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August 6, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 20

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photo: father garcia
Father Garcia

Filipino priest helped the poor on remote island

F ather Jacinto Garcia, newly appointed parochial vicar of the Peninsula Cluster Parishes, has come to the Diocese of Richmond after serving five years as parochial vicar of two parishes in the Diocese of Dallas.

“I just arrived July 5,” he told The Catholic Virginian. “But I hope this will now be my diocese.”

Born in the Philippines, Father Garcia, 40, is the oldest of five children. He has a younger sister, Marian, who lives in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), and three younger brothers, all of whom live in the Philippines. His parents are deceased.

He grew up in the small town of Ragay, 100 miles south of Manila, his country’s capital and largest city.

Father Garcia’s vocation to become a priest began when he was a small child.

“Actually, I was an altar boy,” he said. “I went to a Catholic school and after elementary school, I took the entrance exam for the high school seminary.”

He had “12 long years of seminary formation” and was ordained a priest on June 14, 1997 for the Diocese of Libmanan.

“It was not expected of me to be a priest, but my parents were very supportive of my vocation,” Father Garcia said.

Three years after his ordination, Father Garcia was assigned by the bishop to go to a remote island and establish a parish where none existed. The residents were poor and lived in homes which lacked electricity. There was only one public school.

“Bishop Arellano asked me to be pastor of a very small village where the people were mainly fisherman and farmers,” Father Garcia said. “The only means of transportation to the island was by boat.”

After his arrival the bishop established a new parish composed of 10 villages.“I was the first priest of this newly established parish,” Father Garcia said.

“I was there five years and then assigned to a parish in a larger town, Gallego, and was there four years.

“During my stay on the island, living with the poorest of the poor, I was able to organize the people,” he continued. “We were able to build a church and a rectory. We were able to get help from other people in the Philippines and the bishop also helped us.

“After five years we had a decent rectory for me and a church. It gave me great satisfaction to live with them and help them with their faith.”

Bishop Arrellano was succeeded by Bishop Jose Rojas, the current bishop of Libmanan.

Five years ago Bishop Rojas, in agreement with then Bishop Charles Grahmann of Dallas, assigned Father Garcia to serve in the Diocese of Dallas. He served first at St. Rita’s in North Dallas, a large urban parish, and then at St. John’s in Ennis, which was in a more rural area. Both had parish schools.

He continued to serve in the Diocese of Dallas upon the installation of Bishop Kevin Farrell who came to Dallas soon afterward.

Bishop Rojas met with Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, Vicar for Clergy, two years ago.

“The bishop expressed his interest in helping the Diocese of Richmond and then he came to visit me and asked ‘are you willing to transfer to the Diocese of Richmond?’” Father Garcia said.

“I said ‘Okay, Boss. If you want it, so be it.’”

He looks forward to ministry in Virginia.

Among his favorite pastimes are reading novels, working out at the gym and jogging.

He returns to the Philippines each year to visit his family which now includes five nieces and nephews, all age 6 or younger.

Asked how he liked his new situation in the Diocese of Richmond, Father Garcia answered, “So far, so good.”

“I am enjoying my stay here. There are good people at all three parishes.”

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