To Be Fisher of Men
by Marjorie C. Engcoy
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Animator-Mindanao
The Columban family in the Philippine region rejoiced with the parishioners of San Roque Parish, Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental as Fr. Jerry A. Lohera, SSC was ordained into priesthood last June 14, 2022, by Archbishop Jose Cabantan, D.D. of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. It was also attended in full force by the priests of Magsaysay donning the same design of vestments as Fr. Jerry for the occasion. One could feel the palpable joy and excitement of the people as seen in their preparation of the church, the meaningful and solemn liturgy, and the catering for the people. Also in support are his family and relatives, high school batchmates, college batchmates, teachers, and friends. Mission partners from Barra and Gingoog, and some members of the Amigo Columbano also graced the occasion in support of Father Jerry on his special day.
Before the ordination, the people of Magsaysay had the chance to reminisce the memories of the Columban priests who journeyed with them since 1956. They shared their fond memories of these priests and expressed their gratitude for their presence and for the difference they made in their lives.
In the Archbishop’s homily, he reminded the newly ordained priest and the rest of the clergy of the core of the vocation through the call of Simon Peter in the Gospel reading. Jesus called Simon to become fisher of men, which means to bring people into the kingdom of God and into a relationship with Jesus. He reminded them of their call to serve the flock and not to be served. Moreover, the Archbishop also emphasized that priests are still human beings who also have weaknesses, they also need the laity’s fervent prayer that they may be faithful to their call. But these weaknesses may be the gateway of the Holy Spirit to grant them the grace to be steadfast and committed in their response to their call as priests. God called workers to His Vineyard with the request to trust him fully all his life and all that he is. This is true in the call to become a missionary priest being sent to another land, another culture, and another tradition that is not his own. At the end of his homily, he asked the parishioners to continue to pray for Father Jerry who will be assigned to a foreign land; that God will strengthen and guide him as he ministers to the people he will be sent to.
At the end of the celebration, Father Jerry expressed his deepest gratitude to all those who went out of their way to help in anyway they can to prepare for the ordination. He lovingly remembered his mother, who died when he was still eight years old. Despite having passed on, he still felt her guidance and love throughout his growing years, most especially during his formation for priesthood. He also thanked his father, Leonardo Sr., who had to stand as both mother and father to all eight of them siblings. This day is as much of a celebration of his hardworking father who had to raise all eight of his children alone. Father Jerry thanked his siblings and relatives for supporting him in his studies, most especially remembering his aunt who died two weeks before the ordination. Lastly, he made sure to thank his teachers who mentored and guided him while growing up. They, too, were instrumental for Father Jerry to realize his dream in becoming a priest. As one of the witnesses during the day, I saw a good seed sown into a healthy soil, nurtured and nourished well by God’s stewards so that the whole Vineyard would have the chance to witness him grow and become fruitful in his future ministries. I witnessed a community, inspired by a good shepherd and was brought together to support another of God’s servant called to serve in another land.