Papa Celebrates Golden Anniversary As A Catholic Church's Lay Minister

"If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there will be my servant also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him" - John 12:26

"Of this church, I (St. Paul) was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God" - Colossians 1:25

Papa with the religious community 
Papa receiving the plaque from our parish priest, Rev. Fr. Nestor Climaco
Papa with Fr. Climaco and other lay ministers in our parish 

Long decade of church service 

It's the Golden anniversary of my father in his lay ministerial service in the Roman Catholic Church. Such an amazing milestone in life! 

Being a dedicated servant of the Church, who will devote more time serving the spiritual community is so rare nowadays. I'm just so proud my father is one of these rarest. 

Papa's celebration at home
This life size Last Supper painting in our dining area is hand-painted by a family friend, Dodong Mercado, so talented 

My father, who is now 83 years old, has been serving the Roman Catholic Church as a Lay Minister for 50 years. 

And this service is uninterrupted since 1971 even during the time he was working in the government office.

Papa and Mama

I'm just so proud of his achievement and how he has come this far in life. His great contribution in building a steadfast Catholic community in our place is unparalleled and worth emulating.  

Having celebrated his 50 years of tireless dedication to the church, performing lay ministerial job more than half of his existence made him one of the fewest Catholic lay figures in the country to have ever reached such milestone.

Trials and Challenges 

Papa's health has not always been the most stable. At 50, he was diagnosed of hypertension and heart ailment. At 65, he had a mild stroke and at 70, he became blind because of cataract. 

When I was still in college he suffered the most severe case of hypertension where his blood pressure raised to an alarming level. Thanked God he was able to surpass it.

Celebration at home in Surigao 

However, at 70 he became totally blind due to cataract, the prognosis was bleak, and it was doubted if he could undergo an eye operation without putting his life in danger because his blood pressure was unstable.

But Papa's fierce desire to continue serving the church made him decide to undergo such delicate operation. And with intense prayers and assistance from the Benedictine sisters in our place, his eye surgery was a success.

Whether it was a miracle or my father's strong desire to see the world again and serve the church, things went smoothly, his blood pressure was stabilized and everything was done without any complication. Papa's vision was restored. He then devoted all his life to the church service.

Papa and Mama having fun in the beach

Today, he is in excellent health condition and that's something we're always grateful. His daily church activities helped him picked up energy and maintained an active lifestyle. It spared him from being lethargic and sedentary. 

I guess that's his best-kept secret to a healthy living. His devotion to the church and the community, and his active life organizing spiritual activities in our parish helped him defies convention of getting old. 

What is a Lay Minister? 

Most Christian denominations have ministers of faith serving the church in the absence of professional clergies.

In the Catholic Church however, lay ministers refer to people chosen in the community to assist the priest during Eucharistic mass.

This role has been expanded to conducting church service and administering eucharistic host. 

They are chosen under a specific criteria according to the parish's set of qualifications. After the selection, they are required to undergo trainings, seminars and attending lectures about the Catholic doctrine. 

My father's role however covers more than that. Supply of priests in Surigao del sur is so limited, so my father served as an assistant to the parish priest, assuming some of its roles. 

Whenever our parish priest is not in town, papa will conduct a church service called Celebration of the Holy Word instead of Holy Mass, or administer funeral service prayer instead of funeral mass. 

Holy mass, Funeral mass and wedding can only be conducted by an ordained priest. Celebration of the Holy Word is the same ritual in the Holy Mass except that lay ministers are not allowed to cover the praises part (glory to God, hosanna in the highest).

Lay Ministerial life

He started serving the Catholic church as a lay minister in 1971 before he got married. By then he was working already in the government office and also managing my grandparents' farm property in Canonoctan during weekends.

Papa with Benedictine nuns, our parish priest and co-lay persons. 01-12-2021

According to Papa's recollection, it was his mother (my lola, who was also serving the Catholic church at that time as a mother's butler) who convinced him to become a lay minister.

He then started a busy life shuffling services between the church, the municipal hall and the farm. 

