MANDALUYONG City, Dec. 8, 2013—If the shepherd gets sick, will the flock help? This is a question a young bishop posed to the public recently as he appealed for help in behalf of old, sick and retired priests in his diocese.
“It would be a big slap on our face as a Christian community if we hear any word of a priest that is just left alone to die by himself somewhere, forgotten, uncared for after many years of hard work for God’s kingdom,” newly-installed San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said during a holy mass last November 29 at the EDSA Shrine.
Vulnerability of priests
Alminaza, who was appointed by Pope Francis last September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, as third bishop of the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros Occidental, came to Manila with nearly twenty of his priests to seek financial assistance and prayers for their diocese’s sick and retired priests, several of whom were struck down by infirmities at the prime of their years.
Despite the many individual concerns, as well as national concerns like the rehabilitation of ‘Yolanda’-stricken areas in the Visayas, Alminaza expressed hope that the faithful will find it in their hearts to remember vulnerable priests who are most in need.
“We are presenting our concern to you, very much aware that when you come for mass you have your own concerns to bring to the Lord and we would like very much to pray with you, to accompany you in bringing these concerns very much deep in your heart…At the same time, we would like also to appeal to you if you can give room for our concern as well,” he said.
The retired priests of San Carlos have also become a subject of a recent TV documentary, which includes, in the words of Alminaza, “a very articulate, very intelligent priest, a good swimmer” who suffered a stroke; a young priest whose body is aging faster prematurely and who now struggles to express himself; a 38-year old priest, just four years in the ministry, who also suffered a stroke and whose own father now takes care of him; and an old priest who will celebrate his golden jubilee as a priest this month, once very active as a formator, but who now admits feeling “useless” sometimes.
After showing a few clips from the TV documentary of the priests to the mass-goers, Alminaza said, “One of our greatest joys would be to also help you be aware that priests like you get old as well. And we have our own moments of loneliness and of vulnerability.”
In closing, he mentioned then Pope Benedict XVI’s personal message to him and other bishops during a private audience in 2008 to “take care of your priests” and to “love your priests as your primary collaborators.”
Alminaza was officially installed as Bishop of San Carlos last November 18 by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto.
For more information on how to assist the retired priests of San Carlos, please contact the Bishop’s House at (034) 312-6272; 729-9349. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz)