The conference commenced with Fr. Pacifico C. Nohara, OSA who officially welcomed the participants of the conference. The presence of the Archbishop of Cebu, Most Rev. Jose S. Palma, DD shared that it is indeed a fortunate time for us to hold the conference as we look forward to the 5th Centenary of the beginnings of Christianity in the Philippines two years from now. Most Rev. Palma left an inspirational note for the participants and Friars. “Let us all together journey with our young people, the future of our church and look forward to the future with confidence.” Despite multiple challenges that the church is facing, we are assured that He who holds the future is always with us in every step of the journey.
The first conference talk started a few minutes after the inspirational speech of Archbishop Palma. Rev. Fr. Emilio Edgardo Quilatan, OAR, HED talked about Fray Pedro Agurto, OSA as a man, as a religious and as the Pioneer Pastor of Souls.
Rev. Fr. Quilatan shared his knowledge about the early life of Fray Agurto. Fray Agurto was Spanish but was born in Mexico since his family is from the nobility and long-time resident of Mexico. Fray Agurto studied in the University of Mexico. He joined the Augustinian Order in the convent of Mexico. His outstanding performance in his studies led him to professorship in the University of Mexico.
Fray Agurto was describe to be simple, generous, and understanding person and rendered humble service among his brothers. King Philip II took notice of Fray Agurto and suggested to appoint him as the bishop of Cebu. On August 1595, Fray Agurto was appointed as Bishop of Cebu. “[Bishop Aguro] His pastoral approach was direct and close with people.” Said Rev. Fr Quilatan. Bishop Agurto was well connected to the people as he was bringing them to Christ.
The first bishop of Cebu did not leave any stone unturned. He called for a Synod, a council of a church, to standardize ecclesiastical norms in the administration of sacraments. He personally gave directions on how the acts of the Synod be applied concretely. He sought that the marriage among the natives should be based on perpetual consent. He managed to implement the doctrinal and disciplinary decrees, especially among his clergy. He was also concerned for the evangelization of the natives and petitioned to send more missionaries. He was able to do pastoral visits in Leyte and Samar. Bishop Pedro Agurto in October 1608 died in the honor of sanctity. He was buried in the church dedicated to the Sto. Nino of Cebu.
Rev. Fr. Quilatan wrapped up his talk saying that Bishop Pedro Agurto chose to face the challenges of life with courage and that he showed the nobility of his soul. The Diocese of Cebu was fortunate to have Bishop Agurto, as its first bishop.
During the open forum, Rev. Fr. Quilatan, explained that there are date discrepancies of the sources of the recorded life of Bishop Pedro Agurto.
Shortly after the open forum, a mass was celebrated for the Solemnity of Christ the King, offered by Titular Archbishop of Pia Apostolic Nuncio Ementus of Korea, Most Rev. Osvaldo Padilla, DD. Most Rev. Padilla shares that “It is only to God that we can give total submission of our minds and of our hearts and of our being.” He emphasized that in the Gospel we are reminded that His kingdom is different, from what is an earthly kingdom.
As the first day of the Bishop Pedro Agurto International Conference comes to an end, we are enjoying today are fruits of our history – our rich cultural and spiritual heritage that shaped us on what we are today. And as what Most Rev. Jose S. Palma stated “We are now ripping the fruits of yesterday’s planting.” /Michee Dionne Balite, USJ-R Communication Intern