Bishop Marcelino Antonio Malabanan Maralit of Marinduque told Radio Veritas Asia, in an exclusive interview, that being a bishop is more about serving God's mission than it is about having a position.
Bishop Junie, as he is fondly known, speaking to Kasmir Nema of Radio Veritas Asia, explained that he was appointed bishop not because he was a perfect priest, but because of God's benevolence.
“You're going to become a bishop. Not because you are a perfect priest, you're a good priest, but because of the goodness of God,” the bishop explained.
He added, “It's not a position, it's a mission."
Aware of his colorful past, being selected as a bishop filled him with skepticism; he even questioned whether it was God's calling.
"I prayed, and I asked God if it was really His will that I would be a bishop. Knowing my past, I was hesitant to accept the appointment, he said, adding that “I asked God if it was really what He wanted for me."
Bishop Junie was born in Manila on May 18, 1969. On December 31, 2014, Pope Francis appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Boac. He became Boac's fourth Bishop on March 13, 2015.
He studied sacred theology at the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, during 1989–1994. He studied ecclesiastical history at the Pontificia Universita Santa Croce in Rome from 1999 to 2003.
The island province of Marinduque, which is 160 kilometers southeast of Manila and covers 959.2 square kilometers, is the location of the Diocese of Boac, where he is the bishop.
The diocese consists of 14 parishes, and 4 schools, and is served by 40 clergies. Other ministries of the diocese include programs for social action, formation, and church construction.
Regarding his ministries in the diocese, the Bishop emphasized that, when viewed through the lens of mission, the problems and barriers in the diocese's ministries were a reminder of how much we needed God.
“I always say that the obstacles will be part of it. And I think one of the things that obstacles remind us about is that they remind us how much we need God,” he said.
He went on to say, "We need people because if we attempt it on our own, not only will we face challenges, but we will also fail."
When asked about the significance of transparency in his diocese's mission efforts, he responded that it was essential for those with doubts to know where the funds were going in the diocese’s projects.
The first part of the interview, talking about his life, vocation, and ministry in the diocese, is published on YouTube: https://youtu.be/RZZeX1y6PlM
Read the full transcript of the interview below.
VOICE OF ASIAN BISHOPS
RVA Interview with Bishop Marcelino Antonio Malabanan Maralit of Marinduque, Philippines, by Fr. Kasmir Nema from Radio Veritas Asia.
Kasmir Nema: You have served in the diocese of Boac for more than seven years. Can you provide us with a general picture of your diocese?
Well, to give that general picture, I would like to say an anecdote that I had with the Holy Father when I was a new bishop in the year 2015 September of 2015, when we had an audience of the new Bishops with the Holy Father and I will always remember the instructions that they gave us to approach the Holy Father, say our name and mention our diocese And I did that with the Holy Father, Pope Francis when he heard the word Diocese of Boac or the name that is Diocese of Boac he suddenly stopped and with a puzzled face said mmm Boac then I told him Holy Father it's a small island province of Marinduque and I would remember that because he started laughing. He started laughing and then he told me. Oh, now I know why I assigned you there that you see small Bishop small. So if I'm going to give a picture of my diocese, the small diocese. It has only for big dioceses or archdioceses in the Philippines. Our diocese is almost like a Vicariate for them.
Fr. Kasmir: In the 2018 interview, titled heart talk with the Shalom World. You stated that you were crying during prayer upon learning that you had chosen to be Bishop. Can you tell us more about the story and perhaps the Vocation of you being a bishop?
Well, well, it's a long story because it was December of 2014 when I was asked to go to the nunciature and I had no idea. I was going to be appointed Bishop. I simply thought that I was being asked to go there because of the visit of the Holy Father, the Holy Father was planning to visit the Philippines in January of 2015. So, when I went to the nunciature, I was expecting that they were going to ask me to do something to help with that visit. And I even thought that I was going to be a translator for the Holy Father because I know Spanish, But when I got there, the nunciature, Archbishop Pinto gave me a letter. And that letter was a letter. Then when I open, surprised me and amazed me because suddenly, I was puzzled, it said that I was being appointed. The bishop of the Diocese of the Boac.
I would always remember the first question. I asked the nuncio if I could not accept the appointment. but you told me that I have five to ten days to pray over it. And then from there, let's see what my decision was I went home to Batangas, but I am really from the archdiocese of Lipa. And my first action, as always, was to go to the Carmelite Monastery where I am so comfortable praying, and I went to the Blessed Sacrament, and when I was in the Blessed as well in front of the Blessed Sacrament I pray and I asked God if it was really his will that I would be Bishop knowing my past I was hesitant to accept the appointment but at the same time, of course asking God, if it is really what he wanted for me. So, while praying for whatever reason, it was a first in my spiritual experiences that I was suddenly flooded with memories. Images of my past and that past hurt me because I had a very colorful past some of it was very sinful everything that was not good was suddenly reminded and it felt very heavy for me. I felt so guilty that I suddenly thought that God really wanted me not to accept it. I felt so guilty that I started crying I started crying in front of the Blessed Sacrament because I, the burden of my guilt was sold so clearly to me. So, with that, I went home. I went to my parish. And when I was in the parish after a few days, I received a call from Monsignor Horgan, who was the Secretary of the new show back then and he was asking me, so what is your answer? So, I told him I'm not going to accept any more the position of bishop, but he asked me also the
question, why? So I had to tell him my story of what happened to me before the Blessed Sacrament. And I told him of the experience itself. Then he told me, maybe you would like to pray more and I smiled and said Monsignor, I don't know if anything will change. If I prayed more, I don't think I would like to do that because I felt that if I prayed more, I don’t feel more guilty. But he told me if I want, you can talk to somebody about my experience because when I received the appointment, the instruction is always some Secreto quantification mean, to say, I cannot speak of it to anyone now because it is under that law of some secret.
