Oblate Priests Living Dangerously In Philippines

January 17, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 17, 2009) – Slain Catholic missionary Jesus Reynaldo Roda was the fourth missionary of the Oblate of Mary Immaculate “martyred” while promoting Muslim-Christian solidarity in the troubled South in the congregation’s more than 60-year stay in Mindanao.

Roda, who belong to a pioneer Chrsistian family in Cotabato City, was killed in a bungled kidnapping by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf in Tabawan, an island town in Tawi-Tawi Tuesday night.
He entered the OMI seminary here in 1970 and was ordained priest in May 1980 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, where his parents — Bonifacio and Benigna — regularly attended Sunday mass as devout Catholics.
Roda has worked as a missionary in Thailand before he was given different peace-advocacy assignments by the OMI in different areas in Tawi-Tawi.
The OMI whose main pontifical base is in Rome, founded in the 18th century by French-born Eugene De Mazenod, was first exposed to different missionary works in Muslim areas in the country before World War II, which started with the take over by seven young Canadian and Oblate priests of the parishes originally run by a community of Spanish Jesuits.
Colleagues of Roda in the OMI describe him as a “good mentor, patient and very persevering academician, having been involved in the operations of different Notre Dame schools their congregation operates in Mindanao.
Roda’s death in the hands of his would-be abductors came about ten year after suspected guns-for-hire identified with a Tausog politician shot dead a senior OMI member, Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, near the Mt, Carmel Church in Jolo, Sulu.
De Jesus, then in charge of the Vicariate of Sulu, was popular for his scholarship programs for poor, but deserving Muslim youths and for his inter-faith dialogues among Sulu and Tawi-Tawi’s culturally-diverse Islamic and Christian sectors.
Thousands of Tausog, Samah and Badjao villagers in Sulu attended the emotion-filled burial rites for De Jesus, where mourners sang in chorus his favorite Tausog love song “Baleleng,” which depicts a strong bond between a couple despite being separated away by many islands in the Sulu archipelago.
A retired bishop, Antonino Nepomuceno, who was also an OMI missionary, was killed in a plane crash not far from the Jolo Airport while on his way to Zamboanga City after attending the burial of De Jesus at one side of the Mt. Carmel Church in Jolo.
The gruesome murder of De Jesus, still unsolved up to this day, was followed by the killing also in downtown Jolo, capital town of Sulu, of another OMI priest, Benjamin Inocencio, on “innocents’ day,” December 28, 1999, by suspected religious extremist.
Inocencio was just walking in Jolo when the pistol wielding suspects approached him and shot him in the head with caliber .45 handguns.
The first casualty of the OMI in the troubled Mindanao was Father Nelson Jabellana, who was killed in 1974 an ambush at a secluded stretch of the Cotabato-Isulan Highway in what is now Maguindanao province.
Despite the threats on their lives, OMI priests in the South never waivered from living up to their mission of serving the poor Muslims and Christians in the South.
A group of Abu Sayyaf bandits, led by Ghalib Andang, who was to become “Commander Robot,” snatched OMI priest Clarence Bertelsman, a North American, while officiating “Misa de Gallo,” or dawn mass, shortly before the Christmas in 1992, inside the supposedly tightly-guarded compound of the Sulu provincial police headquarters in Jolo.
Bertelsman was rescued about an hour after his abduction by combined members of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Sulu police in a nearby town, but was wounded in the arm by a stray bullet when his rescuers and his abductors traded shots.
The abduction of Bertelsman, now deceased, came about four five years after members of the Mubarak kidnapping syndicate snatched and held captive for about two months OMI priest Yves Caroff, a French, while on his way to a bio-organic model farm for local farmers in a secluded Teduray community in South Upi, Maguindanao.
Caroff was freed by his captors through the joint intercession of the MNLF and local leaders. Caroff has moved to Antipas, North Cotabato, where he operates a demonstration farm which showcases the bio-intensive way of farming.
Members of the OMI are so popular for their contributions to the Mindanao peace process.
OMI priest Eliseo Mercado, for instance, was a minority floor leader of the now defunct Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, one of the mechanisms for the initial implementation of the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF peace accord.
It was Mercado that pioneered community participation in addressing security concerns in areas covered by the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Mercado was even tagged by the military as “pro-MILF” for having been active in the implementation of the ceasefire, which was, at first, a major irritant for soldiers in the field that were virtually unaware of its deeper intricacies and its importance to the efforts of maintaining the cordiality of the government’s peace talks with the MILF.
The slain Roda, of mixed Tagalog and Zamboangueño descent, was known for his being pro-poor and for being critical of abuses by the military against Muslim civilians. (Jerick Wee)

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