CATARMAN, Northern Samar, Feb. 19, 2015 -– No amount of devastation wrought by typhoons Ruby and Seniang and other calamities that lashed Northern Samar could stop the faithful from joining the local church in celebrating the Ruby anniversary of the Diocese of Catarman.
The 40th anniversary of the diocese heralds the theme “40 Katuig nga Paglakaton Kaupod san mga Kablas pinaagi san Digtoy nga Katilingban san Singbahan” (40 years of journeying with the poor through basic ecclesial community).
In giving flesh into this theme, the Diocese of Catarman is set to recognize selected staff and personnel in the Cathedral and the diocese, as well as the volunteer laity, who have rendered quality service to the local church for a significant length of time yet have never been fully acknowledged for their dedication.
‘Diocese of poor people’
Beyond this planned conferment of awards to the unrecognized poor workers of the local church, the diocese has not reneged on its promise of providing help to the marginalized poor in communities, especially during the typhoon Ruby in December 2014. Considered as “diocese of poor people”, the Diocese of Catarman extended assistance to locals in the form of food and construction materials for shelter.
Fr. Eduardo Dorico, a co-pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Annunciation in Catarman and head of the Diocesan Ruby anniversary committee on accommodation, said although the Ddiocese celebrates its birth every five years, the Ruby jubilee is given greater importance. “We continue to make the people aware of their involvement and contribution in the growth of the diocese as we continue to journey as one diocese,” he added.
In preparation for this celebration, the diocese is holding a series of congresses for catechists, lay ministries and basic ecclesial communities (BECs). The BECs hold their initial conferences and orientation at the vicariate levels, for Allen, Catarman, Laoang, and Gamay.
Fr. Rico Manook, the acting Diocesan Chancellor, also disclosed that the image of the diocesan patroness, Our Lady of the Annunciation, is on pilgrimage throughout the 20 parishes and 11 mission centers in the diocese to spiritually prepare the people for the upcoming liturgical event.
On March 11 this year, the diocesan clergy, the religious sisters, laity and parishioners are ready to welcome guests who will join this milestone in the diocese’s history. The diocese is expecting about a hundred bishops and guest priests from the Archdiocese of Palo and its suffragan dioceses such as the Dioceses of Naval, Calbayog, Borongan, also from the Diocese of Maasin.
Dorico said that no less than the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Lingayen Bishop Socrates Villegas is expected to preside over the concelebrated pontifical Mass at the Cathedral.
Catarman became a diocese on Dec. 5, 1974 as decreed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. On March 11, 1975, the Bishop Angel T. Hobayan was installed as the first residential Bishop of the Diocese of Catarman.
Jesuit missionaries planted the seed of Catholicism in the northern part of Samar. Towards the end of the 16th century, Jesuit missionaries established Catholic mission centers in the island of Capul and in Palapag in mainland Samar. From Palapag, the Jesuits spread out their missions to Laoang, Catubig, Pambujan, Bobon and Catarman. From Capul, they reached out to areas around Calbayog.
CBCP-recorded history states that when the Jesuits were expelled from the country in 1768, Spanish Franciscan missionaries took over the administration of the parishes.
The Franciscans worked in the area now known as the province of Northern Samar until 1941. In 1941, the secular clergy took over the parishes.
The population of Northern Samar over which the Diocese of Catarman has jurisdiction is predominantly Catholic with about 75 percent of the 500,639 population, as of the 2009 census, are members of the local church. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros/CBCP News)