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The new Roman Catholic bishop of Iligan, Jose Ramirez Rapadas (seated), is flanked by other bishops and Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Gabriele Giordano Caccia, during his ordination Tuesday. The 46-year-old bishop, who hails from Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, is the youngest Philippine bishop. He takes over from Bishop Elenito Galido, who died on Dec. 5, 2017. Rapadas’s installation in Iligan will be on Sept. 5. (photo by Richel Umel, Mindanews)

Former altar boy is now Iligan’s bishop

IPIL, Zamboanga Sibugay – Roman Catholic priest Jose Ramirez Rapadas III, the newly ordained bishop of the Diocese of Iligan and the country’s youngest at 46, had dreamt of becoming a priest in his youth, and even started out as an altar boy.

The bishop, whose episcopal ordination was held at the cathedral here in the Diocese of Ipil on Tuesday, remembers that it was at the age of 12 when he started as altar server.

“But it was in high school when I felt the call to priesthood,” he said, adding that it was during that time when he went with Jesuit missionaries in their visits to the barrios. “It was when I realized how important it was to offer my whole life for this vocation,” he added.

The bishop’s 80-year-old mother, Yolanda, narrated this memory of her son: “I was surprised when in high school he attended a search-in and he was congratulated that he qualified to join the vocation of priesthood.”

She said she would keep praying that Jose, whom she remembers as a “bright boy and diligent in his studies,” will continue to serve his people.

Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, said in his message during the ordination: “I just want to say three simple things: You know that Bishop Jose Rapadas III is the youngest Bishop of the entire Philippines. And do you know that the Diocese of Ipil is the youngest Diocese of the Philippines? And then, I realized this is the Year of the Youth.”

Upon his appointment as bishop by Pope Francis last June, Rapadas was vicar general of the Diocese of Ipil. He will be installed as bishop of Iligan on Sept. 5, replacing Bishop Elenito Galido, who died on Dec. 5, 2017.

At his ordination Tuesday, Bishop Rapadas honored her mother, as well as his siblings and relatives, for the love and care.

Though his father already passed away, he has fond memories of him.

“Every time we had done good, my father would always say, ‘That’s my boy,” Bishop Rapadas said.

When interviewed after his ordination, the bishop said the first thing he would do in Iligan is to get to know the priests and the people well, to get close to them so they can join him in his pastoral work in the city and in Lanao del Norte.

“I will continue the inter-religious dialog in the area,” Rapadas said, referring to the relationship among Christians, Muslims and Lumads in the two Lanao provinces.

He said he will push the church’s advocacy on preserving the environment, especially now that Earth is dying.

“Another challenge is to encourage the youth to participate in the activities of the church,” Rapadas stressed.

Rapadas’s episcopal ordination was attended by 18 bishops and six archbishops and witnessed by the Papal Nuncio..

Fr. Teresito Soganub, a priest at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City before the siege, said he was happy that the bishop will be working hard to strengthen interfaith dialog in Lanao.

Soganub, who survived despite being held hostage by Isis terrorists during the siege, is now chairman of the non-governmental organization Pakigdait, Inc., which has 18 years of experience in interfaith dialog and peace building.

“The church needs to work together with the Lumads, Muslims and Christians in its efforts at interfaith dialogue,” said Fr. Rodolfo Galenzoga, among the older priests in Lanao del Norte at 74. (Richel V. Umel, Mindanews)

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