A One of a Kind Ordination

Elbert, a newly ordained deacon of the Missionary Society of St Columban, from Oton, Iloilo, shares his reflection about his diaconate ordination experience at this time of pandemic.

A One of a Kind Ordination 

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by Elbert Balbastro

Elbert, a newly ordained deacon of the Missionary Society of St Columban, from Oton, Iloilo, shares his reflection about his diaconate ordination experience at this time of pandemic.

While being a seminarian for nine years in the Columban formation program, I witnessed and served in three diaconate ordinations. In each occasion, I was always touched by how the newly ordained deacon hugged his family and friends during the sign of peace, and by the sumptuous and joyful celebration that followed after the Mass. I felt that an ordination is, indeed, a special day. I hoped that when my time comes, my parents, relatives and friends will be there by my side so I could hug them and express my gratitude.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world, everything changed. For obvious reasons, we were informed that no outside guests are allowed except for the few Columban Fathers in Singalong. We could not even invite the Columban sisters next door because we need to protect ourselves from this deadly virus. I admit that for some time, I was sad. During my prayer time, I’d often ask God, “Why?”

However, as the ordination approached, I was delighted by the cooperation and participation of each one in the busy preparations. Almost every day, some of my brothers practiced the hymns for the ordination mass. Others planned on how to arrange the tables for the meal after. The event took place in the formation house on July 27, 2021 at 4:00 pm and was live-streamed for our families and friends to witness the occasion. The bishop of Cubao, Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco, DD, ordained us (with Jerry Lohera). As a result of everyone’s collaborative effort, the ordination was a lovely and solemn ceremony and all of us enjoyed a sumptuous and special dinner that followed afterward. It was truly a joyful and memorable ordination day!

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Elbert (third from right) with Bp Honesto Ongtioco (center), Jerry Lohera (third from left), Columban priests and students

As I ponder on the event, before, during and after, I realized that although my diaconate ordination was not the ideal one I had in mind, I cannot undermine the effort and service that my Columban brothers put into it. My parents, family and friends might not be physically present, but 100 guests participated virtually via Zoom and the rest through facebook and devoted their time watching the ceremony. What else could I ask for? 

In my reflection, the pandemic taught me to meet Jesus in everyone. A lot of things are continuously changing because of the situation but the one thing which remains constant is the manifestation of God’s love in my life. God did not grant my wish of having my parents, family and friends physically present during my ordination but God met the desire of my heart in a different form. It doesn’t matter if things do not go as planned, the important thing is that whichever way things go, as long as there is love, care and support, that is enough. 

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My diaconate ordination was one of a kind because of the protocols set in place. All of us wore masks and maintained social distancing. There were no outside guests and even the bishop did not bring his assistant. There are a lot of differences between a normal ordination and the one I had. However, the love that my brothers poured to make this ordination extraordinary and the time spent by my family, relatives, friends, mission partners and Columban families for the said event prevail over anything else. Because of that, I am forever thankful to God and everyone else who journeyed with me to this stage of my Columban journey.

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(L-R):  Fr Paul Glynn (Regional Director), Elbert Balbastro, Fr Finbar Maxwell (Rector) and Jerry Lohera