By the time he got married and he had us, papa had established himself as one of the most active lay ministers in our parish, spending his Sundays in the church service.

Papa's Well-lived life

My early childhood memory was confined in the farm. In a quiet and calm rural place surrounded by lush greenery, rice and coco fields dotted by hills and rivers. 

For the first six years of my life, we lived in a working farm inherited by my father from my grandparents. 

There, apart from his work in the government office, he did farming, produced rice in season, grew fruits and vegetables, co-established a poultry business, and tended a herd of goat and other livestock.

He also established a farm business, engaged in copra and abaca trading and selling rice, fruits and corn. 

On weekdays, he would travel to the town proper for his government office work. He started as a Municipal Livestock Inspector then Local Revenue Collection Officer in the municipal treasurer's office.

Every Sunday, he was at the chapel in our small community conducting Sunday service.

When we started attending school papa decided to move to my grandparents' place then to Marihatag and sold our farm to a relative.

Parishes in Surigao del sur 

In Surigao del Sur, the Diocese of Tandag has a very limited supply of priests. Each parish only has one priest assigned. 

Thus, barangays do not have Holy Mass. Instead, Catholic chapels only have Celebration of the Holy Word conducted by a Lay Minister.

Papa assumed this full role by the time we were toddlers. Every Sunday and special festivities like Christmas, New Year and Epiphany, he was at the church spearheading the service.

I remember tagging along with him when I was still a child every Sunday when he was conducting a church service, or prayer service to the wake of a dead person in the neighborhood.

I've fully embraced our Catholic life by the time I started school. I mean, I haven't acquainted with people outside our faith until later in life.

I remember always completing the Misa de Gallo in my elementary years because Papa was the celebrant and we were taught to attend the nine mornings of the Advent season, not because we have a wish to fulfill, but because it's part of our spiritual obligation as Catholics.

For the next decade, until he retired from the government service, Papa lived a very busy life, shuffling his schedule between the church and his regular job.

Life in the Church service

He became a founding member of the Knight of Columbus in our place. It's a global Catholic fraternal service order and membership is exclusive to Catholic men. It's headed by a Supreme Knight with a headquarter in Connecticut, USA.

The very first magazine I ever read was The Columbian, the official magazine of the Knight of Columbus, distributed to all members around the world.

Papa was an active member of K of C, until I was in high school when it became inactive in our province. He then helped established other community organizations that helped leverage activities of our parish.

The BCCO (Basic Christian Community Organization) which locally known as GKK (Gagmay'ng Kristohanong Katilingban) which aimed to strengthen the Catholic faith in the community and drew Catholic faithful closer to the church. 

The Family Life Apostolate, which aimed to build a stronger Catholic family life where bible service is being conducted once a week on each household.

And so much more. 

He also became a long-serving Pastoral Parish Council President and spearheaded the lay ministerial group in our parish. 

During his tenure, he oversaw the improvement of the church, its spiritual mission in the community, boosting programs that drew the flock closer to the Catholic faith.

He strived to establish a strong connection between the community and the Catholic faith and led many community organizations that reinforced this purpose.

He also became a life-long Pre-cana and Pre-baptism lecturer. Pre-cana or pre-marriage seminar is required in the Catholic church for couples who are about to receive the sacrament of matrimony.

His focus in his lectures are the primary responsibilities of parents to children and the environment. He often emphasized the family's role in protecting our planet and living a sustainable life. 

While pre-baptism seminar is administered to parents and godparents before an infant receives the sacrament of baptism.

Two papas 💞

Before my uncle (papa's only brother), whom I also called papa, joined politics, Papa served as chairperson of the PPC-RV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsive Voting), an election watchdog that aimed to monitor a clean and honest election. 

Papa's schedule has always been in full swing. One day he would go to barangays for pre-cana seminars or ecology lectures, the next day he would be at the church conducting service when our parish priest is out of town. 

Today, even at 83, he is still doing all of it, full time. His enthusiasm has not waned even after five decades of service. And some health issues along the way.

His devotion to the Catholic church service always astonishes me. It defies all the convention of growing tired because of age. He seems did not age, he has still an active involvement in the community just like in his younger days.

