The parish church of Jimenez is considered a national heritage building one of only two from Mindanao, the Philippines, the other is in Jasaan (next stop). It is said to be the best preserved heritage church in Mindanao. This unique church (so much different compared to the typical Spanish era churches in the rest of the country) is listed as one of 26 colonial churches considered as National Cultural Treasure and one of two from Mindanao (the other is in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental). Constructed by the Augustinian Recollects in the second half of the 19th century. It’s patron is St. John the Baptist and the parish is part of the Archdiocese of Ozamiz.
Recently, I was able to “act” as parish priest for a day as the priests were away for their annual retreat. I officiated the renewal of vows of a couple celebrating 50 years of marriage. Later, I got a chance to accompany the family and friends of two women in their grief as they bade farewell to their loved ones. Funeral Masses are the most difficult.
I had difficulties finding my way in expressing myself in Cebuano, but it turned out well and I got better after saying three Masses in Cebuano and one in English. Besides saying Mass I also got a chance to baptize and welcome into the Christian family two little ones together with their excited families and also blessed motorcycles and a car. Thank you for the parish priest for a day experience!
We are very grateful to the priests and parishioners for their warm welcome. The whole weekend activity was intended to invite young people to join us and promote the Columban mission. The Columban missionaries arrived in Jimenez in 1930’s and left around 1994 to allow the local clergy to look after the parish. Now we return to the parishes were Columbans used to serve and promote the Columban mission. Jimenez parish already produced a Columban – Sr. Ashwena “Winnie” Apao, a Columban sister who has served 10 years in Myanmar. She made her final profession of vows in the same church and has been influenced by the Columbans who worked in the parish during her time. Before joining the Columban sisters she worked as a medical technician. While at work looking through the microscope and counting red blood cells, she told herself, “ I want to meet the person who owns these red blood cells.” God calls us wherever we are, whatever we are. If you hear His voice, do not harden not your heart.
Columban Fr. Kurt Zion Pala lives and works in Myanmar.