of the Roman Catholic Church. A first in the history of the Church of Capiz.
Archbishop Joe’s vision for the Church goes well beyond the peripheries. Aside from parochial or domestic concerns, he truly understands the universality of the Church.
One, then, should not be surprised to accidentally meet a Capizeño priest studying in the famous University of Vienna or another Capizeño priest serving a diocese either in the US mainland, Guam, or England.
These priests were all sent by Archbishop Joe to other dioceses needing immediate help due to the scarcity of priests abroad. At one point, he even mentioned sending Capizeño priests to Africa as missionaries.
CRISES AND DEVELOPMENT
The international Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 had also brought havoc to many churches and institutions under the Archdiocese of Capiz. Hours after the landfall of the said typhoon, Archbishop Joe was already calling almost all his priests, expressing solidarity and concern for those whose rectories and churches had been badly damaged.
Even when national roads remained impassable, Archbishop Joe hastened to assess the actual situation on the ground by visiting churches and schools affected by the typhoon.
Unknown to many, Archbishop Joe’s residence, particularly his room, was also heavily damaged – he himself did not know where he would stay in the following days or months.
But the calamity has unraveled Archbishop’s Joe servant-leadership with a sense of prophetic urgency to rise above every dire situation. Wasting no time, he indefatigably looked for funds by appealing to various funding and charitable agencies and dioceses for the rebuilding of churches all over Capiz.
At one point, he went abroad to personally appear before international agencies like Caritas Italiana and Caritas Vienna, armed with a development plan for the rebuilding of the Archdiocese of Capiz.
Indeed, his efforts were not futile; the Archdiocese of Capiz providentially received grants and donations from abroad, countries like Italy, the United States of America, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, among others.
Through systematic planning creatively crafted and executed by Fr. Mark Granflor, the Social Action Director of the Archdiocese of Capiz, various housing projects in poor parishes badly hit by the typhoon were implemented, coupled with several livelihood programs for sustainability.
Added to this program was the construction of three evacuation centers in typhoon-prone parishes and a new vocational and technical school for out-of-school youth and those people who cannot afford a formal college education.
This newly created school is named after Archbishop Joe’s favorite saint, of course, his namesake, St. Joseph, the silent and hardworking carpenter.
THE LAST JOURNEY
One may think that Archbishop Joe, at 68, deserves to rest, a respite after all these pastoral initiatives he has endeavored throughout his episcopal ministry. Or, it is but natural for him to anticipate, as he often does in most things, his retirement.
That could have been his final journey, so to speak, just fading quietly away from public ministry. He envisions a serene and rustic area planted with trees, vegetables, and perhaps raising native chicken in his backyard. Surely, he is looking forward to a place where he can still walk with verdant and tall trees around.
However, far from the least he expects, he braced for another journey after he was appointed as cardinal by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Mabuhay si Cardinal Teting.*