Papa. New Year 2021

Papa still has a very healthy mind and body. He still can carry great conversations with people from different walks of life.

While people at his age are already home-bound and experiencing chronic illnesses due to age, Papa is sprightly active doing community and church works.

Thanking God endlessly for this unique gift to Papa's health. He has hypertension and at times he would experience strain in muscles, of course because he is 83! But it never gets on the way when it comes to his devotion in the church.

Life as an environmentalist

My father is an activist, an environmentalist and a climate change advocate. And once an ecology lecturer. Yes, an activist, until now. Even at his advance age.

I grew up watching him going out in the street for demonstrations on critical social issues. During Martial Law, he was one of the most active demonstrators in our place. And so I was told. 

His life always hung by a thread back then due to his criticism on what he believed persecution to freedom and democracy. Still, it did not stop him from pursuing his advocacy to defend the environment and injustices.

He was once a member of the Justice and Peace Program in our province, aimed to defend the defenseless and persecuted groups like farmers. 

He was very loud then with his opposition against logging and mining. His anti-mining stance would bring him later into further trouble. 

Thank God he was not salvage by the private goons of big mining groups in our province.

My father always emphasized that first and foremost, we are God's steward of the environment. 

We cannot claim as Christians and members of the Roman Catholic Church, if we are careless towards our environment, if we do not know how to protect our planet

For living a genuine Christian life can only be accomplished by serving others and protecting the environment.  

It's like protecting our fellowmen, protecting the world we live, protecting God's creation. It's only through these advocacies that we can truly live the values of what Christians should be.

It's part of our responsibilities as Christians. To take care of others and the environment. This is one of the great wisdoms I ever got from my father. 

This fascinating advocacy of my father, would influence my views towards the environment in later life. Today, I am fully embracing this advocacy about climate change.

St. Paul as the model of lay ministerial service

The Roman Catholic Church has long been recognizing the important role of lay ministers in the development of the life of the church and its faith. 

It stems from the role of St. Paul as the minister of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23) using the Greek word diakonos (deacon) which means "servant".

Therefore, referring to the church, Paul considered him the servant of the gospel. He viewed his work as part of God's plan for his life. 

We all know how the story of St. Paul unfolded in the Holy Bible.

He was known as Saul and belonged to the influential Jewish family. He was a Pharisee (a group of Jewish people that administered a law) and admitted that he participated in the persecutions of Christians including the stoning of one Christian man called Stephen.

He criticized Christians for believing in Jesus Christ and was not convinced beyond measure that Jesus was the messiah. 

One day, while traveling to Damascus, he was struck by a blinding vision of Jesus Christ and heard the voice "Saul, why persecutest thou me?".

For three days after the vision, Saul remained blind. He was healed by a Christian, Ananias of Damascus. After the healing, unexpectedly, Saul converted to Christianity and became known with the Latin version of his name, Paul. 

He threw himself to missionary works, traveling to Damascus and Jerusalem, proclaiming the message of God and propagating the teachings and ministry of Jesus Christ. And became a key theologian on the doctrine of atonement.

Due to his devotion to the ministry of Jesus, he was known as St. Paul the Apostle. The Vatican continues to support this ministerial work from early Apostles and became the blueprint of selfless service of all lay and eucharistic ministers of the Roman Catholic Church.

As a Papa's daughter  

So how's being a daughter of a lay minister? 

It's a life of responsibilities, I should say. A life that could never go wrong.  

I always feel I should behave accordingly because my father has a reputation and image to protect. And as a daughter, it's my responsibilities to never put him in shame. And no matter what happens, I'll live up to the moral expectation of the community.

I grew up with a disciplinarian father. A bit strict but not overly tight. He was far from being a wacky, cool father who never wags a red flag to kids when he hears uncomfortable issues. 

He's the type that wouldn't let things passed when something gone wrong. He would address it immediately. And he always has house rules. We grew with it. 

He would talk so much about life and the world we live and how social issues affect us and why we need to take side and not just neutral in life's principles. Perhaps because he is an activist. He felt people need to respond to the challenge of the society.

