by Jane B. Cadalig
NEW SHEPHERD -- Cardinal Antonio Tagle (6th from left-front row), together with Catholic bishops, presents the Most Rev. Victor B. Bendico (center) as the new shepherd of the close to 500,000 Catholic faithful in Baguio and Benguet following an episcopalian ordination and canonical possession rites officiated by the Most Rev. Jose Advincula of Metropolitan Archbishop of Capiz at the Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral on Jan. 10. Msgr. Bendico, who succeeded Most. Rev. Carlito Cenzon, waves to the crowd in acknowledgement of the warm welcome he received from people from all walks of life.
-- Harley Palangchao
Catholic faithful welcomed the new bishop for Baguio and Benguet with the customary warmth of a Cordilleran hospitality.
Diocese of Baguio Bishop Victor B. Bendico, former parish priest of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Roxas City, Capiz, had a glimpse of the culture in the highlands during his ordination and installation at the Lady of the Atonement Cathedral on Jan. 10.
Young Cordillerans, who showcased one of the region’s traditional dances as they entered the Cathedral’s three main portals and converged in front of the altar, provided an indigenous prelude to the liturgical procession.
Local dialects were used in the ordination and installation rite that lasted for three hours, particularly the Gospel songs, which were in Iloko and Kankanaey. The responsorial psalm was also in Iloko.
The multitude of faithful who joined in the offertory made sure there was no duplication of the gifts that were offered.
The Cathedral grounds was also filled with devotees from Baguio, Benguet, and the rest of the Cordillera who wanted to take part in the ceremony.
Most. Rev. Marlo M. Peralta, archbishop of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Nueva Segovia was the principal consecrator together with Most. Rev. Jose F. Advincula, archbishop of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Capiz as co-consecrator.
Most. Rev. Carlito J. Cenzon, bishop emeritus of the Baguio Diocese, served as the con-consecrator and homilist.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle asked the Catholic faithful to continue working with and for the Church.
“To the clergy, the religious, the lay people of Baguio, it is not only the Bishop who comes to serve you so that the Christian community will grow. You would also have the mission to evoke from the bishop the meaning of service. Please bring out the best in each other. To Bishop Bendico, please bring out the best in the Diocese of Baguio. To the Diocese of Baguio, please bring out the best in bishop Bendico,” Tag-le said.
Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, the current Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, in his message read by his representative, also asked the devotees in Baguio and Benguet to support the newly ordained bishop.
“God’s gift to you comes from afar. Welcome your shepherd with your whole heart. With your help and your prayers, Bishop Bendico will be a zealous pastor and a caring father in the image of Christ,” Pinto said in his message.
He also advised Bendico to exercise patience as he embarks on his new journey.
“In taking up this new appointment, you have to learn a new language and culture. There is also the challenge of starting to get to know your priests, employees and leaders of associations and dioceses and councils. Take into heart then the words of the Holy Father: Be a bishop capable of accompanying. Accompany your clergy with solicitous patience. Be close to your clergy and try to revive in them the awareness that Christ is their destiny, their share and source of inheritance,” he said.
Cenzon, in his homily, said he was glad that Bendico has earlier expressed his willingness to learn the region’s language.
He said the first missionary who came to evangelize the then Mountain Provinces was a foreigner who was effective in spreading the Gospel because he worked hard to learn the region’s dialect.
“Bishop William Brasseur, the first bishop assigned here, only spoke Dutch and French. Yet through his years of serving the people, he became an expert in Iloko and Ibaloy. He became one of the people in the region. This made him very effective in communicating the Gospel,” Cenzon, a Baguio boy, said.
He added Bendico’s appointment to Baguio is a proof that the city continues to receive the blessings it deserves.
“We see the appointment of new bishop as a continuing action of God who promised to be with his people,” Cenzon said.
Overwhelmed by the welcome, Bendico said he would need the community’s continued prayers and support as he assured he and the Diocese will work together to bring out the best in each other.
“Surely, I need more prayers. I need more support. I will journey with the clergy, the lay, and the religious. I will try my best to be a shepherd to them as the Lord, and yes, we will bring out the best in each and every one of us,” he said.
He also thanked his Dominican mentors, classmates, and clergy from other dioceses from other parts of the country and abroad, and the delegation from Capiz for enduring the long journey to take part in his ordination.
He thanked the clergy, the religious, and lay people of the Baguio Diocese for making the ordination and installation a wonderful event.
“With your continued prayers and support, I know that I will not be left alone here,” he said.
Bendico is the second bishop to lead the Diocese of Baguio since it was elevated into a diocese.
The new Baguio Diocese bishop completed his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary in Manila. He was ordained priest in 1984. He studied at the Pontifical Institute of St. Anselm in Rome from 1996 to 2000 and received his Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy.
He served in various capacities in Capiz after his studies in Rome such as pastor of St. Isidore Parish and St. Laurence Parish, both in Capiz; and as a member of the Commission for Clergy and the Council and the Senate of the Clergy. He is likewise a member of the Council of the Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion in Roxas City.