When he was grade six, a seminarian from St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Albay, visited the school of Fr. Jerome to make a vocation campaign. “I was barely 13 years old when I entered the seminary,” Fr. Jerome disclosed. With five other friends from his previous school, high school life was “exciting and enjoyable” in the company of old and new friends.
After high school, he went on to study AB Philosophy at Mary Mother of Salvation Major Seminary in Daraga, Albay from 1991 to 1995. “The intention to be a priest was not yet purified,” Fr. Jerome shared. One time, he and his friends even got suspended when they went back to the seminary late in the evening. They were required to be back at the seminary at 6pm.
From 1995 to 1997, Fr. Jerome decided to undergo a self-imposed regency. “I wanted to experience life outside of the seminary,” he shared. “Remember, I entered seminary at 13. I wanted to see how it was to earn your own money. To compete for a job,” he added. He taught at Adamson University for those two years.
“The Life that I Want”
“It was when I entered Theology that my intention was purified,” Fr. Jerome shared. “Cliché as it may sound, ‘I want to serve’ was one of the reasons, but it wasn’t the only one. It’s difficult to prioritize which one. Whether people understand it or not, this is just really the life that I want,” Fr. Jerome explained of his decision to become a priest. And so, from 1997 to 2000, he took up Bachelor in Sacred Theology at the UST Central Seminary.
In 2000 to 2002, he studied Canon Law, still at UST. “That’s my personal inclination,” he said which he now finds “practical and helpful especially in putting order and discipline” into parish life.
When he was ordained into the diaconate on December 7, 2001, Fr. Jerome got nervous, more so than when he was ordained a priest on September 8, 2002. “When you become a deacon, you pass over from the lay state to the clerical state,” he explained. “That’s the start of the clerical life,” he added. He made a promise of obedience and celibacy during that rite. He shared that he was “more emotional” during his ordination to the priesthood. “I cried profusely,” he said. “I felt a sense of triumph, of fulfillment. Inadequacy was there but the sense of victory that I was able to overcome adversities was also there.”
After his ordination, Fr. Jerome joined an internship program for newly ordained priests where they would go through four parishes lasting two months each to experience how it is to minister to different types of community. And so it was that he quickly experienced “various types of people” as he served as assistant parish priest in San Antonio de Padua Parish in San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City, the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati, San Roque Parish in Sampaloc and Espiritu Santo Parish in Rizal Avenue, Manila from October 2002 to June 2003.
He found the initial experience “really exciting” as “the things you can’t do as a seminarian, now you can do.” The whole experience made him realize certain things. For one, he said, a priest has to be flexible. “You have to take into consideration other people. You have to be adaptable,” he said. At the same time, he said, “a priest must have a sense of accountability. You should live a simple life so that more people can identify with you. And you must identify yourself with them too,” he added.
Communicate, Compromise, Collaborate
After the internship program, Fr. Jerome served as an assistant parish priest from June 2003 to November 2006 in San Felipe Neri Parish in Boni Avenue. Then from that time to the present, he is the parish priest of the Nuestra Señora del Perpetua Socorro Parish in Calamba, Manila. In being a priest for seven years, Fr. Jerome has come to see that “people are hard to please. Not all will understand your decision and your program because they also have their own program. So you need to communicate with them, to compromise and to collaborate.”
Aside from his priestly duties in the parish, he is also one of the anchors of the radio program, “Hello Father 911” at Radyo Veritas, which is aired every Friday from 9 to 11pm. He said that broadcast work is, “fulfilling as the teachings of the Church are explained to the people and more are reached by it.”
He also regularly says Mass to high-ranking government officials. He explains his point-of-view, “The sacraments must be given to everybody, they be politicians or actors. Of course, it’s a different matter if we’re dealing with so called “public sinners”, more cautiousness should perhaps be observed but otherwise, the sacraments are for all.”
Satisfying and Fulfilling
Fr. Jerome deals with temptation of the flesh by “putting distance, putting a block” and that’s why some people find him suplado. For he said, “Once you enter into it, it becomes very difficult to get out.” He deals with temptation of greed by being transparent. “Transparency is a must for me,” he said. He gives people access to their money by posting Church collections and expenses.
He shared that when you decide to become a priest, in the end, you must “consider your own feelings and realizations.” Fr. Jerome added, “Don’t consider your parents, your benefactor — don’t consider them. It is after all your life. If it’s for you, you will be happy. If not, you will be miserable.”
And for him personally, “There is no struggle to remain. Going out has not even crossed my mind, perhaps because I’m very satisfied with my life right now. It is satisfying and fulfilling.”
A good game, indeed.
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