Negrense Prefect Apostolic of Marshall Islands
Last January Fr. Raymundo T. Sabio, MSC, (centre in the photo) who grew up in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, was installed as Prefect Apostolic of the Marshall Islands. A prefecture apostolic is like a diocese except that it’s not fully self-supporting. The prefect is sometimes a bishop, sometimes not, but has the same responsibility and authority in his prefecture that a bishop has in his diocese.
The Prefecture of the Marshall Islands was set up on 23 April 1993. In 2004 there were 4,601 Catholics officially listed, 9.04 percent of the population of 50,874. The vast majority of the others are Protestants.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands, due east of the Philippines, consists of 1,152 islands grouped in 34 atolls and 870 reefs. The total land area is only 180 square kilometers but is spread over a million share kilometers in the pacific. There are 33 municipalities. 60 percent of the people live in the two islands of Majuro and Kwajalein. Majuro, the capital, has a population of 25,000. The USA handles security, defense and foreign affairs and the currency is the US dollar.
I was surprised at the time that the local media didn’t seem to be aware that a priest who grew up in a parish in the Diocese of Bacolod that is now in the Diocese of Kabankalan, had been given responsibility by the Holy Father for the Church in another Pacific nation, and in the year when Bacolod is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a diocese.
Here is a letter Father Sabio sent me and a report on his installation, both of which were published in the July-August 2008 issue of MISYON, http://www.misyononline.com/
February 11, 2008, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
Dear Fr Sean Coyle,
Aineman an Anji Jemed im yokwe an Mary Jined! (Marshallese for, ‘Peace of God our Father and love of Mary our Mother!’)
I am very pleased to note that Sister Fidelis made it for the day of my installation as Apostolic Prefect, representing the Sabio Family on January 6. (Presentation Sister Fidelis is based at Scala Retreat House, Bacolod City).The Lord has led me to this place after a long journey that started in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. Then to Cebu; and on to Manila. After 14 years of ministry in the in the Philippines as formator of college-level seminarians, vocation director, novice master and theology professor, I was transplanted to South Korea where I spent 19 fruitful years of priestly work, assisting seafarers, migrant/factory workers, the expatriate communities, harbor workers as well as airport employees and air-travelers. Indeed, it was a ministry to the sea, land and air people. And finally I departed for the third part of my life, arriving in the Marshall Islands (unheard of by many!) on October 14, 2005. It is not an easy mission area because the apostolic prefecture is spread over various atolls / tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean, located between Guam and Hawaii. My rough estimate is: the area covered by the prefecture apostolic would be equivalent to the whole of the Visayas. From Majuro, the seat of the Prefecture, to Ebeye, the second parish center, is a 40-minute flight by jet. But I trust the Lord who gives me the strength and courage I need to be His, serving His People. And I place my life in the arms of our Lady of the Sacred Heart who will intercede for me and lead me closer to the very Heart of the Incarnate Word.
May the Good Lord continue to guide and assist you and your staff in your publication/media ministry so that the ‘mission ad gentes’ will become more and more appealing and challenging to the young people.
Yours very sincerely and gratefully in the Heart of our Lord,
(Fr.) Ray Sabio, MSC
Apostolic Prefect of the Marshall Islands
January 6 is the date of the Solemnity of Epiphany, one of the great feasts in the Roman Catholic Church. This year on that day the new Apostolic Prefect of the Marshall Islands, Fr. Raymundo T. Sabio, MSC, was installed by Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio. The nuncio, from Brooklyn, New York City, is based in New Zealand and is the Vatican’s envoy to that country and to ten other island nations in the South Pacific. The ceremony took place in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Uliga, Majuro. At the same time, the care of the Prefecture was transferred from the Jesuits to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC).
The presence of Archbishop Anthony Apuron OFMCap of Agaña, Guam, was highly appreciated. He was present as President of the Pacific Episcopal Conference (CEPAC) and as the Metropolitan Archbishop under whose jurisdiction the Prefecture of the Marshall Islands belongs. Also gracing the occasion were five Jesuits: Fr. Ken Hesel SJ, Jesuit Superior of the Region of Micronesia, Fr. James C. Gould SJ, the former Apostolic Prefect, Fr. Richard McAuliff SJ, Fr. Tom McGrath SJ and Fr Arthur Leger SJ.
The MSCs were represented by Fr. Simon Mani, Superior of the MSC Pacific Union, Fr. Tito Maratas, Provincial Superior of MSC Philippines, Fr. Yohanes Sujono and Fr. Ariel Galido. It was indeed a sight to behold with so many priests and two archbishops in the sanctuary of the parish church. Rev. Alfred Capelle assisted in the Holy Mass in his capacity as deacon.
The ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at almost 11. Assumption Cathedral was filled to capacity by both the local Marshallese Catholics and the Catholic members of the various foreign communities. Although the great majority were the Catholics of Assumption Cathedral Parish of Majuro and of St. Francis Xavier Chapel of Laura, a good number of Catholics from Queen of Peace Parish, Kwajalein, came for the occasion. The sacred songs were sung beautifully in Marshallese, English and Kiribati languages.
May God bless this dedicated Negrense missionary priest.
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