On November 4-7, 2014, I attended the 2nd General Assembly of the National Association of Filipino Priests - USA, in Orlando, Florida. The theme for "Paring Pinoy 2014" (Filipino Priests 2014) was "Nurturing, Sharing and Witnessing Our Call". There were more than three hundred Filipino priests attending, who serve in eighty-eight dioceses and archdioceses in thirty-five states across the USA.
The three Filipino priests from Alaska were Fr. Vincent Blanco of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fr. Nelson Marilag of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks and me. We had the wonderful opportunity of having a four day reunion with our classmates and schoolmates who are serving throughout the USA. There was never a dull moment with our friends and brother priests, and we were able to share our joys and the challenges of serving communities composed of people from different cultures and languages. Like a kite that rises high with the wind against it, these challenges make us rise to the occasion, serving our people more wholeheartedly.
Our speakers inspired and challenged us with topics such as "The Challenges of the New Evangelization to the 21st Century Priests", by Cardinal Antonio Tagle of Manila; "Interplay of Faith and Culture in Priestly Ministry", by Cardinal Orlando Quevdeo, OMI of Cotabato; "I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me"; "The USCCB Perspective on the Filipino Catholics in America" by Archbishop Sartain of Seattle; "Filipino Priests and the Mission of the Church in America", by Archbishop Wenski of Miami; "Effective Leadership in the Light of Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium: by Archbishop Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; "The Joy of the Priesthood" by Bishop Kicanas of Tucson; "Current Moral Issues: Challenges in Priestly Ministry" by Bishop McElroy, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco; "A Priest of Others: The Priest's Search for Meaning" by Bishop Tyson of Yakima; and "Effective Preaching" by Bishop Dimarzio.
One thing that stood out in our General Assembly was the vibrant and joyful participation of our lay volunteers who gave their time, talents and treasure in the preparation of the assembly and during the assembly itself. I met new friends from the Orlando community and those who came from neighboring states just to serve the assembly. We were one in the Lord - both the servant leaders and the faithful - serving one another.
Our next General Assembly will be November 6-10, 2017 in Galveston, Texas. I am looking forward to the next assembly with my friends and brother priests three years from now! Deo voluntas! God willing!
Fr. Luz C. Flores - Pastoral Director, HSC