A Filipino Salesian missionary who has contributed to promoting the Word of God and liturgy through printing and translating works in a national language in East Timor marked his 50th year of priesthood.
Father Rolando Fernandez, SDB, marked his golden jubilee of priestly life in Baucua on the feast day of St. Dominic Savio on May 6 at the St. Anthony Cathedral.
Baucau is located 122 kilometers east of the capital, Dili, of East Timor.
East Timor Salesian Provincial, Father Anacleto Pires, with some priests from the Diocese of Baucau and some Salesian priests, concelebrate in the thanksgiving Mass of Fernandez.
Thousands of people, including some nuns, members of the Salesian family, novices and pre-novices, government representatives, students, and young people, attended the event in a joyful thanksgiving spirit, praying and celebrating God’s love through the person of Fernandez upon his 40 years of living and serving Timorese people.
Before joining other missionaries working in Timor-Leste in the 1980s, Amu Orlando, as he was known to the locals, spent the first ten years of his missionary life in Papua New Guinea.
The celebration occurred in Baucau since Fernandez worked there as its parish priest (1992–1994) and principal and founder of the well-known Escola Secundária Santo António (ESSA) Teulale-Baucau.
Hailing from Pangasinan, Philippines, Fernandez did lots of missionary work when he became the parish priest of Baucau.
The most notable was his work on a printing press and translating the Word of God into the national language, Tetum, said Salesian Father J. Mota, who was in charge of the East Timor Selesian social communication team.
Fernandez provided people with materials for prayers and worship in any liturgical celebration in East Timor, Asia’s second-largest Catholic country after the Philippines.
Besides, one of his legacies that will live on in the hearts of young Timorese throughout the country is the organization of an event for young people in Timor-Timur at the time, the Cruz Jovens, which Pope St. John Paul II initiated in Rome on April 22, 1984 (the first ever World Youth Day).
In his homily, Fernandez thanked the clergy and Catholics for their generosity.
"Priestly duty is not a right but God’s gift. It is God who, in His great love, bestows this duty on the priests. It is God’s trust to elect and raise men to serve God’s people," Fernandez said.
"Humbled by God’s grace, he renders his service to people," he said.
Sharing his vocation story and the influence of his parents and family members in discerning his desire to become a priest in the Philippines, Fernandez said he saw the hand of God guiding him in his vocation to the priesthood.
As the saying goes, "The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree," one might say that Fernandez and his parents are similar in attitudes, behavior, and mindset.
One of the most memorable events that could have changed his life was his father's visit to a Don Bosco Technical School in the Philippines. To his surprise, his father saw the children making shoes, sewing, carpentry, and mechanical and electrical work.
His father bought a pair of shoes for him, and a Salesian priest gave him a booklet and images of Mary Help of Christians, Don Bosco, and Dominic Savio. After he returned home, his father told him, "Next year, you will go to Don Bosco School."
Indeed, he went. From there, he saw the life of the Salesians, learned from them, and desired to be like them. Ultimately, he became one of them, a Salesian brother, and then, later, a Salesian priest forever.
Lastly, as a Salesian, Fernandez feels otherwise about the great impact of becoming a sign and bearer of God’s love, especially for young people.
He is receiving so much love from his brothers and superiors, who trust him and have entrusted some responsibilities beyond his abilities to his care. The love from his former students, the children, and the people gives so much meaning to his life.
After the homily, Fernandez renewed his religious vows before Father Anacleto Pires, SDB, Provincial of East Timor, Father Manuel Ximenes, SDB, Parish Priest of Baucau, and Father Agnelo Moreira, SDB, Rector of the Baucau community.
Fernandez becomes a living testimony of the love of God, first to himself and then to other people, especially the young.
After the final blessing, a few representatives from different representatives expressed their gratitude to Fernandez for his presence and for living and working for the Church in Timor-Leste, particularly in Baucau.
"Through his example of life, there are many vocations for the religious life (nuns and priests). Father Fernandez, just like a drop of honey, has attracted so many young people, boys and girls, to embrace the religious or priestly life," said Father Anacleto.
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