QUEZON City, June 7, 2015—In his parish, all Saturdays are “First Saturdays” especially offered to Mary. What else to expect from a priest who claims to have been Marian all his life?
While most devotees are happy to observe First Saturdays as originally proposed, the chief pastor of a parish in Novaliches has seen fit to formally honor the Queen of Heaven all Saturdays of the month.
From monthly to weekly
In an interview with CBCP News, Fr. Joel Saballa, CFIC shared that even before he took the helm of the Immaculate Conception Parish in 2013, it already had a regular “dawn procession” held every first Saturdays of the month in keeping with the tradition “Love and Devotion to Our Lady.”
But it had limited appeal since it hardly reached those in the far-flung corners of the parish.
“In no time, I proposed to my parishioners that we start conducting public devotions to Our Lady every Saturday … And their response was overwhelming,” he said.
“As a Marian parish, we want to deepen our devotion to the Blessed Virgin, especially under the title our lady the immaculate conception,” he added.
The priest explained that while formerly the procession could only traverse the major roads and visit the more accessible areas of his parish, now even the places not included in the usual itinerary are covered.
“I always make sure we can bring Our Lady to the remoter parts of the parish. For example, on a given Saturday we concentrate on one small area, on the following Saturday we concentrate on another,” he said.
Besides the dawn procession, Saballa pointed out he also takes advantage of the Saturday devotions to be more hands-on with his flock, meeting them in person as a shepherd cares for his sheep.
“Right after the dawn procession, I do my pastoral visit, particularly to my sick parishioners in order to anoint them with oil,” he said.
Saballa also facilitates a talk every third Saturday during which he discusses topics related to the Mother of God.
The Ilocano religious boasted he has been a “Mama’s boy” for as long as he could remember.
‘Marian since birth’
“Ever since I was a child, I have been devoted to Mary. I graduated high school at a school named Immaculate Conception Academy where my devotion to her deepened. I also thank those of my teachers, Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King, who encouraged my love for Our Lady,” he said.
“It’s little wonder that I would find myself later entering a religious community dedicated to her: the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception. And here I am now heading a parish also called the Immaculate Conception,” Saballa added.
The priest shared that whenever he goes to a place where an image of the the Blessed Virgin happens to be on display, he takes it as a visible sign reminding him that she protects him and guides him in running his parish, as well as his mission work as director of the scholarship program of his congregation. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)