Just before I started college, he established his rules: "no boys, no suitors not until I finish college. Be selective in friendships, never go with groups that have questionable lifestyle. Don't drink alcoholic beverages".

When I attended college, I was so scared to disappoint my father, I never attempted to talk to boys, I didn't have female friends other than my friends in the province. I only talked to college classmates when necessary 😄

My routine in college confined only in school and boarding house then church every Sunday. So I grew up a bit introvert and scared of men. 😅

I don't have regrets. It was the best discipline I ever got. I'm happy I was able to fulfill my father's wishes of not going astray. 

Until now, I am very scared to commit a mistake because I don't want to disappoint my father or put him in shame. I felt I've a responsibility to protect his reputation and standing in the society. 

He is well respected in our place. A lot of people looked up to him and doing something out of the ordinary will put him in grave shame in our community especially his position as a lay minister.  

So I remain conscious with my actions and big decisions in life. Putting first my father's position when making life-changing decisions. 

Much of his principles and discipline influenced my life and made me who I am today.

Fulfillment serving the church

Throughout these years of serving the church and the faithful devotedly, not once I ever witnessed him broke in desperation. 

I mean, yeah, life is not always perfect. Neither my father. He got flaws. He made mistakes. He once stumbled on the potholes of life. And like any normal families, we do have our own struggles, we do have problems, we undergone challenges. 

But papa has always been the most stable, emotionally. Though, back then, he was far from being a saint. He too had some share of controversies, but was able to redeem himself and walked back in the road of calmness.

Mama Inday, Papa Pediong,  Papa and Mama. Sibling closeness of Papa and Papa Pediong, who is also a lay minister, is one of a kind. Very ideal. I haven't witnessed them argued or quarrelled. unlike other siblings. They became even closer now that they're in their prime years.

Faith is everything 

The biggest balancing beam has always been his service to the church. No matter how many times life threw him in all directions, he stood his ground and held on to his strong faith in God. And devotion to a life of spiritual service.

Though his thunderous voice often scared us, his words are always full of wisdom. He never missed giving us lectures about what's going on in the world and why we need to be aware with social issues. 

Faith is everything. Life depends on it. Sadness, happiness, joy, sorrow, contentment. Even success and failures. Everything depends on faith.

Serving the Catholic church as a lay minister gave my father an insurmountable amount of fulfillment and sense of purpose. 

Family in the province. New Year 2021

He found meaning in life. He always thought his life's mission is to serve others and the community. So he kept himself busy and occupied with church and community activities without boundaries.

Papa breathed in the teachings of the scripture where Jesus commands us to serve others. 

"And He sat down and called the twelve. And He said unto them - if anyone be first, he must be last of all and servant of all" - Mark 9:35.

Wisdom and Lesson 

And the best lesson from papa's amazing milestone in a life of church service? Finding our true vocation that gives meaning to our existence. 

For discovering our true calling and doing our life's mission always gives meaning, why we are here, who we really are and what impact we can give and leave to our community.

Having lived a life of service is a mission that provides fulfillment which no amount of money can ever match. It's a footprint that leaves an incredible mark in the community.   

In this spectacular milestone in Papa's life as a lay minister, I wish him nothing but good health and sound mind and body, so that he can continue serve the Church and help propagate the Catholic faith. 

May God shower him with great wisdom and abundance in all aspects. And foster his commitment and dedication to a life of selfless church and spiritual service to our community.

Happy 50th Lay Ministerial Anniversary Papa! May you continue to prosper in the name of Jesus Christ's ministry.

Photos of tonight's celebration at home. 

Happy 50 years of church service!

Thanks to everyone who joined my father marking this amazing milestone in his tireless service to the Catholic Church.

Thank you to Papa Pediong, Mama Inday,  cousins, the OSB sisters: Sis. Odelia, Sis.Nowela, Sis.Marisa, Sis.Jocel, our parish priest: Rev. Fr. Nestor Climaco, lay persons and dear neighbors for their generosity and support. 

Godbless you all! 💞

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