Detail of a wood carving depicting the Good Shepherd. Photo courtesy of the blogger.

Good Shepherd – Part 2 | Read Part 1

August 26, 2017. I must say it was a red-letter day, for me at least. Two significant events, all in one day. Linking both is something about two men of the cloth: Filipino Catholic bishops.

The first was in person, a real-life one. An archbishop, in fact. As the local superior of my religious community, I was asked to attend a meeting on this date, called by the new Archbishop of Lipa, Archbishop Gilbert Garcera. It was a “getting-to-know-you” kind of meeting, held in the Lipa Archdiocesan Formation Center inside the St. Francis de Sales Seminary Complex. Present were a good number of male and female religious, all ministering in various capacities in the Archdiocese. It was a pleasant meeting, with Archbishop Garcera himself moderating it, encouraging the participation of everyone in the assembly. There was a workshop by groups, as a matter of fact.

Under the good bishop’s direction, we all sought how we religious can be more involved and collaborative in the vision-mission of the Archdiocese of Lipa, according to various ministries. (Ours is in youth ministry, obviously.)
However, the whole thing isn’t at all a garden of roses. I myself have directly heard dissenting views against the new archbishop, borne most likely out of misunderstandings and prejudices. Knee-jerk reactions are one too many. Most honest efforts on the part of the archbishop to reach out and clarify matters somehow backfire due to misinterpretations. And then of course, there is the ever-present resistance to change and novelty.

The second incident is more on the “virtual” side: an “encounter,” that is, with yet another Filipino Catholic bishop. But this time it was “merely” through the forum of the internet. As I was browsing as usual over my Facebook News Feed, I encountered a post about the homily of Bishop Pablo David (of the Diocese of Kalookan), during the funeral of the 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos.

I need not elaborate further on this tragic and painful case; so much has been written and said. Along with it are so much shock, sadness, grief, and grievances. I am simply highlighting the role of Bishop David (in whose diocese several killings have taken place). As shepherd of the sheep — many of whom are being slaughtered — he is not taking things sitting down. And in heartbreaking, inconsolable moments like death and funerals, his is the unenviable task of speaking for, and speaking up.

For both Archbishop Garcera and Bishop David, perhaps they’re all thankless tasks. And poor bishops, we can say in some sense. They get a lot of flak especially these days, critiques pro and con, indeed from all sides of the debates. And yet when you recall what the Directory for Catholic Youth Ministry in the Philippines (KaLakbay) states, that bishops are the “major catalysts in the growth of youth ministry” in their respective dioceses — it makes one think, indeed.

In a sense, they’re only doing their job as shepherds of the flock. If they don’t do so, who will? And forget about those images of well-toned, bearded shepherds carrying cute lambs on their shoulders. The real context is that shepherding is fraught with difficulties and dangers, such as looking for drinking water and fresh grass (in hot Israel, at that), scaling rocky terrain, cliffs, and ravines, guarding against marauders, rustlers, and hirelings. In the case of present-day Filipino Catholic bishops, certainly they are more than just for moderating meetings or performing rituals. Conflict and controversy are part of their work.

It was all affirmed for me last August 26, on that red-letter day. But for our bishops, it was just all in a day’s work.

MartYM or Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB, SThD is a professor of Youth Ministry. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

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