By Raïssa Robles
Although he wouldn’t talk to me.
Last Tuesday, I wrote about Reverend Father Jose Eliseo Buenviaje who had illegally parked his car despite a “no parking” sign, while prominently displaying the sign “Priest on Call” on his windshield.
My reporter’s instinct told me it was the priest driving the car. A number of commenters criticized me for jumping to this conclusion; and for not talking to Fr. Buenviaje to get his side. I had tried to ring him through the numbers listed on the “priest on call” placard, but I got a wrong number or an unanswered ringing. In one instance, a person who answered told me Father Buenviaje could no longer be reached at that particular number.
Finally on Thursday, I managed to connect with “Mr. Jess”, the parish secretary of the Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buen Viaje Parish at Old Balara, North Capitol Hills Drive. I asked him to convey to Fr. Buenviaje my request to talk to him.
I waited for the priest to get in touch with me before putting together an updated post using new information, including things Mr Jess told me. The parish office has no landline and the only way to talk to Fr. Buenviaje was through his mobile phone, which I didn’t have.
But I’ve decided not to wait any longer. Early this evening (Saturday) a commenter named Bobby Mendiola, who said he was a parishioner of Fr. Buenviaje, posted the following comment here:
I am a parishioner of Rev. Fr. Joel Buenviaje. I have known him since he became a Deacon and assigned by the beloved Roman Catholic Bishop of Novaliches, Antonio Tobias, to assist Fr. Tony Labiao, Jr., at St. Peter Parish, Commonwealth Ave., Q. C.
Fr. Joel Buenviaje is a newly ordained Priest, less than two (2) years ago, and by GOD’S grace, installed as the 1st Parish Priest of Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buen Viaje last March 17, 2013, by the Most Rev. Antonio Tobias.
Fr. Joel shared with me last Tuesday his agony, anxiety, and discomfort caused by Raissa’s blog. These feelings of Fr. Joel festered for several days.
During today’s 6 PM Holy Mass at Celebrity Sports Plaza, Capitol Hills Drive, Q.C., Fr. Joel shared with us Parishioners the incident written by Raissa, and humbly asked for our forgiveness for the scandal it has created. Fr. Joel also related how and why he was at that spot along Katipunan Ave., and this was verified by the family who asked for Fr. Joel’s pastoral service and subsequently invited him for a late lunch.
I know what the life of Priests are, the joys and loneliness, the fulfillment and frustrations they experience daily, and most specially, the constant temptations they undergo. I know because I have eight (8) Priests classmates continuing their ministry. I also have classmates who left the priesthood.
Fr. Joel asked us Parishioners to pray for him so that he will be more judicious in his actions, so as to avoid situations as blogged by Raissa.
The congregation went to Fr. Joel after the Mass to console him and assured him of support.
I echo Fr. Joel’s request for prayers because he really wants to serve everyone in this life’s journey, to enable every person he encounters to secure passing marks in their respective “Heavenly Report Card”.
GOD Loves us!
If I caused Fr. Buenviaje anguish, I did not mean to. That was not my intention.
I have since learned that what Father could be faulted with is “illegal parking” – which is penalized with only P200.00 for the first, second and third offenses.
As for using the sign “Priest on Call” while parked illegally, he was using it maybe because priests are given the go-ahead by their elders to make use of the sign. I do not know whether Father Buenviaje knew he was parked illegally.
I could not talk to him since there was no landline in his parish office.
I managed to get in touch with the parish secretary Mr Jess and asked him where Fr. Buenviaje’s sign came from. He said – and please I hope he is not scolded for answering my questions – Mr Jess told me that the “Priest on Call” sign is used by priests in Novaliches who have cars.
He said there were around 64 parishes in Novaliches alone and those parish priests with cars are issued a similar sign.
Mr. Jess added:
“Hindi lang po sa Novaliches. Depende sa parish priest at sa diocese, kung maglalagay sila noon.”
Mr. Jess also told me it was Fr. Buenviaje who was driving the car that Sunday. That the car was “on loan” to the priest by his own mother.
At the start, Mr Jess had asked me:
“Kayo po ba si Ms. Raissa?”
I said “yes”.
And Mr. Jess said that last Sunday when Fr Buenviaje’s car was illegally parked:
“I think galing siya sa house blessing and office blessing sa area na yon.”
I asked Mr. Jess what the “Priest on Call” sign meant. He said:
“Wala naman po. Isang paalala. Mga pare natin, hindi nag-stay sa kanilang parokya. Merong tumatawag.”
I asked Mr. Jess whether a priest could go out and give extreme unction to the dying. He said “yes” and added:
“Ang pari, karamihan sila (naimbita para) magpamisa ng patay. Nagpapadaan ng pare. Puwede siya magmisa at magbless.”
What Mr. Jess told me contrasted greatly with what the priests – whom my cousins and I had tried to get for my mother to give her extreme unction – told us. See my first story.
I also wanted to talk to the person in Fr. Buenviaje’s diocese who makes all those “Priest on Call” signs. But I was told he was on a team-building seminar and therefore unavailable.
I also phoned the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines but the person in charge was also out of town.
What’s wrong with a “priest on Call” sign?
Perhaps I did not explain very clearly why I wrote about seeing the sign, which at least one friend told me she had also seen and found nothing wrong with.
Let me explain the context.
The sign stated on the left side a request to whoever saw it – to extend “courtesy” to the car driver.
It is therefore asking for a privilege not extended to ordinary drivers.
Are priests entitled to this kind of privilege?
Many Catholics would readily say “yes”.
I guess I’m not one of them. Because to me, a priest is someone who has taken a vow to turn away from a life of privilege.
In 1983, the CBCP President, Archbishop Antonio Mabutas, issued “Pastoral Guidelines for Priests, Religious and Lay Workers in the Task of Social Justice“. One of the things that made the Church so close to Filipinos then was that it walked its talk.
Guideline Number Five stated:
5. Let us obey the laws of the land in so far as they are truly just and conducive to the attainment of peace in the community. In the spirit of Gaudium et Spes. Let us not demand special privileges for ourselves. On the contrary, we should even be prepared to renounce any concession offered us for the sake of guaranteeing our freedom of pastoral action.
To read the Guidelines, please click on this link.
This will be my last post on the issue. I still have to write on the elections and on Sabah.
UPDATE 11:17 AM, April 21, 2013: I wish the best for Fr. Joel Buenviaje. He has chosen a hard life.