BORONGAN City, December 14, 2017– An island off Eastern Samar province where Christian faith first arrived in the Philippines almost 500 years ago received its first Catholic priest.
On Dec. 13, Jonathan Pading became the first priest native of Homonhon Island in Guiuan town at the ordination rites officiated by Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan.
Despite the bad weather, hundreds of people showed up at the ceremony, overcrowding the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in the province’s capital of Borongan.
The ordination was supposed to be held in Homonhon but the diocese later decided to have it in Borongan anticipating the rainy season which means strong wind and big waves.
“I’m happy and humbled with this occasion in my life,” Pading said. “I do not claim as the first priest from Homonhon but I’m thankful to the Lord for sharing His very self, especially His priesthood.”
In his homily, Bishop Varquez spoke of the joy that should come in assisting others to understand and follow God’s teachings.
“We have to be happy in proclaiming the Good News. If you’re not happy in proclaiming the Gospel you will be for other pleasure that you will regret later on,” he said.
The prelate also admonished Fr. Pading of the “material possessions, pleasure and power” that could “destroy” his priestly ministry, the Church, and the people’s faith.
“We must constantly be aware against being enslaved to these three things because I’m sure that these will destroy our priesthood,” Varquez added.
The prelate said that the ordination is also “timely” as the Church gears up for the 2018 Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.
The celebration is part of the local Church’s nine-year “spiritual journey” that started in 2013 towards the 500th Jubilee of Christianization of the Philippines with a catechetical theme for each year.
Homonhon is the spot where Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his men first landed in the Philippines and took a weeklong respite on March 16, 1521.
Some theorists even claim that the first Mass may have been celebrated in the island.
The Philippine government, however, declared Limasawa, an island off the nearby province of southern Leyte, as the site of the first Mass on March 31.
Pading, 30, grew up in Casuguran, one of the eight barangays comprising the island, where he spent his elementary years before going to Borongan for his minor and college seminary formation.
Although his parents are originally from Guiuan, they moved to Homonhon because his mother works as a teacher, while his father is a utility worker at a hospital there.
On December 15, Fr. Pading is schedule to celebrate his first Mass of thanksgiving in Homonhon.
“I praise God with humble heart while praying that I could be a gift also to His people,” he said. (CBCPNews with reports from Alren Jerome Beronio)