Can priests ‘kill’ a chapel?

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

PUWERA gaba. That’s what some Cebuano Catholics usually say when they curse someone while at the same time ask for forgiveness from God for doing so. I heard that being said by some people in Barangay Inayawan regarding the failure of the Our Lady of Consolation Parish-Recoletos based in Laray, San Roque in Talisay City to settle the row that has been festering for years now involving the old St. Augustine of Hippo Chapel.

The chapel, which is more than a century old, will celebrate soon its annual fiesta with the continued threat of being “killed” by the very people who should have strengthened the Catholic faith in Inayawan.

The situation in Inayawan is a mess. Another chapel has been built funded by the parish and by donations from Inayawanons both here and abroad following the mishandling by the previous parish priest of the organizational problem in the old chapel. The new chapel, which stands only some 100 meters from the old chapel, has remained unfinished.


I understand that donations pour during the annual celebration of the St. Augustine of Hippo fiesta. Money from those donations could have gone a long way in helping complete the parish-funded structure, that is, if all fiesta donations go to the new chapel. But the old chapel still exists, the group running it refusing to be run down by the parish.

More than that, the old chapel still “owns” the rights over the veneration of St. Augustine, which has been its patron for more than 100 years now.

There’s a rule laid down by the Cebu Archdiocese that new chapels could not usurp the veneration of the patron of an old one close to it. The new chapel could not claim St. Augustine as its patron.

The attempt to “kill” the chapel was initiated by the previous parish priest, who started refusing to hold masses inside it. Interestingly, the archdiocese, which was then headed by now Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, went with the scheme.

The Sunday masses were instead held near the barangay gymnasium adjacent to the old chapel.

What compounded the problem for the parish was that when construction of the new chapel began, a new group had taken over and straightened the running of the affairs of the old chapel. The group wanted to ensure that the old chapel won’t “die.” Thus, the parish’s attempt to kill the old chapel by refusing to hold masses there failed.

I heard that the latest attempt by the parish is to ask the group running the old chapel to “temporarily” replace its patron to St. Monica and allow the new chapel to temporarily have St. Augustine as its patron. That is clearly a scheme meant to go around the rule of the archdiocese. That suggestion sparked a chorus of, “Puwere gaba.”

I have been following this story and am constantly being updated about it. My wife, after all, is from Inayawan. She has a strong bond with the old chapel because it was there and in the nearby Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish in Pardo where her Catholic upbringing was shaped. Indeed, that old chapel holds meaning to the lives of generations of Inawayan residents.

The Order of Augustinian Recollects weren’t even around yet when the Inayawanons of old set up the chapel and installed St. Augustine of Hippo as its patron. Its priests may not have the emotional connection to the old chapel but many Inayawanons have.

“Killing” the chapel is therefore not the option. Solving the problem amicably is.

Frankly, as the years pass by without the problem being solved by both the Augustinian Recollects and the Cebu Archdiocese, my respect for priests has eroded considerably. Puwera gaba.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2014.


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