Vows Renewed, Oils Blessed
April 6, 2023

By: The Rev. Vicky Esguerra

The Diocese of Greater Manila Area (DGMA), in its post-pandemic face-to-face celebration of Maundy Thursday, gathered its clergy at the Parish of the Resurrection in Balingasa, Quezon City, on April 6, 2023. It started at 8:30 am with the Holy Eucharist for the renewal of clergy vows and the blessing of oils used by the Church. Eighteen clergy persons participated in this special religious gathering.

The Rt. Rev. Vicente Salvador Ballesteros, diocesan bishop, main celebrant, and preacher, exhorted the clergy to act appropriately as priests, vested or not, "to honor the Covenant Faithfulness and not to give in to human pressures and pleasures." Concelebrating with him at the Altar were the Rt. Rev. Warlito Baldomero (guest priest, Pandacan Parish of the Holy Child), Msgr. Cesar Emmanuel Ballesteros (domestic prelate; rector, Balingasa Parish of the Resurrection), the Reverends Sherryl Ann Javier-Bianson (Krus na Ligas Mission of the Holy Cross), and Ricardo Aliwalas (Sucat Mission of Birhen Balintawak). Assisting at the Altar were Sub-Deacon Daniel Nillo and Jason delos Reyes (SATS graduating seminarian).

Renewing their clergy vows in front of the DGMA Ordinary included the following: Msgr. Cesar Emmanuel Ballesteros; The Reverends Ricardo Aliwalas, Sherryl Ann Javier-Bianson, Ryan Bores (Punta Mission of the Holy Child), Erahvilla Maga-Cabillas (U.P. Parish of the Holy Cross), Dionito Cabillas (Bacood Parish of the Good Shepherd), Orlando Concepcion (Tatalon Mission), Albert Dacera (Pasay Parish of the Holy Trinity), Rodrigo Dolorosa (Fabie Mission of the Holy Cross), Victoria Esguerra (retired; on-call priest), Severino Ismael II (canon, DGMA Cathedral of the Crucified Lord), Nixon Jose (Paco Parish of the Holy Sepulchre), Fedelino Ofdi (Tondo Parish of the Holy Cross), Hermogenes Verano (retired; on-call priest).

After the priests' collective renewal of ordination vows, the diocesan bishop blessed each one individually with prayers followed by the pouring of chrism oil on both hands and on each head crown. Subsequently, each received his/her respective copy of the "Oath of Conformity," a pledge of faithfulness to the ministry and the Church, which was then individually signed at the Altar and counter-signed by the diocesan bishop himself.

The Roster of Participants in the Holy Eucharist included: The Rev. Severino Ismael II, First Reading; The Rev. Ricardo Aliwalas, Psalm Reading; The Rev. Sherryl Ann Javier-Bianson, Second Reading; Deacon Daniel Nillo, Gospeler and Assistant Minister. Ms. Khristianne Lineses served as the Lay Lector.

In his homily, Bishop Buddy Ballesteros started off by reminiscing about his experience when interviewed for entrance at St. Andrew's Theological Seminary (SATS) in 1981. Asked to explain his reason for wanting to enter the seminary, he replied, "To follow the will of my father (a bishop)." "I (Buddy) am a son of a bishop (SOB!)." He explained further that Jesus, in His earthly ministry, wanted to follow the will of His Father God - called, chosen, sent, anointed to follow His Father's Will. Likewise, the clergy of DGMA followed suit with the ordination vows and blessed by the Church to administer the Sacraments with the use of the blessed oils: Healing oil to comfort the sick and Chrism oil (catechumenate) to strengthen people in baptism and to consecrate people into the ordained ministry.

The Ordinary stressed the point that "a priest is a priest, whether vested in church or not (outside the church). Knowing your faith means fulfilling the Covenant Faithfulness and not giving in to human pressures and pleasures." He likened the clergy to be the "salt of the earth" used as food preservative and as taste ingredient making food palatable; and, likewise manner in ministry, strengthening the spirit in baptism and preserving people against the moral decays of the world. He added, "By knowing yourselves, you should know your faith and your mission here on earth."

He recalled the biblical characters who were true to their faith:

  1. John the Baptist - faith and lifestyle as solid as a rock; lived what he preached, "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
  2. Archangel Gabriel - Messenger of God who was an emissary of God's message.
  3. Mary and Joseph - chosen as guardians of Jesus who performed their roles in faith and love.
  4. Shepherds - first witnesses to Baby Jesus' birth in Bethlehem who spread out the Good News.
  5. Jesus Christ - who knew His mission as the Anointed One (Christ) and offered His life for the salvation of humanity.

Bishop Buddy reminded the clergy to be patient in suffering as this was part and parcel of the sacerdotal ministry especially for the IFI priests, to wit:

  1. With dignity in ordination -- priests, however, are not exempted from human vulnerabilities and sufferings (including getting physically sick).
  2. Accountability is required - "To whom much is given, much will be required." The human faculties and physical disabilities are not evenly distributed.
  3. God's spokespersons - must transmit God's Word in truth (not distorted); no waivers or compromises even if against benefactors' will. "Priests are not exempted from temptations nor sufferings, just as Jesus wasn't; but God's strength is the assurance of our fortitude to fight and win the war." He concluded that "Our only reward is the Lord's commendation, 'Enter now into my Kingdom, you good and faithful servant.'"

The second half of the Maundy Thursday celebration was the blessing of the two types of oils - Healing Oils and the Chrism Oils. Bishop Ballesteros, with the assistance of Bishop Warly, blessed the oils by praying over, censing, and sprinkling with holy water all the containers filled with the olive oils enhanced with chrism and perfume scents.

After the religious ceremonies, the diocesan clergy took time for photo-ops; followed by the scrumptious lunch tendered by the host Parish of Balingasa. Courtesy of Msgr. Manny's generosity, loaves of unleavened bread were distributed as gifts to the priests for use in their evening celebrations of the Holy Eucharist in their respective parishes.



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