Ubi episcopus, ibi ecclesia.

Where the bishop is, the Church is! To Bishop Bastes is now relegated the task to see to it that the Diocesan Pastoral Plan, Phase IV is implemented. What can the diocese expect from its new bishop and the implementation of the new plan? We can only tell with the unfolding of time and with the commitment and cooperation that all of us willingly and devoutly give as a community of faith.

Under Bishop Bastes

Most Rev. Arturo M. Bastes, SVD, DD, Bishop of Romblon Diocese, was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Sorsogon on July 25, 2002, and was installed on September 22, 2002. De jure, he took over as the canonically designated fourth bishop of Sorsogon on april 16, 2003. His installation took place at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral of Sorsogon on the following day.

The first task given to Bishop Bastes by Bishop Varela, so that he would come to know the clergy, his would-be close collaborators, was to convene the assembly of priests (only 70 at the time, since 30 were working outside the diocese) on October 9, 2002.

On the seventh month of his administration, he held a Diocesam Pastoral Assembly on November 24-26, 2003 at the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Seminary to discuss the new pastoral plan which will give direction to the pastoral ministry of the diocese within the next five years. It was attended by 170 delegates from the clergy, religious and the laity. It decided to create NINe COUNCILS which were formerly diocesan commissions, thereby changing the pastoral structure and organizational chart of the diocese as a whole.

The councils were 1.) Family and Human Life 2.) Laity 3.) Youth 4.) Media for evangelization 5.) Worship 6.) education 7.) Service 8.)Temporalities 9.) Seminaries.

Firstly, these councils were tasked to make policies, which would be under the care of the different councils to be carried out by their different commissions at the vicarial and parochial levels. Secondly, the nine councils identified their respective enabling objectives which became the basis for formulating concrete programs and plans of action, designed to answer the five areas of concern, namely, evangelization, Christian formation, structure, resources and social justice. Thirdly, it mandated the ministries to produce “Manuals of Operation” whose primary purpose is to ensure a smooth and uniform implementation of the action plans and programs throughout the whole diocese in a period of five years. With clear objectives, doable action plans and guidance of the manuals of operation, Bishop Bastes hoped that the new diocesan pastoral plan, called DeeP (Diocesan ecclesial and evangelization Program), would be faithfully and systematically implemented.

The DeeP’s dream and aim is profound: that the diocese will become a local church where faith and life are integrated, where justice is the norm of societal life and where authentic Christian families are formed through an effective organization, properly managed resources and sufficient program of formation.

The following highlight the events that took place in the six years of Bishop Bastes in the Diocese of Sorsogon:

1. “Wasting time” with priests: Unannounced, Bishop Bastes visits a parish to have an informal talk with the pastor, in order to come to know him better and also familiarize himself with the place.

2. The Vicarial Pastoral Visits: His visits to the five vicariates were well received by the people; the vicarial conferences on the DeeP well-attended by the implementers brought forth many very fruitful insights, suggestions, recommendations and pastoral decisions.

3. The quarterly gathering of priests per vicariate, per age groupings (junior, middle and senior), and General assembly of the Presbyterium (the last preceded by a recollection, individual confession and common holy hour) help promote the spirituality and solidarity of the clergy.

4. The monthly regular board meetings of the different foundations and councils, which give attention and proper response to the problems at hand.

5. The creation of two barangay parishes 1) Sto. Niño Parish in Cogon, Gubat, Sorsogon under the administration of the augustinian Fathers, and 2) San antonio Parish in San Antonio, Donsol, Sorsogon, under the Franciscan Friars.

6. The creation of Basic ecclesial Communities (BeC’s) in designated sitios/barangays in every parish, now bearing initial fruits in the life of the poor families.

7. His appointment by Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo as chairman of the Rapu-rapu Fact-finding Commission, which investigated the destruction of rapu-rapu Island by the irresponsible mining by the multinational corporation. The commission’s strong recommendation to abolish mining in the island has encouraged many church leaders and civic groups to oppose mining elsewhere.

8. Bishop Bastes saved the Sts. Peter and Paul Hospital from being ejected from its location by negotiating with the landowners. This historic hospital, partly owned by the Diocese of Sorsogon, provides medical care for the Sorsogon clergy and is an instrument for the healing ministry of the church.

9. His infrastructure projects—FOUr MaJOr ONeS at the moment — the renovation of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the nearly finished Cathedral rectory, the CMe-GNSFI Bldg. (now in use by the diocesan trimedia ministry—radio, TV and printing press), and the new chancery—are all expressions of faith in Divine Providence.

10. He issued a decree declaring a TUeSDaY DaY-OFF for his priests so that they will have their much-needed rest and remain healthy. In fact, he has a dream of building a diocesan hospital, primarily for the welfare of the priests.

11. He turned unproductive diocesan lands into productive ones by leasing them so that the revenues could support the Curia and other instrumentalities.

12. Through Bishop Bastes, the diocese of Sorsogon has now an existing memorandum of agreement (MOa) wi th the Diocese of Richmond (Va) and Dodge City (Ka) in which said diocese would support the diocese of origin of guest priests, for a period of five years, after which a new set of priests will be sent.

Though very busy with administrative concerns, Bishop Bastes still has time to engage in biblical work in the diocese and elsewhere, in and out of the country. He is also concurrently the eC Moderator of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF), full member representative of the region of asia and Oceania, Convenor of the biblical desk of the Oe of the FaBC and president of the Philippine Bible Society.

The new quinquennium (2009-2014) started last July, with the reshuffle of priests in the parishes and offices. The diocese, led by the bishop, looks forward to the continuous pursuit of the diocesan vision, walking together in the implementation of the DeeP.