HOW can a Christian community be built in Sta. Ana Parish of Barili when the three priest-members of the ministerial team openly do not get along and are not living an example of community? What have the bone-deep religious devotees of Sta. Ana done to deserve the living purgatory the parish has recently become with the continued stay of a dysfunctional team of priests?
I first got wind of this problem a year after Sta. Ana Parish’s 400th centennial of its founding. We recalled at that celebration in 2014 the illustrious history of the parish. But in July of 2015 when I went to its fiesta, I was told that parish community life has been on a downhill slide since after the 400th centennial celebration, which was when the three priests took over from the previous team.
Last Holy Week, I spent Holy Thursday and Good Friday in my home town and naturally interacted with my town mates. They all chorused to tell me the priests remain their crown of thorns. The team-leader, a Monsignor, is still despotic as ever. He consults but all meetings with him end with his now-notorious take-it-or-leave-it final say. The younger priests do not get along with him and advertise it to the whole world by word and deed.
When I told my town mates that Christian-family love should motivate them to make their brother-priests aware of their failings, they all blurted out a loud “Hadlok mi magaba-an. Manglibak lang mi nila.” Ironic, because it’s backbiting that is unchristian and merits “gaba.”
I witnessed the deep faith of my town mates during Holy Week. But I also came face to face with the ugly truth of their utter domination by the clergy. They are so thoroughly “hadlok sa gaba” that they refrain from their Christian duty to “fraternally correct” their priests who need it because, instead of evangelizing and building a Christian community, they are scandalizing the parish with their open discord.
(Perhaps as a result of this discord, there are no signs of apostolates to bring Christ’s compassion and mercy to the poor in the parish as Pope Francis enjoins in “Evangelii Gaudium.”)
Superiors should do something about this unfortunate situation in Sta. Ana Parish. I am lending my voice here because I see that even the more prominent and better-educated (religiously speaking) parishioners are immobilized by fear of “gaba” and are simply willing to accept the purgatory their priests have put them in.
The faithful of Barili need to be liberated from their fear of “gaba.” This cannot be done by their priests who need to be brought down from their high horses. A Christian community, like a parish should be, is a family of equals who should help and correct one another out of brotherly-sisterly love.