Jesus Christ is calling Maurice

>> Sunday, February 21, 2010

Alfred P. Dizon

(Rev. Fr. Marcial ‘Marcs’ Castañeda writes this week’s column)
BONTOC, Mountain Province -- He was once a simple and humble school boy at Saint Vincent’s Elementary School who listened attentively to the calling of God and now he is a CICM priest ready for the mission.

I recall the time when our group (Bontoc college seminarians; Glendon de Guzman, Vincent Sagandoy and my humble self) visited them in 1993 for a vocation animation. He was among the naughty, ordinary and unassuming grade six pupils in one of the corners of the classroom. But he was behaved and quiet that time. Now he is the first “Ifontok” ordained priest in the congregation and the second Catholic priest from our alma mater, MPGCHS, batch 1997.

The missionary zeal of Rev. Fr. Maurice enabled him to survive the difficult formation years and the many odds that even almost gutted his life in the hinterlands of Africa. Before saying more about his life and his testimonies let me quickly say something about the CICM.

CICM is an acronym of the Latin name, Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae and translated in English as Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is a Belgian Roman Catholic missionary congregation founded by Rev. Fr. Théophile Verbist in 1862. The congregation traces its genesis in Scheut, Anderlecht, a suburb of Brussels. Hence, they are also called the Scheut Fathers or Scheutists.

The missionary work of the congregation reached as far as China, Mongolia, Congo and the Philippines. The CICM were the first missionaries in the early 1900 that succeeded in the evangelization of the Montanosa as evidenced by the Christian faith we have now.

Fr. Maurice’s initial motivation was not actually clear. Nevertheless, as he was growing in the seminary his drive was being purified. His intention to be a missionary priest became very vivid when he arduously struggled to live with the poor in Zambia.

His faith was tested with fire and his vocation was weathered with “near death experiences.” I wish to quote directly his candid answers with these inquiries. What influenced you to the priesthood? Why did you choose the CICM?

“I humbly entered the seminary with the thought of just experiencing the seminary life, to have an adventure and to make a difference of myself. These shallow intentions were deepened as I went along the formation. I realized that it is possible to become a priest in spite of my weaknesses. It was through my poverty that I came to love this kind of missionary challenges God wants me to tread. It is indeed a faith journey full of hope. It is a response done out of love to His invitation, “A missionary of Love.” I didn’t understand why God chose me. But I firmly believe, there are greater reasons behind the human doubts. God loves me. He never abandoned me during my miserable moments in the seminary and in my missionary endeavors in Zambia. These are my inspirations to be a missionary.”

Undeniably, the honesty of Fr. Maurice enabled him to realize his calling, i.e. recognizing the grace of God operating in his life. Very interestingly, Maurice is not just a name picked out of the blue for the sake of having a name or for record purposes. It has its significant story.

He was born in August 3, 1980 and was christened by Fr. Mauricio Lidwino with the name Maurice obviously linked with the minister’s name and later traced from the CICM anthropologist, Fr. Maurice. His mother Christina Sangca-an Liswid is a native of Tocucan and Samoki who nourished little Maurice with her good examples. She is a mother of three where Maurice is the eldest. Esteban Ta-ag Galasa, his father who was once a seminarian, hails from Tumpec, Kapangan. His father is an active lay minister.

Unfortunately, he was stricken by an ailment that crippled him including his services to the church. It was through his father that he was introduced to serve in the holy mass as a sacristan which with no doubt became a little opening to his vocation. Fr. Maurice apparently is a blend of many tribes but born and grown in Bontoc.

Maybe the mixture of the many tribes running in his blood (except of course the malaria he acquired also running in his veins) summarizes how he was able to endure all the pains and sufferings he encountered. I don’t know if you agree with me, the stronger fighting spirit of this young priest is undoubtedly traced from his Tocucan blood which is also true with my genealogy.

Fr. Maurice is a man who forgets time in terms of storytelling. He has the knack of cracking “holy jokes” with the intention of lifting one’s spirit from sadness. This was perhaps intensified when he graduated AB Philosophy at Saint Louis University in 2002. Accordingly, he was awarded the most behave person in Maryhurst seminary. His longing to understand more his priesthood was fortified during his novitiate in Taytay Rizal (2003).

His theological study at Maryhill in 2007 was crucial for his decision to persevere. Being a man of strong will, he decided to go for his internship program in Zambia where he spent 2 years of successful bouts beating all sorts of life challenges. The vocation account of Fr. Maurice is not complete without telling the story of his beloved saint. I quote his exact words, “My favorite saint is my grandmother, Rosalia Sangca-an Liswid. Though she is not canonized and she will never be, she is my living saint in my heart. She showed me how to become a missionary in her true to life stories as a catechist here in Bontoc.

Sometime, she has to leave her big family in order to reach out to people behind the hidden mountains like Can-eo, Talubin, Dallic, Mainit and Guina-ang. It is my joy now to continue reaching out to people across the mountain just what my grandma did her fruitful years. Though the mountains are too high to scale, still, it is possible because together with God, failure will never overtake me. My determination is strong enough to succeed.”

His love to be with the grassroots and the poor spells Fr. Maurice’s vocation. “I chose CICM because of its missionary charism, i.e. to be at the frontier situation doing mission. Frontier in a sense that missionaries are challenged to work in a place where life is at stake, where life is not comfortable and where there are people most in need of spiritual leaders towards their journey to God.

For me, as if, CICM means, ‘Christ Is Calling Maurice.’ Indeed we are called by Jesus out of love and it is also out of love that we respond positively. Though we leave our friends, acquaintances, family and country to go out into the deep mission, still, Jesus never fails us. He never failed me as his humble servant because he sent the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen my work.”

I hope that these faith experiences of Fr. Maurice will inspire the youth to listen to God’s call and respond willingly and faithfully. I reiterate, priesthood is not a profession. It is a vocation. We pray for more vocations like Fr. Maurice Galasa CICM, an Igorot being sent to the world. Our prayers will be his strength as he goes back to Africa on March 25, 2010. We were once a receiving community, now we are a sending church. I congratulate the family for giving generously their son for the mission. God bless you more.

We congratulate ourselves as well and Happy valentine’s Day to all. Happy birthday to Benelyn Angyoda (Feb. 1), Fr. Val Dimoc (14) and Fr. Felix Bay-ong (19) (For comments and suggestions reach me at 09197850528 or


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