DURING the past year 2008, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Cagayan de Oro. In 1933, Cagayan de Oro became the second diocese in Mindanao (next to Zamboanga) and included the northern provinces of Surigao, Agusan, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao, Misamis Occidental, and the island of Camiguin.
Today the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro is only one of the 21 ecclesiastical units in Mindanao, which include five archdioceses, 12 dioceses, three prelatures, and one apostolic vicariate. Its territory has been reduced to the two provinces of Misamis Oriental and Camiguin and one municipality in Bukidnon. Nonetheless, with its 50 parishes and 8 chaplaincies, two seminaries, and 115 diocesan priests, the archdiocese remains among the larger ecclesiastical units in Mindanao.
Most Rev. James Hayes, S.J., became the first bishop of Cagayan de Oro. The city street that now bears his name connects all the major institutions that he started—Lourdes College run by the RVM sisters, Ateneo de Cagayan (now Xavier University) under the Jesuits, Maria Reyna Hospital administered by the St. Paul of Chartres sisters, and on Seminary Hill San Jose de Mindanao Seminary and the Discalced Carmelite Sisters’ Convent.
When Cagayan de Oro was elevated as the first archdiocese of Mindanao in 1951, Archbishop Hayes continued to serve until his retirement in 1970—a span of 37 years that included his incarceration during the Japanese occupation and the painstaking period of reconstruction after the war.
He was succeeded by Archbishop Patrick Cronin, a Columban, who served from 1970-1988. During this period, the parishes administered earlier by American and Filipino Jesuits were for the most part turned over to the Irish Columban priests and some diocesan priests. This enabled the Jesuits in turn to take care of the newly–opened parishes in Bukidnon.
Archbishop Jesus Tuquib became the third archbishop of Cagayan de Oro in 1988-2006, duplicating his predecessor’s term of 18 years of service. During this period, the diocesan clergy increased notably in numbers and gradually took over the running of the parishes. Today only three parishes and a chaplaincy are run by priests of religious congregations.
Archbishop Tuquib was instrumental in the construction of the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary buildings on Seminary Hill. SJVTS had earlier been established by a consortium of bishops of the CABUSTAM (Cagayan, Butuan, Surigao, Tandag, Malaybalay) subregion to serve the growing needs of the Church in Mindanao for the formation of its clergy.
It is with this historical context that we celebrated the diamond jubilee of the archdiocese. The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, was the main celebrant of our fiesta Mass in honor of St. Augustine on August 28th. Earlier he visited some of our older parishes like Sagay in Camiguin and Jasaan.
During the last quarter of this year, six district assemblies were held to follow up the archdiocese’s pastoral plan and get feedback from the lay delegates. This process culminated with an Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly in mid-December attended by about 400 delegates from all the parishes. We reviewed our ad intra ministries focused on Catholics and ad extra ministries directed towards any one in need.
At the closing Mass, plaques of appreciation were given to three religious congregations—the Jesuits, Columbans, and RVM Sisters—for their collective contribution in building up the local church of Cagayan de Oro over the past 75 years. (We should not forget however that the Augustinian Recollects were the early evangelizers of Cagayan de Oro and surrounding areas from the 17th until the mid-19th century.)
Other highlights of this jubilee year were the creation of two shrines. The first shrine was dedicated on August 2nd to the Holy Eucharist in a city parish run by the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. The second shrine was dedicated to the Divine Mercy in Brgy. Ulaliman, El Salvador, on September 8th. With its imposing 50-foot statue overlooking Macajalar Bay and surrounding areas, the Divine Mercy Shrine has become a popular site for pilgrimages from all over Mindanao.
The most recent signs of the growth of our local church were the ordinations of four deacons and of a priest in the past two months. May the threefold blessing then of the yuletide season—Light, Love, and fullness of Life—be with the archdiocese throughout its next seventy-five years.