Monday, December 10, 2007


When I was a kid, the question most often asked of me was what I wanted to be when I grow up. It wasn't difficult to answer since from that time on, I already knew that I wanted to serve God by being a priest.

I was born on August 22, 1976, the second to the eldest from a family of six children. My father Gildo Villaceran was a modest businessman. We were raised in Bantayan Island, north of Cebu where the predominant livelihood was fishing.

On days when the catch was scarce and barely enough to sustain the fishermen's daily necessities, they would often come to my father asking for financial aid such as daily subsistence loans, even food to sustain them through.

My father readily obliged in lending out a helping hand to them. He was kind and understanding to the point that at certain times, when they were unable to pay him back, he really wouldn't mind at all. If ever there was one important trait I learned from him, it was his being compassionate to those less fortunate.

My parents never had any reservations on my decision to become a priest. My mother was very religious to the point that as a matter of practice, she required everyone to recite the Rosary on a daily basis. Often Papa's memorable advice to me was to be a good priest and be kind and helpful to others especially poor people.

In my seminarian days while studying theology, our professor emphasized to us that the most difficult question in life of a priest-aspirant is the question 'Why?"

Why do I want to become a priest? As a kid, I was so sure of myself that all I wanted to do was to devote my life to serve the Lord by becoming a priest. Now that I'm an ordained priest, I begin to comprehend what a difficult question that actually is. When I think about what I went through and what I'm still going through, the more I realize that the answers are quite complicated.

As time passes, the answers to that simple question "Why?" becomes deeper and more complex. There are times I feel I'm stucked, as in I keep searching to find the right answers. At times, I feel afraid as to what might happen to me. There is heaviness in my heart since my life isn't in accordance to the answers I seek.

Sometimes, as I struggled to find the answers, I experience mixed and varied emotions such as being disheartened and encouragement. There were times, I felt disappointed and sad as I compared my life with other brother-priests.

This is such a perplexing but beautiful dilemma to meditate on, as my quest to find the answer to this most often asked question leads me to the person of Jesus Christ. He must be the reason why I have become a priest.

Barely 2 days after my ordination on June 22, 2004, the entire family received a shocking announcement from my Papa's doctor. He was diagnosed with severe liver cancer in its advanced stages and was estimated with a remaining life span of three to six months.

At first, I felt a rush of mixed emotions, even confusion. I asked God, "Why?". Why does it have to be this way when all I've ever done was to serve Him? Over time, the answer to this question became clear and more polished.

In prayer, I said to Him "Lord if ever You are to take him already, please help me fulfill his one greatest wish; which was for me to become a good priest and to be compassionate in helping others."

In the days of my father's suffering, he never showed any signs of resentment. As I was assigned to a nearby parish, I often made it a point to come home by 6:00 PM in the evening to celebrate Mass with the family. When my duties didn't permit me to go home, Papa was quite sad and disappointed and he would clearly let me know of his feelings.

On December 26, 2004 at 3:00 AM, Papa died after we celebrated our last Christmas with him in a small room in the hospital. It was the saddest Christmas of my life, seeing my Papa gasping for his last breath. He was 58 years old when he passed away. Coincidentally, his favorite song was "I'll be home for Christmas". Now he is really home.

Now Christmas to me is more meaningful. As we celebrate the birth and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I also commemorate the fateful return of my earthly father to our compassionate Heavenly Father. I gratefully thank God for having blessed us with a loving and compassionate father.

A friend told me that I should rejoice, since my father has returned home after he has fulfilled his earthly purpose; which was to consecrate me in the Lord's service.

Every year we celebrate Papa's anniversary by conducting feeding programs for the poor in Bantayan Island in order to keep his spirit of compassion alive in our hearts.

For my every return to this very special place which is a fisherman's island reminds me of the task Jesus entrusted to His Disciples; to be fishers of men for His Kingdom. This is the reason why I am a priest!

I always pray to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart that forever in my heart lives the compassionate love of Jesus as I intend to focus my future ministry in helping out the needy and poor as what Papa had wanted me to do.

Without a doubt, my ministry here in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Cebu City is an act of Divine Intervention by the Blessed Mother. Since She is the Treasurer of the Sacred Heart; I find inspiration and draw strength from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the infinite source of Divine Mercy and Great Compassion.

Finally, I found the right answers to "Why?" as I now ask my next question "How?". Without fear and with deep faith I humbly declare, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, in you I trust."

Parochial Vicar
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish Church
Escario St., Cebu City, Philippines