Now, under the Pope's papal, secret. So I couldn't tell anyone about the experience, but now Monsignor Horgan told me, you can talk to somebody, right? He asked me, whom would you like, to talk to? And I said, I would like to talk to Bishop Renaldo Evangelista, who was my predecessor here in the diocese of Boac. And it's not a good friend, because he's also from the Archdiocese of Lipa. And when I talk to bishop Ray evangelist, I was given that permission. I told him of my experience and it changed everything, because when he heard my experience, my story, he told me, you know what, you need now for you.
I think you already know what the bishop is really all about. It is not a position, but rather a mission because now, you know, you're going to become a bishop. Not because you are a perfect priest, you're a good priest, but because of the goodness of God, so now we great clarity, you know, it's not a position, it is a mission and then it as well, he gave me an instruction, go back to the Blessed Sacrament and pray. Now don't ask anymore what God wants from you just simply tell Him. I trust you. So that was my experience. Basically, it's a spiritual experience that brought me towards the acceptance itself of the appointment but with great humility knowing I'm but a sinner and it is only with God's grace that I have become a bishop.
Kasmir Nema: From these Ministries and programs. What are the biggest challenges or obstacles? You face and most importantly, I believe how do you tackle them?
Well, again, I always believed that obstacles should be part of the experience. I always joke around saying and telling people that without them, there is no excitement. So I always say that the obstacles will be part of it. And I think one of the things that obstacles remind us about, Is that they remind us that we need God, first and foremost. And then we need others because when you do it alone, not only will there be obstacles. You will really find it almost impossible to do something about something.
So the obstacle that we keep on seeing this one that we are on an island and information is very crucial for one. For example, when we were rebuilding houses, a lot of people did that even know where Marinduque do in our diocese, and a lot of people didn't even know that we were hit by the typhoon. So, I always thought that that is one obstacle that we have, the lack of information about us second is that, of course, some people, people would always question the motivations that you have had or you have when you have a project, but I always believe that's part of the process. Because if people don't doubt you Then you don't push yourself enough to show that what you're doing is valid and true. And sometimes when people don't use it, they become now the source of your own I think ability to just simply show that what I'm doing is real.
What I'm doing is that for myself I become more challenged to be more transparent and things. So I think the doubts that people have when we have projects are good for us, Even with thought for the day I would always remember that one of the obstacles we had when we started the thought for the day project, was that there were people saying that it won't last all some people would say, what are you doing? But at the end of the day, if you believe in what you're doing, all of those questions should be answered. But by your own actions, the same with the housing project, of course, transparency is very important so that the people who doubt you know that the money was being used, and in fact, there was somebody who messaged me before saying that it's a waste of money and then he used the term, the church people of the churches, believe, robbed the Church of this month. And all I have to do is I don't worry.
We will be transparent about it and then I challenge that person. If you want to come I'll show you where the money went. I'll show you the accounting of the and then maybe you can help us, maybe you can give donations also for rebuilding other houses. So, things like that would always say no and, of course, one of the challenges I believe is part of the experience. Also, is that somehow you feel that? At the problems are greater than you usually. I don't know. Every year a typhoon passes by you rebuild a few houses. A lot of houses will be destroyed again.
You try to reach as many as possible through thought for the day and yet you see yourself with 1000 viewers and 2,000 viewers, then you suddenly see somebody who's hitting another person with 1 million viewers, and then you say, what's the use of what I'm doing here and yet? And yet when these obstacles come, when these challenges come that's when I realize. That's where the mission really is seen because it's easy but because this is what I have to do, then it becomes a mission and that's why I always say.
The obstacles themselves are a reminder of how much we need God. Because without the subsurface I won't. Maybe I might same with the housing project, of course, transparency is very important so that the people who doubt you know that the money was being used, and in fact, there was somebody who messaged me before saying that it's a waste of money and then he used the term, the church people of the churches, believe, robbed the Church of this month. And all I have to do is I don't worry.
We will be transparent about it and then I challenge that person. If you want to come I'll show you where the money went. I'll show you the accounting of the and then maybe you can help us, maybe you can give donations also for rebuilding other houses. So, things like that would always say no and, of course, one of the challenges I believe is part of the experience. Also, is that somehow you feel that? The problems are greater than you usual. I don't know. Every year a typhoon passes by you rebuild a few houses. A lot of houses will be destroyed again.
You try to reach as many as possible through thought for the day and yet you see yourself with 1000 viewers and 2,000 viewers, then you suddenly see somebody who's hitting another person with 1 million viewers, and then you say, what's the use of what I'm doing here and yet? And yet when these obstacles come, when these challenges come that's when I realize. That's where the mission really is seen because it's easy but because this is what I have to do, then it becomes a mission and that's why I always say. The obstacles themselves are a reminder of how much we need God. Because without the subsurface I won't. Maybe I might forget to just simply tell God, Lord, I need you. Now, it was, as far as I'm concerned.
This is a limit of my capacity, but again, the obstacles themselves are part of the process for me.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.