About Sorsogon Diocese

About Sorsogon Diocese

The Diocese of Sorsogon was originally part of the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres. When it was made a separate diocese on June 29, 1951, it included the territory of Masbate. When the Diocese of Nueva Caceres was elevated into an archdiocese in the same year, Legazpi and Sorsogon were made suffragan dioceses of Nueva Caceres. On March 23, 1968, Masbate was made into a separate diocese.

At present the Diocese of Sorsogon covers simply the civil province of Sorsogon. The population is 704,363 of which 87 per cent are Catholics.

 

 

 

IMPORTANT FACTS

Bishops ……………………………………… 2 Seminaries:
High School ……………………………… 1
Pre-College ……………………………… 1
College ……………………………………… 1
Priests:

Diocesan ……………………………… 100

Religious:
Filipino …………………………………… 11
Foreign ……………………………………… 3
Diocesan Divisions:
Vicariates ………………………………… 5
Parishes ………………………………… 28
Deacon ……………………………………… 1 Population …………………… 705,600
Catholics ………………………… 656,320

Area ……………………… 2,141.4 sq.km.

Sisters:
Filipino …………………………………… 75
Foreign …………………………………… 9
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A Birth

A Birth

A BIRTH is usually met with jubilation, prayer and thanksgiving. It was thus when the Diocese of Sorsogon came into being. When the Papal Bull of June 29, 1951 mandated that Sorsogon become a suffragan of the archdiocese of Caceres, exultation and thankful prayers filled the hearts of its people.

Spanish conquistadores gave Sorsogon its first encounter with Christianity. This was in the year 1569 when Fr. alfonso Jimenez, chaplain of the expedition under Luis Enriquez de Guzman celebrated the first mass upon landing on the coast of sitio Gibal-ong, barangay Siuton, in the town of Magallanes.

Christianity, however, was formally established in Sorsogon with the planting of the Cross on the shores of Casiguran town, in 1600, by Franciscan Friars. This was a prelude to the erection of the first church building dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy rosary, still presently revered as Casiguran’s patroness.

From there, Franciscan missionaries devotedly spread the faith to the other towns. In Bacon, 1617, Bulusan, 1630 and Donsol in 1668. The other twelve towns followed suit in the course of time. In the original geographic division, the province of Sorsogon formed part of albay province. It seceded as a separate province on October 17, 1984. By canonical reckoning the Diocese of Sorsogon was originally part of the archdiocese of Caceres. When it came into its own as a diocese, it embraced the territory of Masbate until March 23, 1968 when the Holy See decreed that Masbate be made into a separate diocese.

At present the Diocese of Sorsogon encompasses the civil territory of the Province of Sorsogon and the City of Sorsogon.

Sorsogon became a diocese at a time when bishops were still regarded as lords in the hierarchical chain of a Church steeped in rites and pageantry. They appear before the people in regal attire, deeply accentuating the barrier that divided the faithful from the clergy and the clergy from the episcopate. The local Church then was characterized by this visible demarcation when the Most rev. Teopisto V. alberto was installed on October 7, 1952 as the first Bishop of Sorsogon. Notwithstanding such conditions, Bishop Alberto underwent the sacrifices and difficulties of establishing a diocese so recently weaned. In recognition of his efforts, he was elevated as Coadjutor archbishop of the archdiocese of Caceres. His successor, the Most Rev. Arnulfo S. Arcilla, was installed on December 12, 1959 as the 2nd Bishop of Sorsogon.

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Winds of change from Vatican II to the Diocese of Sorsogon

Winds of change from Vatican II to the Diocese of Sorsogon

Bishop Arcilla’s term as the bishop of the Diocese of Sorsogon came at the time when Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican ecumenical Council (Vatican II) which brought progressive changes in the Church. Pastoral attempts to keep abreast with the emerging changes enabled Bishop Arcilla to initiate reforms in areas of Worship, Christian education and Temporalities. Social action programs were also introduced. Bishop Arcilla spear headed low-cost housing and tried to implement the program of cooperativism in the parishes.

