MANILA, Philippines – For more than a decade, Fr Reginald “Regie” Malicdem has served mostly as private secretary of two Manila archbishops – Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and his predecessor, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales.
Now for the first time, Malicdem becomes the rector, or caretaker, of a Catholic community.
On Friday evening, August 14, Tagle installed Malicdem as the rector of the Manila Cathedral, called the mother church of the Archdiocese of Manila and the Philippines’ premier basilica.
The 37-year-old Malicdem said: “For almost 11 years, I have been managing the residence, the household, and the office of the archbishop of Manila. Now I am entrusted with the even greater task of taking care of this church.”
Under the Code of Canon Law, rectors takes care of churches that aren’t parishes, among others.
The Manila Cathedral is not a parish, or a community of Catholics “stably constituted in a particular church.” (READ: Tagle reopens Manila Cathedral: ‘PH too will rise’)
For people living near the Manila Cathedral, the parish is based in the San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the Philippines.
Still, the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila, has daily Masses. It is also one of the favorite churches for weddings in the Philippines.
Tagle described the Manila Cathedral’s flock as “a very transient community.”
The cardinal told his secretary on Friday: “Into your hands, we commend the life of this community, a very transient community, that makes the ministry in the cathedral really exciting. For every Mass, every wedding, should be complete, for you'll never know when those people would come here again. There is no better luck next time.”
“Every ministerial act in a cathedral is the first and could be the last. So give your all, give your mighty best, for the sake of the community,” Tagle said.
‘Ganito pala ang pakiramdam’
Malicdem said in an interview with reporters: “Tama ‘yung sinabi ni Cardinal nga, na every celebration should be the best celebration, kasi hindi mo nga alam kung kailan babalik ‘yang mga tao eh. So talagang pagbubutihin mo na, we hope na at least yung mga tagarito na sa paligid, bumalik.”
(The Cardinal was right in saying that every celebration should be the best celebration, becuase you don’t know when the people will come back. So you will do you best and hope that, at least those within the vicinity, will come back.)
Malicdem added he needs much adjustment to his new role as Manila Cathedral rector.
Even the ceremony on Friday – which coincided with the Vigil of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and the 420th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Manila – felt different for Malicdem.
The new rector said: “Ganito po pala ang pakiramdam ng ma-install. Pagkatapos po ng halos 11 taon bilang pari, at pagkatapos ko pong makadalo ng napakaraming installations, hindi pa po ako makapaniwala na ngayon ako naman po ang ii-install.”
(So this is how it feels to be installed. After almost 11 years as a priest, and after I’ve attended so many installations, I couldn’t believe that now, I myself am being installed.)
Referring to Tagle whose nickname is Chito, Malicdem continued: “Sabi ko po kay Cardinal Chito kanina, simulan na po natin nang matapos na, kasi hindi po ako sanay sa ganitong mga selebrasyon. Sanay po akong naghahanda, sanay po akong nagpaplano, pero hindi po ako sanay na ako'y nagpe-preside sa malalaking celebrations. Kaya first time ko rin po ito.”
(I was telling Cardinal Chito a while ago, let’s start this so it is finsihed, because I’m not used to these kinds of celebrations. I’m used to preparing, I’m used to planning, but I’m not used to presiding over big celebrations. So this is also my first time.)
Tagle quelled the fears of Malicdem, who will continue to serve as his secretary on top of another position, as the Archdiocese of Manila’s newly appointed chancellor.
He also gave Malicdem a piece of advice – from his own experience.
Tagle, the rector from a stockroom
During Malicdem’s installation Mass, Tagle recalled the time he himself was installed as the rector and parish priest of the Our Lady of the Pillar Cathedral in Imus, Cavite.
Tagle said, “Hindi ko malilimutan ‘yon – January 1998.” (I will never forget that – January 1998.)
Tagle recalled that after an ordination at the Imus cathedral, his bishop brought him to his office and broke the news: “Ikaw ang gagawin kong parish priest at rector ng katedral.” (I will make you the parish priest and rector of the cathedral.)
“Kailan po?” (When?)
“Ngayon na.” (Now.)
It’s in stark contrast to Malicdem’s experience. Malicdem’s appointment as rector took effect on July 1, even as he was set to be installed only on August 14.
Initially reluctant, Tagle then told his bishop, “Saan ho tayo mag-i-installation?” (Where will we do the installation?)
The bishop said, “Halika.” (Come.)
Tagle recounted: “Dinala po ako sa stockroom, sa bodega. At sa gitna noong mga inaamag-amag na mga dokumento, ng mga lata, at kung ano ano, sabi sa akin, ‘Luhod.’ Lumuhod naman ho ako. At naging rektor po ako at parish priest ng katedral, sa loob ng bodega.”
(I was brought to the stockroom. And in the middle of those rotting documents, those cans, and other things, he told me, “Kneel.” I knelt. And I became the rector and parish priest of the cathedral, inside a stockroom.)
“At sabi niya, ‘Ayan, ikaw na ang parish priest, ikaw na ang rector. Linisin mo ang buhay pananampalataya. Sama-sama tayo, linisin ang Simbahan para kay Hesus.’”
(And he said: ‘There, you’re now the parish priest, you’re now the rector. Clean up lives of faith. Let us help each other clean the Church, for Jesus.)
Eliciting laughter, Tagle then turned to Malicdem: “Father Regie, pagkatapos ng Misa, sumunod ka sa akin sa bodega.” (Father Regie, after the Mass, follow me to the stockroom.)
“But for me, it was a stroke of genius,” Tagle added. “Being a rector of a cathedral means being assumed to a lowly, humble position of service, to all and to no one – to all, to anyone who comes. In that humility comes true discipleship.” – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.