My life as a priest (1960-2011)
On April 25, 1951, a few months after I turned 14, I entered the Benedictine Abbey in Manila where I lived the monastic life up to the age of 31. I was ordained by Rufino Cardinal Santos in 1960. After Vatican II, I served parishioners in Laguna, Bataan, Pampanga, Caloocan and Bulacan (1967-1974).
Around this time, a psychologist, Fr. Francis Parisi, SJ, administered psychological tests to priests and advised many, including me, to leave the priesthood. He said I was not happy. So, my Benedictine superior had me laicized by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 30, 1974. The bishops later stopped the tests.
I worked as a research assistant at the Ateneo de Manila University and as a cataloguer at the National Archives. I taught in schools in Manila, Pampanga and Baguio.
On Dec. 20, 1984, upon the petition of Tarlac Bishop Jesus Sison, Pope John Paul II reinstated me into the clergy, specifically for Tarlac. The Latin document was signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI).
I served as a priest in Tarlac for six years and six months. Then, with the permission of Bishop Florentino Cinense, the successor of Bishop Sison, I worked as a priest abroad (1991-1994) in the dioceses of Nelson and Kamloops, Canada; San Francisco, California; and San Angelo, Texas. I was the priest-administrator of St. Charles Parish in Eden from July 1, 1993 to March 23, 1994.
In April 1994, I came back to Tarlac, where I resumed my priestly ministry. But Bishop Cinense showed, by the way he treated me, that he did not like me personally.
In 1996, I sold our small family plot in Angeles and bought a lot in St. Dominic’s Subdivision in Tarlac. I was 59 and planned to spend the rest of my life and ministry there.
Bishop Cinense did not like that. One day, he asked me to stop saying Mass there which I regularly said and, instead, to take over Masses in another area. But since there were already priests assigned to those areas, I requested him to put in writing what he wanted me to do to avoid misunderstanding with those priests. But he evaded me.
In protest, I joined the Baptists of Tarlac. “Good riddance,” Bishop Cinense said, as I learned from friends.
I stayed with the Baptists for four months. Then, I went to Angeles, where I taught in two schools and, later, worked in the Rizal Library of the Ateneo, and did not perform any priestly function (1996-2000).
From December 2000 to March 2005, I served as a guest priest in the diocese of Alaminos. But, without my knowledge and consent, Bishop Cinense and Alaminos Bishop Jesus Cabrera excardinated me from Tarlac and incardinated me in Alaminos. According to Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Canon Law gives bishops the right to do so and Canon Law cancels my human rights.
Bishop Cinense knows that my being incardinated in Tarlac obliges him to look after my own welfare in my old age, just like Fr. Bienvenido Mapili and Fr. Hermogenes de Vera. He excluded our names from the 2010-2011 edition of the Catholic Directory of the Philippines, while other bishops included their own retired priests there.
In his 23 years as bishop of Tarlac, Bishop Cinense did not build even just a modest dwelling for his old priests, while other bishops did so for their own priests. And when he retires, a beautiful house is waiting for him in Baguio.
In 2003, I told Bishop Cabrera that I wanted to retire in my hometown of Angeles. He started pressuring me to stay in the retirement house which he was building in Alaminos. He repeatedly asked me to give him the addresses and telephone numbers of my brothers and sisters who live in the United States and Canada, but I did not give them to him.
In March 2005, I requested Bishop Cinense to recommend me to be a guest priest in my home province of Pampanga. He told me: “I cannot recommend you because, according to a letter of Jose Cardinal Sanchez, I am no longer your bishop.” He refused to show the letter to me because, he said, it was a “bishop-to-bishop communication.” When Cardinal Sanchez came back to the Philippines in 2011, I asked him about this but received no reply.
Since August 2005, I have been a guest priest in Pampanga, my role being as an occasional backup (substitute/assistant) of young priests in saying Mass, hearing confession and answering sick calls. I am also revising and updating my 1997 autobiography titled “And God Brought Me to Eden.”
Once a day, I face the curtain that stands between the dimension of time, where I am, and the dimension of eternity, where Jesus is. The curtain is transparent, so I see Jesus clearly. The curtain is so thin that Jesus is just right in front of me. We communicate without words.
Someday, Jesus will tell me to step from where I am to where He is, passing through this curtain. Then, I will say forever and ever: “And God brought me to Eden.”
Fr. Edilberto V. Santos, 74, lives in Angeles City, where he used to be an altar boy, a sodalist, a Tarsician and a boy scout, some 60 years ago. He spends his time doing research, writing articles and books, and walking inside malls.
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