ISABELA City, Basilan, Oct. 23, 2012— Preparations are underway for the Prelature of Isabela in the predominantly Moslem province of Basilan which is turning 50 years old next year.
The celebration kicked off with a Mass led by Bishop Martin Jumoad at Claret College Sunday, coinciding with the canonization of the country’s second saint, Pedro Calungsod, in Rome.
Among the highlights of the event was when the bishop and priests carry the “Jubilee Cross” as they launched their 365 days of preparation for the prelature’s Golden Jubilee next year.
Jumoad, the prelature’s third bishop, called on the faithful to observe the coming days as opportunities of “thanksgiving and renewal.”
The church official lauded support of different lay organizations to the various pastoral programs of the prelature.
He also expressed this sincere appreciation for the youth groups actively helping in parish activities across Basilan, among the country’s poorest provinces.
It was in 1963 when Pope John XXIII issued a papal bull, which created the Prelature of Isabela de Basilan though there were only four parishes.
“In 1963, there were about 35,000 Catholics in Basilan and in 2007, while Basilan had a population of 420,000, there are now 130,000 Catholics,” Jumoad said.
He also said that at the St. Isabella of Portugal Cathedral, there is a baptismal book bearing the date 1866, which signifies there were already Catholics in Isabela at that time.
The bishop added when the Claretians came in 1951, there were only two parishes, St. Isabella Parish church in Isabela City and St. Peter Parish in Lamitan City.
He acknowledged the sacrifice of the Augustinian Recollect fathers, the Jesuits and the Claretians who ministered to the people. According to him, the missionaries then faced uncertainties, danger and risks as the missionary sisters from St. Paul Chartres, the Dominicans of the Holy Rosary and the other congregations.
Jumoad said the first diocesan priests came in 1975 though most residents preferred the services of the Spanish missionaries. He added the diocesan priests’ sacrifices paid off eventually.
Kidnap for ransom remains a genuine threat for church workers and priests in Basilan, a known stronghold of terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
However, not even one of them is intimidated by it. The prelature personnel, from the lay workers up to the bishop himself, are one in standing firm on no ransom for kidnapping. (Melo M. Acuna/CBCPNews)