THE HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF DAET: A SKECTH
Fr. Augusto Jesus Angeles
On September 1, 1974, the Diocese of Daet was formally established along with the installation of its first bishop, Most Rev. Celestino Rojo Enverga, a native of Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte. The Diocese of Daet was entrusted to the care of St. Joseph the Worker.
Through the Apostolic Constitution “Requirit Maximopere,” Pope Paul VI separated Daet from the Archdiocese of Caceres, thereby creating Daet as a new Diocese which became a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Caceres.
Since the Augustinian missionaries, Frays Diego de Espinar and Francisco Merino had established Christian communities in Paracale in 1571; it took 393 years for Camarines Norte, the land of gold and pineapple, to be erected as a diocese.
Although, the seed of Christianity was planted by the Augustinians, the Franciscans were the ones who blazed the trail of apostolate in Camarines Norte. The cross triumphed in Camarines Norte without the use of sword. The religiosity of the people of this province could be the reason why, among the bikolanos, the gift of the priesthood was first received by a native from the town of Paracale. Ordained in 1706, Don Gregorio Cabalquinto was the first Bicolano priest.
The history of the diocese could be divided into three periods. The first period spans from 1974-1984.
In his foreword to a souvenir program published on the 10th anniversary of the erection of the Diocese of Daet, the late Bishop Celestino Enverga summed up the first period.
“Barely two years after (referring to the canonical erection in 1974), a sprawling diocesan house complex provided him a decent place where to lay his head. A charity clinic for the indigents to boot, and a haven for those released from the hospitals but nowhere to go home…”
…”After four years of painful gestation, the Most Holy trinity Cathedral was born…”
“…A Public Library; a diocesan Museum and a printing press; statues of the four Evangelists and Saints Peter and Paul; six meter tall statues of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus…”
The first decade of the diocese had given birth to three parishes: the Parish of St. Roch, Batobalani in May 31, 1976; the Parish of San Lorenzo Ruiz in July 2, 1983; and the Parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Colasi in July 23, 1983.
The first decade was characterized by construction of structures: the first phase of the Diocesan House was completed in 1977 and the Holy Trinity Cathedral was ready for its dedication by September 1, 1984.
The second period runs from 1985-1994.
This epoch opened with the foundation by Bishop Enverga of the Religious Order of Kolbean Sisters.
On October 16, 1990, the Diocese of Daet became a vacant see (sede vacante) because of the passing away of Bishop Enverga. Bishop Almoneda, then the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Daet, became the Diocesan Administrator and soon afterwards on July 6, 1991 he became the second Bishop of the Diocese of Daet.
The death of Bishop Celestino Enverga in 1990 and the appointment of Bishop Benjamin J. Almoneda as the second bishop of Daet in 1991 were the towering events of the second decade of the diocese.
However, it is equally important to note the following ecclesial events during this period: the nine barangays from the Diocese of Gumaca were annexed to the Parish of Sta. Elena; the Parish of the Most Holy Trinity was established in 1991, the Vision-Mission Statement of the diocese was formulated in 1991; the Holy Trinity Preparatory Seminary, the first seminary in the diocese, was opened in 1992, the first Diocesan Pastoral Assembly was held in 1992; the Bishop Enverga and the Carillon Halls were inaugurated in 1993; and the Second General Pastoral Assembly was convened in 1994.
True to the mandate given to him during his Episcopal ordination by the late John Paul II, Bishop Almoneda prioritized catechesis among his pastoral program. Just three years after his assumption into office, the Mater Vitae Catechetical Center was inaugurated in 1994.
The second decade of the diocese was not only a decade when there was a change of leadership; it was also the seminal stage of the shift of focus from structures to evangelization, from construction to formation. This shift, evidenced by the pastoral assemblies, and opening of formation houses for future priests and catechists, marched slowly until it reached it apex in the First Diocesan Synod of Daet.
The diocesan journey from 1995-2004 finds its climax in the convocation, celebration, and implementation of the First Diocesan Synod of Daet.
Worthy of mention, however, is the increase in the number of parishes: the Parishes of St. James the Great of Calabaca, Capalonga, Our Lady of Good Voyage of Calaguas, St. Philip of San Felipe of Basud, Holy Family of Talobatib, Our Lady of All Nations of Tabugon, and the Chaplaincy of St. Roch of Tabas. The latest additions to our parishes were the erection of the Quasi Parish of the Divine Mercy and the Parish of San Lorenzo, the Deacon.
Manifesting Bishop Almoneda’s love for the poor and his commitment to social issues, the inauguration of SPACFI also stands out as an important highlight of this period.
To accommodate the increasing number of priestly vocation, Bishop Benjamin Almoneda started one of the most important projects of his episcopate in 1997: the opening of the Holy Trinity College Seminary. The construction of the Holy Trinity College seminary compound started in 1999. Six years after, the whole compound is almost finished
Then the appointment of Bishop Nestor Carino as the Auxiliary Bishop of Daet came in 2003.
It is important to realize that the pastoral processes that started in the formulation of vision-mission statement in 1991 down to the convocation of pastoral assemblies from 1992-1994 were all parts of the preparatory stage of the First Diocesan Synod of Daet which was convoked by Bishop Almoneda in 2001. After parish consultations from 2001-2002, the Synodal sessions were held from 2002-2003. Four years of hard work were crowned by the following achievements: the decrees of the synod were promulgated in January 2004, a common pastoral direction of the diocese was defined, and the pastoral program for the next five years is about to be launched.
Now that we have reached 33 years old, there is indeed enough reason for us to sing: “Lord it is good to give thanks to you”. From fourteen parishes and three vicariates in 1974, we have grown to 24 canonically erected parishes, 5 quasi-parishes plus one chaplaincy and five vicariates. The number of priests, religious and especially of seminarians increases by leaps and bounds.
During this Pearl Jubilee Celebration, we thank God through the following activities: on December 2004, we opened our Pearl Jubille Celebration by launching the MSK in Labo; on April 11, 2005, on the occasion of the 75th Birth Anniversary of Bishop Almoneda, the Our Lady of Gudalupe Chapel was solemnly dedicated; On May 2005, the youth of the province chanted “we wish to see Jesus” during the Diocesan Youth Day in Panganiban, on the same month, the diocesan catechetical Day was celebrated; on May 28, the Pearl Jubilee Santacruzan was successfully staged earning less than a million for the social security of the priests. Today, we are celebrating the closing of the Pearl Jubilee and the opening of the Eucharistic Congress. Today, the pastoral plan is finally for launching.
Indeed, this year is a year of history and grace for our diocese. On the hand, as we celebrate our common past, we are graced with becoming more rooted on the common basis of our unity at present. We belong to one diocese. We are one presbyterium. We are one bread, one body, one people. On the other hand, as we look forward to our future, we join our hands together as we take our common direction towards our vision. Let us share our mission. Let us move towards one vision.