Binghay's priesthood: 50 years and counting

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

ON THIS particular Sunday afternoon in March, Msgr. Esteban Binghay is sitting on a long lunch table with his brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and a few others he has just reunited at the restaurant of the family-owned Costa Roca Resort in Balamban town, Cebu, the Sanchez-Binghay clan’s motherland. The gathering appears to be somewhere between a family reunion and a board meeting: To caucus about the family’s once-in-a-lifetime occasion, the golden jubilee of his priesthood.

He examines the buffet, trying to pick the right kind of food, but he ends up taking a minimal slice of everything—kinilaw, fish, lechon, plus the glass of Sprite he occasionally sips.

“I want to lose weight,” he laughs. “I don’t have a particular diet or food restriction, but I want to be fit. I exercise, nothing much of a routine, but I just walk around Theotokos every morning, chasing after my goat. I want my knees to be stronger to prepare myself for the long walks and standing at the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod in Rome this October.”


Vatican City in Rome, the seat of Catholicism where he studied the Canon Law, has been a great contribution to his personal pilgrimage. “In college, I wanted to study Medicine, but I am scared of blood, so I tried the seminary until I became a priest. When I flew to Rome, my heart was set for priesthood.”

Now as the Episcopal Vicar (a Church official who oversees parishes), he is most regarded for numerous waves of change. In Sto. Rosario Parish Church, he initiated the hourly mass, limited homilies to 15 minutes, encouraged humor, and played fine-tuned music.

Before he returned for another 10 years in Sto. Rosario, he was sent to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Guadalupe, Cebu as parish priest where he developed infrastructure, including the Lady’s devotional cave. He also spent 10 years in Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Minglanilla town before settling in his current home in Theotokos—a church built in honor of the apparition of the Blessed Mother on that site—in Carcar town, Cebu.

With gratitude to God and to his supporters, Binghay will celebrate the holy mass at St. Francis of Assisi in Balamban for his golden jubilee as priest on April 27.

“I don’t think I will ever retire—if it means completely (getting) out of my religious responsibilities. I am happy being a priest. I think I already have purposeful experiences, and I still want to go around.”

But 50 years, if measured by his accomplishments, are still not enough to complete his mission. “I want to help develop values formation among the people; otherwise, it’s going to be just devotional. Calungsod is chosen as example of an evangelizer, so what we should continue now is to have the three D’s in our Church: doctrine, discipline, and devotion.”

“Everyone is qualified to become a saint,” he continues. “We’re called to holiness, and we have to grow—I have to grow. But I don’t want to be proclaimed. I just want to be simple but in the Church that can help people and that can honor the Lord.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 22, 2012.


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