‘What have I gotten myself into?’

By Anne Gubuan

There is something about witnessing an ordination ceremony that makes me cry. Maybe it’s the sentimentality of a son leaving his parents to serve the Lord. Maybe it’s the courage I see in these priest warriors, leaving everything and sacrificing so many things. Maybe it’s the feeling of being taken care of by God by sending us these brave and loving shepherds.

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On 7 January this year I was privileged to attend yet another one of these very meaningful Catholic celebrations.  San Isidro Labrador Parish of Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, rejoiced and thanked the heavens for their new priest, Fr Jason Antiquera. Offering his life to God as a Columban missionary priest, Father Jason felt very much at peace and happy just thinking about his life ahead. On the days leading to his ordination he spent time alone with God, thanking him for choosing him. But when visitors from other parts of the country and from different parts of the world started arriving to be at the ordination he was deeply overwhelmed and found himself asking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’  It started to sink in, the reality that he was about to embark on a path less taken.  ‘Visitors walked the extra mile just to witness my ordination. There’s no way that I should disappoint them,’ Father Jason shared.

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As if hearing what Father Jason’s heart was saying, Bishop Patricio A. Buzon SDB of the Diocese of Kabankalan, answered that in his homily during the ordination by reminding Father Jason that it wasn’t going to be easy. ‘You will be like Christ the priest, but you will also be like Christ the victim. It’s being nailed to the cross. It’s scary,” the bishop emphasized. There was total silence when he said these words, slowly and very carefully describing for Father Jason how it was going to be. ‘But Jesus himself said that apart from him, you can do nothing. Pray. Pray without ceasing,” he urged Father Jason. And that also went for the rest of the congregation present. He asked the people to pray for our priests, for our nuns, for our bishops, for our Pope, for our lay workers. He put so much emphasis on prayer, saying that it is very important that all of us should dedicate our lives as Christians. Praying will lead us closer to the Father and will make us want to take an active role in the mission of the Church.

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My most favorite part of the ordination was the prostration where the Reverend Jason, still a deacon, was lying face down on the floor and the assembly kneeled and prayed the Litany of the Saints.  I savored every line. I called on the saints like I had never done before, asking for the help of all of them for Father Jason, for the seminarians, for those searching about this vocation, for the young men of this generation who aren’t quite certain what they want to do with their lives. ‘Please God, call them to be your priests.’ I prayed for my own son who expressed his desire to be a pope upon ‘meeting’ Pope Francis on TV. I prayed for the mothers, fathers, guardians who are raising and guiding young ones that they may love them and nurture them in God’s love and ways so that they too can be like Father Jason. 

At the reception, I was privileged to meet Father Jason’s parents, Wilfredo and Amalia, and I had a warm chat with his mother. She recalled how as a baby, the young Jason became their town’s ‘living Jesus’ in the town’s Christmas Belen.  ‘Maybe that time his vocation had already started,’ she mused happily.  She was so thrilled at the fact that when St John Paul II was here in the Philippines in 1981 she was two months pregnant with Jason, and she offered him in a prayer to God: ‘Make him grow into a loving and faithful Christian.’ And now, on the occasion of her son’s ordination, another pope, Francis, was about to visit the Philippines. When asked what her secret was in raising a would-be priest, she closed her eyes and with emphasis said, ‘I prayed. I prayed, not every day but every minute and every second. I prayed every step of the way as Jason and his siblings were growing. I prayed constantly, never ceasing, never faltering.’

For Father Jason it was a bit of a surprise knowing his mother had offered him to God already when he was just two months in her womb. But looking at his smile, I could see his peace in knowing that indeed, he has now gotten himself into where God wants him to be. 

Columban Ordinations
A Columban ‘First’

Jason Antiquera and Reverend
Just before the ordination to the diaconate of Jason, 29 June 2014

Fr Jason Platon Antiquera is from San Isidro Labrador Parish, Binalbagan, one of four parishes in the southern part of the Diocese of Bacolod, which then included the whole of Negros Occidental, given to the Columbans in 1950 to take care of and to develop. In 1987 this territory became the new Diocese of Kabankalan. Father Jason is the first Columban priest from the diocese.

Father Jason is currently serving at Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila, where Columbans have worked since 1929 when they first arrived in the Philippines. He has already spent time there as a seminarian on First Mission Assignment. He has also spent some time in Peru as a seminarian. He will take up his first overseas assignment as a priest in Korea on 1 September.

Fr Jehoon Augustine Lee was ordained to the priesthood in Seoul, Korea, on 1 November 2014. He spent two years on First Mission Assignment, in the Diocese of Novaliches.

Silver Jubilee of Fr Raymond Husband

Fr Raymond Husband

The Silver Jubilee of Fr Raymond Husband, ordained in Ireland on 17 December 1989. Was celebrated on 8 December at the central house of the Columbans in Maniila on 8 December.

Father Ray is currently the Vice-Director of the Region of the Philippines and Rector of the Columban House of Studies and Spiritual Formation House, Cubao, Quezon City

FIn the words of the old Latin blessing: Ad multos annos! ‘To many years!’

Frs Jason Antiquera and Raymond Husband