As the spirit of Vatican II began to renew the notion of “being Church,” progressive thinking permeated the ranks of the clergy with a deepening involvement in Social Transformation. True to the historical attitudes toward change, a struggle to better understand the interplay of ecclesiastical structures,took its toll in the local church.

In the later part of Bishop arcilla’s term, administrative difficulties emerged. This led the Holy See to appoint on august 30, 1977 the Most rev. Concordio ma. Sarte, D.D., as auxiliary Bishop of Sorsogon.

When Bishop Arcilla retired on December 12, 1979, the Holy See appointed Bishop Sarte as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Sorsogon “ad Nutum Sanctae Sedis” (directly responsible to the Holy See).

Clearly needed was a pastor with a gift of integrating and reconciling diverse pastoral viewpoints into harmony.

Most rev. Jesus Y. Varela, then still the Bishop of Ozamiz, was designated by the Holy See as 3rd Bishop of Sorsogon on November 27, 1980. Meanwhile, Bishop Sarte was awaiting transfer to his new assignment as Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi.

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Decade of healing and pastoral organization

Decade of healing and pastoral organization

On December 12, 1980, Bishop Jesus Y. Varela took his oath of office in the presence of the entire clergy and apostolic administrator. The oath-taking was simple, even austere. Bishop Varela deemed it appropriate to forego a triumphal celebration because of the existing situation in the diocese.

The process of “healing” began. The peculiar needs of the diocese were immediately attended to by its new pastor. In July 1981, a core group of seven priests elected by and from among the clergy were trained in the SaIDI(Southeast asian Interdisciplinary Development Institute) process of pastoral planning. They went around the parishes to inculcate the idea of a common pastoral plan.

By October 1981, a general assembly—made up of priests, representatives from each religious community existing in the diocese and handpicked lay delegates from the cross-section of each parish (carefully chosen through a strict set of criteria)—was convened.

The group worked intermittently for seven months, going through arduous planning made up of meetings and workshops. On July 16, 1982, Feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Magallanes, Sorsogon, the Five-Year Diocesan Pastoral plan was launched. It’s Vision—“a community of Faith living in Love according to the Gospel Message responding in Service to the signs of the times striving in Hope for the coming of the Kingdom.”

The first five years of Bishop Varela’s episcopate yielded modest gains which somehow integrated the diocesan efforts towards healing its wounds. Systematic pastoral management was adopted. The diocesan coffers which was at its nadir when Bishop Varela took over, began to fill until it was capable of operating programs conceived in the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.

However, the calamities of 1987—super typhoons Herming and Sisang—devastated the diocese to a vast extent. Losses in lives and properties were unprecedented. This was a time when the local church reaffirmed its major role in the work of restoring the community, not just in the spiritual aspect. Aside from programs of relief and rehabilitation under CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social action, the 4.2 million pesos shelter program funded by USaID was put under the charge of the diocese—a credit to the local church’s credibility, integrity and new found capability.

It was through the Diocesan Pastoral Plan which encompassed a holistic approach towards Total Human Development where the local church succeeded in transforming the old image of the hierarchical church into community of the faithful which encouraged collegiality and co-responsibility between the clergy, the religious and laity. Liturgical celebrations were then contextualized to reflect the aspirations of the people and real life situations. These enhanced lay participation towards a level of meaningful involvement. The role of the laity was further highlighted by the installation of Lay Ministers of the Word and the eucharist. The people accepted these changes with keen interest.

Evangelization be came the central focus of concern. New approaches made use of both print and broadcast media. On November 22, 1984, FM radio franchise was acquired and DWLH-2003.

At the Mass of Holy Chrism on Holy Thursday, april 17, 2003, Bishop Varela officially announced to the clergy and the faithful that he was turning over the Shepherd’s Staff, symbol of episcopal authority, to Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, the 4th Bishop of Sorsogon.

Bishop Jesus Y. Varela guided the local church of Sorsogon through a dark and arduous path towards a dynamic present that provided it with a vision, mission and goal. By his efforts we now have a militant clergy, communities of religious orders that work, discern and pray towards the achievements of our local vision, supported by a laity that is now fully aware of their role in the local church. The refinement of whatever imperfections still existing we have to leave in the hands of the new bishop.

 

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