BACOLOD CITY – What a very significant day in the annals of the history of Recoletos de Bacolod Community! It was the feast of its patron Saint Nicholas of Tolentino. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was the culminating point of the week-long celebration, whose venue was the Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Oratory. On 10 September 2016, Bishop Patricio A. Buzon, D.D. came home to his alma mater—the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos in Bacolod City. UNO-R Campus Minister Father Persiuz Joseph Decena welcomed him to the university and they both headed to Saint Nicholas Oratory, the cavernous church of the university blest by Bishop Camilo Gregorio in 1998. Recently installed on 9 August 2016 as the local ordinary of Bacolod, Bishop Buzon was the main celebrant of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. He was joined by the Recollect Fathers Walthrode Conde, Edcel Celiz, Enrico Silab, Albert Pellazar, Louie Gabinete, Persiuz Joseph Decena, Joel Naranja and diocesan priests Julian N. Bermejo and Brethen Rye Gamala. Brother Joaquin Jamelo OAR assisted in the distribution of the Holy Communion.
The bishop was the local ordinary of the Kabankalan Diocese until 24 May 2016 when he was named Pope Francis to replace the 77-year-old Bishop Vicente Navarra. He headed the Diocese of Kabankalan when he pursued his masteral studies at UNO-R. He had earlier earned units for his Master of Arts in Education, major in Guidance and Counseling, at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City. According to University President Fr. Edcel Celiz, UNO-R honored the Cebu City-born prelate as the first bishop to become an alumnus and the first alumnus to become a bishop of Bacolod. The late Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich was awarded with an honorary doctorate by UNO-R.
On the same note, Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza D.D. of San Carlos since 2013 had obtained from UNO-R his A.B. Philosophy (summa cum laude) in 1981 and his Ph. D. in Educational Management in 2009. He is deemed its first alumnus to become a bishop, according to Fr. Celiz.
Bishop Buzon addressed in Hiligaynon the congregation of mass-goers. A great majority were employees, faculty members, and students. The Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity members came for the family occasion. All of them filled the Oratory to the rafters. The liturgy was made most solemn, thanks to the hymns sung by the UNO-R Schola Cantorum under the baton of Dirkie M. Rufin.
At the outset, the Bacolod bishop greeted everyone “Happy Fiesta!” He received a loud reply of “Happy Fiesta, Bishop!” He then thanked the Recollect community for having invited him to that activity. Thereafter, he focused on the evangelization tasks of both clergy and lay people. Parish priests should not stay in their kumbentos waiting for the parishioners to come. They must go out of the shelter of the parish rectory and preach the Word of God in the periphery. He expressed his ardent wish for every Catholic to bring the Gospel to every home. What the Protestant missionaries do now in their house-to-house-campaign is nothing new. The method had been done by Catholic missionaries of old. Everyone was earnestly urged to go from house to house. He followed the Christ’s footsteps in His time: to bring the Good News of Salvation to every house, to every family, to several towns in Palestine.
The Catholic lay people, the bishop said, now constitute 99% of the Church, and they are enjoined to help in the evangelization far-off places. The Christian family is the strength of the Church. The family is tasked to knock at the homes and request believers and non-believers, to admonish the sheep gone astray to return to the salvific fold of the Good Shepherd.
The bishop then said St. Nicholas of Tolentino went out to seek the sick and the poor. It was a time of conflict and the holy Augustinian religious set out to preach the Gospel of Reconciliation in the periphery. He preached love, reconciliation of Christ. St. Nicholas declared God’s all-encompassing mercy and compassion in those troubled times.
During Communion, the UNO-R Schola Cantorum with their celestial voices sang the Latin hymn: In omnibus amare, in omnibus servire; in omnibus are et servire Domino” (In everything love and serve the Lord). The hymn reminisced the historic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in 2015.
Fr. Persiuz Decena then stood up after communion to thank Bishop Buzon, the diocesan priests, religious sisters, faculty, students, S.A.R.F. members, and all those who made the festive celebration a success.
The UNO-R 2016 service awardees were thereafter called one by one. They stood before the altar and all smiled as they were presented to the photographers and to everyone’s applause.
Immediately afterward, the bishop sprinkled holy water and recited the appropriate prayers on the panecillos de San Nicolás. The people then queued to receive a piece each. This has been the age-old traditional devotional practice in the Augustinian Family the world over. It depicts how St. Nicholas shared with the impoverished and underprivileged the little food he had.
After the meager snacks, Bishop Buzon left the university campus and headed for the Parish of San Nicolas de Tolentino in the adjoining city of Talisay to celebrate the Holy Mass with another Recollect community. The acting local prior of the Recoletos de Bacolod, Father Ronel Gealon, two confreres Fr. Abraham Latoza and Fr. Joel Naranja, joined the bishop in the Mass. (Professor Emmanuel Romanillos)