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National Retreat for Priests 2023: A divine encounter

By Fr. Jene Lois Sarmiento

Cebu City, Philippines – From November 7 to 9, 2023, the IEC Convention Center in Cebu City resonated with the collective spirit of over 2600 Diocesan and Religious priests from across the country who gathered for the National Retreat for Priests 2023. Forty-one of which are from the Archdiocese of Caceres comprising mainly of the youngest clergy.

Themed “Priesthood: A Call to Holiness,” this marked the third national retreat in the Philippines, organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines — Episcopal Commission on Clergy under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Romeo O. Lazo of Jaro and hosted by the Archdiocese of Cebu headed by Archbishop Jose S. Palma, D.D.

The event was made possible with the collaborative efforts of the Marian Solidarity and CHARIS Philippines. Ms. Fe M. Bariño, the National Coordinator of CHARIS Philippines, assumed the overall chairmanship of NRP 2023 working committees.

Hundreds of volunteers were honored during the closing Mass for their dedication in preparing the venue. Months before the event, these lay volunteers initiated a Jericho march for seven consecutive Mondays to drumbeat the event. Three days before the gathering, both the clergy and laity of Cebu consecrated the venue, setting the stage for a spiritually enriching experience for the clergy. On the event day, lay volunteers engaged in continuous prayer before the blessed sacrament from sunrise to sundown, to ensure the sanctity and spiritual wellness of all the priest-participants. Truly it was a collaborative effort and a first-hand experience of a synodal Church for the lay and clergy alike.

Photos of the Caceres clergy who had their annual retreat last November 6-11, 2023. The retreat took place in Cebu City for Quadrant 1, Tagaytay for Quadrant 2, Baguio City for Quadrant 3, Mater Ecclesia Formation Center at Cadlan, Pili for Quadrant 4 and for the retired priests in the vicinity of the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Quadrants are the groupings of Caceres priests for their on-going formation. The number of years in the priesthood is the basis for the groupings. Thus, Quadrant 1 are those who are in their first to five years in the priesthood, Quadrant 2a are in their 6th to 10th year, Quadrant 2b are in their 11th to 15th , Quadrant 3 are in their 16th to 24th year and Quadrant 4 are those 25 years in the priesthood onwards. Canon law states that priests “are equally bound to make time for spiritual retreats according to prescripts of particular law” (Canon 276). - Photos from Archdiocese of Caceres FB page

Renowned speakers added depth to the retreat’s discourse. Sr. Briege Mckenna, OSC, an Irish Sister of St. Clare, challenged priests to become “White Martyrs of our time,” urging them not to shy away from proclaiming the truth of their faith.

Fr. Pablo Escriva de Romani, a Spanish Priest and Missionary, focused on the practical and human dimensions of priesthood. Stressing the importance of priests’ inner lives, he highlighted repentance, healing, and renewal as key aspects of holiness, themes that resonated throughout the three-day event.

Commencing at 8:30 AM and concluding at 5:30 PM, the National Retreat for Priests 2023 served as a profound opportunity for clergy across the Philippines to reflect, renew, and reaffirm their commitment to the sacred vocation of priesthood.


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