Home Opinion Columns Bishop Wencing and Maryheights’s Legacy

Bishop Wencing and Maryheights’s Legacy



He was eager to come. We were all eager to see him again after over 50 years. We were all eager to have him regal us with his stories of how he established the youngest Catholic parish in the world, and how he managed to have a Cathedral built in the heart of Mongolia within 25 years. Unfortunately, he could not join us at our CICM Maryheights Minor Seminary (CICMMMS) reunion in Bakakeng, Baguio City last February 8-10, 2019. Monseigneur Wenceslao Padilla, born in September 29, 1949, passed away on a Mongolian autumn evening on September 25, 2018, four months before our reunion, and 4 days shy of his 69th birthday.

Initially bred among close to 300 aspirants at the CICMMMS, dearly called Wencing, Padilla is the only one who has been ordained as bishop, so far, among 18 who made it to the clergy as priests or deacons.

The minor seminary, also known as Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) or Congregationem Immaculata Cordia Mariae (CICM) was founded in 1962 at Home Sweet Home in Baguio City. After a short transient at the Saint Louis University Boys’ High School building, then at Diego Silang, Maryheights pioneers were housed at Maryheights 1965. The seminary eventually closed in 1972. By then, Wencing, was already at the Maryhurst Major Seminary, well on his way to become a priest towards fulfilling his call as a CICM missionary.

After stints in places including Taiwan where he had been provincial superior, stories swirl that when Mongolia opened diplomatic relations with the Vatican, when the Papacy, with the episcopal consecration, at the hands of the then Secretary of Propaganda Fide Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, asked for who would want to serve in Mongolia, Wencing readily raised his hand. In the words of Giorgio Marengo, “He became undoubtedly the only choice for the first bishop of a nascent Church.”

Wikipedia states that “Mongolia is high, cold, and dry. It has an extreme continental climate with long, cold winters and short summers, during which most precipitation falls. The country averages 257 cloudless days a year, and it is usually at the center of a region of high atmospheric pressure.” Given this condition, Wencing’s diet was largely limited to meat as there was no vegetation and, being an Ilocano, missed his ‘dinengdeng.’ Moreover, apart from the dreariness and the coldness, even if he had money, there was really nothing to buy. Couple that with his not being able to communicate at first as the Filipino first Roman Catholic Bishop of Ulaanbataar, Wencing has initially expressed “it was very hard.”

Nonetheless, with his missionary zeal, acquired administrative and personal skills, and dedication since his arrival in 1992, his flock grew in what he considered his home. Apart from an established cathedral, he was able to ordain the first Mongolian native convert into the priesthood. This is amidst a country that is largely Buddhist and Shamanic; and just skirting communism both from Russia and mainland China.

“Missionary zeal, acquired administrative and personal skills, and dedication” are deemed to be the characteristic driving forces that propelled Wencing to bring his vocation and mission in Mongolia to saintly heights. These forces, the seminarians who had their reunion, surmised, had their zygotes in the minor seminary, in Maryheights.

In their sharing sessions, the reunionists testified, as incapsulated in the Maryheights Hymn, “Among the mounts and valleys, in nature’s fairy sites…high reaching for the golden skies…we pray and play and study here…,” although most have not become members of the clergy, their high-school in Maryheights have prepared them well to serve humanity outside of the confines of the seminary. Secluded from the earthly world, confined from morning till night, the seminarians acquired discipline while learning the rudiments of life in the social and physical sciences, developed their personal interrelations skills. All these they applied in whatever vocations they veered into “high reaching for the golden skies” coupled with a tenacious religious touch.

And their better halves and children who accompanied the former seminarians at the reunion had a better grasp of their husband’s or dad’s past and gleamed ‘kaya pala.’ Kaya pala he is disciplined in his readings and study, he could write, is organized, he could deal with people, he is athletic, and have most characteristics of an ideal husband or dad. Lou, wife of Joseph Palafox even said, “his wardrobe in his closet is far more organized than mine.”

Yes, the reunionists reminisced how Maryheights evolved them to be the successful doctors, architects, engineers, professors, businessmen, etc. that they are – well rounded academically, physically, and spiritually. Moreover, they may have not have evolved as saintly as Monseigneur Wenceslao Padilla, but they rose to be part of the crème dela crème in their own lines of vocations.

The former seminarians may have been called but not chosen to be as saintly as Wencing, but they serve humanity in their own Christian way. # nordis.net

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