For Archbishop Onesimo C. Gordoncillo, the Church’s outreach to young people and families is a top priority. He has been the shepherd of the Archdiocese of Capiz on the island of Panay for 25 years now.
This island lies in the Western Visayas Sea and belongs to the Philippines. The seat of the archdiocese and capital of the province of Capiz is Roxas City, with around 150,000 inhabitants. It is known as the “seafood capital of the Philippines.” The locals live either from fishing or from agriculture.
Yet, despite the abundance of fish, it is a poor region and the annual per capita income is just approximately $500 in U.S. currency.
The Archdiocese of Capiz, which like the province covers only part of the island of Panay, has around 700,000 Catholics, the overwhelming majority of whom regularly take part in Church life, according to Archbishop Gordoncillo. Currently there are 120 priests, over 100 religious sisters and 500 catechists involved in the pastoral and catechetical work of the Church.
“They are all helping to deepen the faith of the people”, Archbishop Gordoncillo explained during a visit to the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Then he added, “We would like to have more laity involved in the [local Church communities], however.” For it is above all in the Christian families that make the effort to practice their faith on a daily basis that new vocations ripen, he added.
Although the infrastructure on Panay has grown in recent years, many families continue to emigrate. The desire among so many people for better living conditions draws many of the rural population into the big cities, and especially into the capital, Manila, where approximately 20 million people now live–over a quarter of the entire population of the Philippines.
“For our diocese, this means that we must constantly train new catechists to replace the ones who have left,” Archbishop Gordoncillo explained.
Equally indispensable is the training of new priests, something that ACN has supported. Even though an average of 20 young men are ordained in the archdiocese each year, Archbishop Gordoncillo would still like to see more vocations. “It is not just about us, you see. The Church needs many more vocations, in other dioceses and countries as well.”