Evangelization in Bohol: 250 years of the arrival of the Augustinian Recollects

The Augustinian Recollects of the Philippines celebrated the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the first religious on the island of Bohol on the occasion of the feast of St. Ezekiel Moreno. After overcoming the Dagohoy Rebellion, the Recoletos friars evangelized the extensive territory and built numerous parishes and cathedrals for the almost 250,000 boholanos. In 1937 they abandoned pastoral work

In 1768 came into force the Royal Decree of the Spanish King Carlos III through which he expelled the Society of Jesus from the Spanish colonies. For this reason, the island of Bohol (Philippines) was given to the pastoral care of the Augustinian Recollects. Evangelization was the primary objective of the nine missionary friars who arrived on the Philippine island between July and November of the same year, during the Dagohoy Rebellion.

The Augustinian Recollects of the Philippines celebrated the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Augustinian Recollects to the mission of Bohol. Two and a half centuries interrupted in 1898, when the missionaries were forced to leave the island due to the Philippine revolution returning five years later, and in 1937, when the Augustinian Recollects finally gave their ministries to the diocesan clergy. On the occasion of the celebration of the feast of St. Ezekiel Moreno, on August 18 and 19, the eucharistic celebrations and acts of commemoration for this great anniversary took place.

In the eight cities of Bohol where the mission of the Augustinian Recollects began, numerous celebrations were held. The Prior provincial of the San Ezequiel Moreno Province, Dionisio Selma, presided over two of the eucharistic celebrations that took place in the Talibon and Tagbilaran cathedrals. In the first, Selma blessed and enthroned during the celebration the image of St. Ezekiel Moreno, an Augustinian Recollect saint who began his mission in the Philippines. On his feast on August 19, Dionisio Selma celebrated the Eucharist in Tagbilaran. In his homily he highlighted the commitment of the Augustinian Recollect missionaries with the Eucharist as the bread of life. “His strength, where did it come from? Eucharistic bread, which is Jesus,” he said.

With the phrase “Gratitude for the fruitful evangelization of the island of Bohol”, the different celebrations highlighted the importance that the Augustinian Recollects have had in the evangelization of the population of Bohol. In line with this, all the celebrations also highlighted the celebration of the OAR Vocational Expedition, framed in this anniversary by the importance that the mission has in the Augustinian Recollect vocation.

The Augustinian Recollects were present at the celebrations that took place in the first eight cities of Bohol in which the missionaries were established: Jagna, Loboc, Dauis, Loay, Baclayon, Loon and Maribojoc, as well as Tagbilaran and Talibon. In the parishes of these places, the Augustinian Recollects of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno celebrated multiple eucharistic celebrations together with the diocesan priests who are currently in these places.

The first eight missionaries in Bohol

Fray Pedro de Santa Bárbara – appointed provincial Vicar of the island – Fray Pedro de la Concepción, Fray Juan de San Ignacio de Loyola, Fray José de Santa Orosia, Fray Nicolás de la Asunción, Fray Julián de Santa Ana, Fray Manuel de la Consolation and Fray Carlos de San Miguel were the first recollects who arrived in Bohol. The nine friars were entrusted to each of the nine parishes that the Jesuit religious had built on the island. Unfortunately, the last of them, Fray Carlos de San Miguel, died two months before his parochial assignment.

The Augustinian Recollects arrived in the middle of the Dagohoy Rebellion, which was a real challenge for the religious missionaries. Despite this, they did not cease their evangelizing work until 1898 due to the Philippine revolution. Then, the Recollects left 33 parishes for the 249,994 Boholanos. It was only five years. They would return in 1904 to administer the ministries of Mabini, Valencia, Candijay, Clarçin, Dueron and Guindulman.

In 1937, the Augustinian Recollects finally left Bohol. In those 169 years since their arrival, the Augustinian Recollects established parishes and prayer centers in 27 other cities on the island. The Augustinian Recollect historian Emilio Edgardo Quilatan said that after the departure of the Order, “the Christian faith grew continuously and continued to bear fruit in priestly and religious vocations.” The Augustinian Recollect family is still present. Although the Order of Augustinian Recollects left Bohol, the Augustinian Recollects Sisters continue to carry out their mission in Guindulman, Jagna and Talibon.

Images: Augustinian Recollects Philippines