A Love Story with the Columban Fathers
By Msgr. Crisostomo A. Cacho
Msgr. Cacho, from San Marcelino, Zambales, is the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Iba, a position that he has held since 1978 when Bishop Henry Byrne was the Ordinary of the Diocese. He is the President of Columban College since 2007 up to now, and the fourth priest to be ordained for the Diocese of Iba. He is one of the first fruits of the Columban apostolate to put up a diocesan clergy.
My love story with the Columban Fathers started when I studied in a public elementary school at Linasin, San Marcelino, Zambales. I would often see them at the convento, but my first close encounter with them was with Fr. Vincent Lyons. Father Lyons brought catechists to our school to conduct catechism classes.
I went to Southern Zambales High School. The name of the school was later changed to St. William’s High School when the Columban Fathers took over the administration of the High School. This was the beginning of my immersion into the works of the church.
My 3rd and 4th years of High School were spent as a convent boy with Fr. Cornelius O’Connell, the parish priest. I went with the Columban priests to the barrios of the parish and witnessed their work among the people, especially among the poor. Those two years were filled with admiration of the zeal the Columbans showed in their ministry as priests. I wanted to be part of what I witnessed.
One night, after graduation, I told Fr. O’Connell, my idol, that I wantaed to become a priest. In June 1959, Fr. William Sullivan, together with my father and two friends, accompanied me to Guadalupe Minor Seminary in Makati.
My seminary life was a journey of trials, joy and full of aspirations to be like Fr. O’Connell in the future. Precious were the days when Fr. O’Connell and Bishop Byrne visited us at the Seminary, to the envy of the Seminarians from other dioceses because their bishops did not show the same care toward their seminarians.
One day I applied to the Columban Missionaries in Nebraska. The vocation director replied, “We don’t accept Filipinos yet in our Society. Your bishop can use you in your diocese.” None of the Columbans in the Philippines knew about it. I was already a priest when I revealed that to Fr. Donal O’Dea.
Fr. O’Connell brought me several times to the Columban gatherings where I learned how to play cards and was exposed to happy hour and table wine. When I saw the priests in their spirit of togetherness, it added to my vision of a priest, one who is very human, yet chosen by God to do His work among the people.
I was ordained a priest by Bishop Byrne at St. William Parish on December 20, 1969. My family could not afford any kind of preparation for celebration so Fr. O’Connell took it upon himself to make all the preparations we needed. Everything was simple yet meaningful. I was truly grateful and happy.
When I think of the Columbans, I remember their spirit of camaraderie and the virtue of simplicity and availability to the people. In the parish, Bishop Byrne would sit down at meetings of the various organizations, even if he had nothing to say because he wanted to be present to the people. The Columbans affirmed the enthusiasm of the parish workers and volunteers, valued and appreciated their sacrifices. This is a legacy from the Columbans which I keep in my heart and try to pass on to others.
The whole Diocese of Iba was sad when the Columban Missionaries left. But the Columbans left behind an imprint of God’s love that forms part of our story and history which we will always remember and retell with great joy and gratitude.
Bishop Henry Byrne Building