By Fr. Fernando Navidad Egargo, Ph.D.
THIS year, I celebrate the 26th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. However, I decided to simply call it my “25+1” Anniversary.
I was trying to figure out how I could explain to people why I did not have a grand celebration last year on my 25th but instead celebrate it this year, on my 26th. The reason of the “cancellation” of last year’s celebration was simple. Supertyphoon Yolanda (2013) destroyed the centuries-old church of Guiuan, my hometown parish. I was hoping that the restoration of the church would be complete by May of 2017. I was sincerely praying to God to grant me the privilege of celebrating my 25th anniversary inside the same church where I was ordained. But as May 3, 2017 was getting closer, I soon realized that it would be impossible to celebrate mass inside the church since the restoration process was barely starting. Hence, the decision to “postpone” the celebration until such time when the church would have been fully restored.
And so, the 25th became the 26th. But what is significant in the celebration of the 26th? I knew it would seem anti-climactic celebrating my 25th anniversary on the 26th year. That’s when I decided to check the “anniversary list” and what each anniversary stands for. There is no “26th Anniversary” in the list; there is only the 25th and other traditional anniversaries like 1st, 40th, 50th, 75th, and 100th. First Anniversary is called “Paper Anniversary” while 25th Anniversary is called “Silver Anniversary”.
That gave me an idea. I told myself “I will make it make it 25+1” or “A Silver and a Paper”. So, that became the “theme” of my anniversary this year.
My priesthood is gift from God. It is not something given to me because I deserve it. Rather, it has been given to me because God has graciously shared this gift with me. The gift of priesthood is so precious because it allows me participate in the shepherding role of Christ. It is totally related to my role as a “companion” in my ministry in the seminary. The new Ratio Fundamentalis for the formation of seminarians emphasizes “accompaniment” as an integral part of seminary formation. I am a “shepherd”, a “companion” of seminarians as they journey towards the altar of Christ.
This precious gift of priesthood, however, does not elevate me to the status of angels. I remain human, fully human. I have weaknesses and limitations. I am fragile. I could easily be torn into pieces. Just like a paper. But just as a gift is made more beautiful by the wrappings, I make sure that the gift of priesthood that God has given me is made more beautiful and presentable by my humanity – by the way I talk, the way I sing, the way relate to people. I hope that the paper/wrapper that people see leads them to appreciate the gift is wrapped within.
The “paper” that I am seeks to highlight the excitement of knowing the “gift” within. I hope that as a “paper/wrapper”, I don’t conceal God but rather I draw more attention to the gift that is wrapped – God’s goodness and mercy. “A Precious Silver wrapped with a Simple Paper” is about my priesthood. It is about my life.