MANILA, July 5, 2015— There were times when they went to school together but none of them thought they would become bishops someday— and at the same time.
Bishops-elect Dennis Villarojo and Oscar Florencio were contemporaries at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino, the home of Filipino priests taking further ecclesiastical studies in Rome.
Both priests studied at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Villarojo obtained a doctorate in Philosophy, while Florencio finished with a doctorate in Sacred Theology.
Looking forward to service
“We were together at the Collegio although Fr. Oscar graduated a bit ahead of me,” said Villarojo, former private secretary of retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.
The secretary general of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) said the appointment came as a big surprise, adding that he is “humbled and honored” by his new post.
“This is a blessing for me and I look forward to serving this local Church as auxiliary bishop,” he said, adding that the date of his episcopal ordination will be announced later this month.
Florencio, currently the rector of the St. John the Evangelist School of Theology in Palo, Leyte, said he did not also expect the appointment.
“First, I am very grateful to the Lord, and also to the Holy Father, who is the instrument of God, and to Archbishop John for his constant encouragement among us priests to help in having another bishop,” he said.
“More importantly, like what Pope Francis said when he was elected as pope, I feel unworthy of this office, so I ask for the prayers of everyone,” said Florencio, who will be ordained bishop at the Palo Cathedral on September 10.
First bishop in 29 years
Palo Archbishop John Du said Florencio is also the first priest to be named bishop from the archdiocese after 29 years. He was referring to the appointment of then Borongan and now Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso in 1986.
Describing Florencio as capable, intelligent, humble, and one who listens to people, Du said that the 44-year old priest’s appointment is Vatican’s recognition of the “credibility of our priests in terms of maturity (which) boosts the standing of our presbyterium here that Palo is now producing a bishop.”
“To be chosen as bishop means he has led a priestly and exemplary life because he has to lead all the people,” he said.
No date has been set yet for the installation of Villarojo and Florencio as auxiliary bishops of Cebu where they will work alongside with Archbishop Jose Palma.
In January 2016, Cebu will host the IEC, a gathering of Catholics from all around the world, which at least 15, 000 people are expected to join.
Villarojo urged the faithful to pray for the success of the big event with the theme “Christ in you, our hope of glory”. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros/R. Lagarde/CBCP News)