Bayombong: the diocese growing thanks to Providence
Environmental protection, poverty and youth are the main challenges for Mgr Mangalinao, who, in a few days, will celebrate the first year since his inauguration. In 2015, local Catholics numbered just over 560,000 or 56 per cent of the population. Thanks to the missionary work of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the diocese has 20 parishes and 12 schools.
Bayombong (AsiaNews) – The Church in Bayombong is still missionary, but Providence supports its growth, this according to Mgr Jose Elmer Imas Mangalinao (pictured), 59, bishop of Bayombong, a mostly rural diocese that overlaps with Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, in the mountainous heart of Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines.
In a few days, Mgr Mangalinao will mark his first year as bishop. Pope Francis chose him on 24 May 2018 to replace Mgr Ramon Barrera Villena, who had retired in 2016. He moved from the titular office of Urusi and the auxiliary office of Lingayen-Dagupan to become the third bishop of Bayombong on 25 July 2018.
"At that time,” he told AsiaNews, “I managed to visit all our 20 parishes and 12 Catholic schools in the area. The diocese was created thanks to the work of the missionaries of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM). We owe them a lot.”
Established in 1966 as a territorial prelature, Bayombong was elevated in 1982 to the status of a suffragan diocese of Tuguegarao. In 2015, local Catholics numbered just over 560,000 or 56 per cent of the population (of almost a million people). The figure is far below the national average of 85 per cent, which makes the Philippines the populous Catholic country in Asia.
"In addition to environmental protection, one of the greatest challenges for the local Church is represented by the lay of the land,” Bishop Mangalinao explained. “Ten parishes are in the highlands and it is difficult to reach small remote communities. Moreover, poverty is widespread in this area, affecting our pastoral ministry.”
“Another missionary field in which we are involved is the care of young people. But it is not easy. Since we are in a rural area, many of our young people move where they find more job opportunities, or to the big cities. Most of the time, they leave against the wishes of their parents, who would like them by their side for the time when they can no longer work the land."
"Thank God, we currently have a sufficient number of priests. Most of the faithful farm, so they can only go to church on Sundays. Distances are great and farmers always have a lot of work to do. Few can even participate in the Wednesday and Friday devotions.”
“We are a missionary Church. For some like me, used to other Church contexts, this is a challenge. But I draw inspiration from my 32 diocesan priests and 12 missionaries, from four religious communities. I am happy because we also have some seminarians. Certainly, it is difficult for us to sustain them economically but little by little God sees and provides." (P.F.)