Friday, April 29, 2011

RIP - Fr. Hermie Bacareza, SVD and Fr. Erasio Flores, SVD

We mourn the death of Fr. Hermie Bacareza, SVD, 80  (d. April 23, 2011) and Fr. Erasio Flores, SVD, 78 (d. April 28, 2011). They were classmates in the seminary and even in death--God called them back almost at the same time. "The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (from the prologue of the Book of Job).

Last 2009, with the other two former classmates--Fr. Dom Flores, SVD and Fr. Victor Bunanig, SVD--they celebrated together their golden jubilee in the priesthood with a mass at the place where they were ordained--Sacred Heart Parish in Kamuning Quezon City.  Here's the homily of Fr. Dom Flores, SVD at that Eucharistic celebration.

Golden Jubilee Celebration Sermon

My classmates have unanimously designated me to give the sermon today in the name of us all. But don’t you worry; you’ll also have a chance to listen to each one of them later on at the end of the Mass.

Background of the Celebration
We would like to put in wider picture our celebration today, in the context of the SVD Centennial Celebration. Exactly one hundred years ago this year (1909-2009), the first two German Divine Word missionaries arrived in the Philippines to start a new mission in the Province of Abra. Throughout this year (2009), especially in the month of August, special celebrations took place in various parts of the country, especially in the Province of Abra, where the SVD was born, to commemorate the ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SVD PRESENCE in the Philippines.

Golden Jubilee Celebration
It is in this wider perspective that we would like to celebrate our Golden Jubilee today. Fifty years ago to this day, 18th October, also Mission Sunday then, four young men were ordained priests in this same church of the Sacred Heart parish, Kamuning. It was still a “baby” church then; but now this parish church like us has grown in age by fifty years, but has also grown in wisdom and grace. The ordaining prelate was the late Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Siino. I remember, being an Italian he spoke very fast. (In some parts only the angels could understand him). But he made us priests forever!

SVD Ordination 1959: from left - Erasio Flores, Dom Flores, Vic Bunanig, Hermie Bacareza
My brothers and sisters, these four young men are here now with us - all present and accounted for, but only because of the grace of God! Like soldiers coming home from battle, we may have been wounded or bruised, but we are still much alive; we may look tired but we are not yet retired; we may have been outnumbered by other ordination classes (only four), but we were never out-fought. We were young once and good looking once upon a time; but, well, see for your selves, we’re now looking good.

Mission Sunday
Since we were ordained on a Mission Sunday like today, we heard, loud and clear, the same challenging message of Christ addressing the four of us then in a very personal way: “Go and make disciples of all nations... Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...Teach them all that I told you... I’ll be with you always.” (Gospel)

Notice all the action verbs: “Go, make disciples, baptize, teach...” Christ urged us to go and do what we have to do. And so we went willingly and joyfully to all four corners of the globe

Golden jubilee mass, Oct 18, 2009, Sacred Heart Church, Kamuning, Quezon City
The first: Fr. Gene Bacareza: He was assigned to Germany. And so he went to his first love, the German people, with whom he ministered for 11 years. Later on he returned to the home mission where continued writing lot of books and earning academic degrees. To me he is THE PROFESSOR-SCHOLAR of our class.

The second is Fr. Vic Bunanig: He applied and was appointed to Indonesia, where he went soon after ordination. He’s still there ministering to the present time. The Indonesians are his first and last love. I asked him whether he is already thinking of coming home for good. He said that he has no plans. It’s because the Indonesians are his first and last love. To me he is THE MISSIONARY PAR EXCELLENCE of our class.

Our third is Fr. Erasio Flores. We are not related at all except in Christ. He first worked in San Jose, Mindoro after ordination. But soon the Superiors and confreres spotted him as good export material for Rome, Italy. They got him there and eventually he became one of the Councilors at our SVD Generalate. Later he also has had missionary stint in Spain and Germany. To me, Fr. Erasio is THE SERVANT-LEADER of our class.

The fourth is Fr. Dom Flores, that’s gracious me! I was ministering unobtrusively in the Philippines for my first 25 years as home missionary. Then suddenly, my superiors remembered me after my Silver Jubilee. The SVD Generalate of which Fr. Erasio was then a member, sent me to the South Pacific – to American Samoa. I was missionary there for ten years.

When our mission there was accomplished they transferred me to Australia. At first I didn’t want to go to Australia, but I finally accepted for three reasons: Australia is a multicultural country; a secular society; and fewer vocations (priests and religious). So, I’d like to call myself THE MISSIONARY DOWN UNDER of our class.

The Challenge of Mission Sunday to us all:
1. To the Youth who are here today and are listening: If you are looking for true happiness, don’t hesitate to follow Jesus. Join His missionary work! Follow your heart and don’t stifle his voice when you hear Him calling you today. He may not invite you again... Decide to follow Him now!
2. To Parents: Allow your sons or daughters to follow Jesus if they feel Jesus is calling them. Join the many parents who have offered children to God;
3. To EVERYONE: Be a missionary at home by studying what is Christ’s mission; Support the home or overseas mission with your material help. Above all, be in solidarity with the missionaries by praying for them.

Finally, we’d like to adopt the theme of the SVD Centennial Celebration as our very own: “WE REMEMBER, WE REJOICE, WE RENEW!” So as Ordination Class 1959, we shall always REMEMBER God’s goodness to us as His missionaries. We REJOICE in His faithfulness, though at times we may have been unfaithful. And we RENEW today our undying commitment to Him for the rest of our lives.

(Personal testimony): Recently I was asked by a group of young SVDs: “If you were given a choice today, would you still choose to become a priest? I said: “Yes, I would.” They repeated the question a second and a third time. And looking at their eyes, I said with all sincerity: “I would and I would still become a priest.” I’m sure the same holds true with my classmates today. So today we commit ourselves once again to Christ the King as His missionary priests for ever and ever.