Msgr. Cris’ monastery in Talisay continues serving God

By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol February 02,2014 - 11:00 AM

Members of the Society of the Angel of Peace assist Msgr. Cristobal Garcia in celebrating Mass at the Shrine of Jesus of Nazareth in Talisay City in this 2007 file photo. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

With their chief shepherd in hot water and out of Cebu,  they could have easily disbanded.

But  the Society of the Angel of Peace (SAP),  a monastic society  founded in 1992 by Msgr. Cristobal Garcia,  continues its work in Talisay City, where they have a church and  a monastery with about 70 seminarians.

“By God’s grace , we continue what we do.  If the Lord called us to serve him, we shall endure and persevere whatever adversities come our way,” said one SAP brother, who asked  to remain unnamed in the interview.

SAP brothers and  sisters, distinguished by their brown-and-cream robes, assist in Masses and other liturgical celebrations of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and other priests.

They also run the San Pedro Calungsod Shoppe that sells religious items beside the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and print the “Mag-Ambahan Kita” a monthly leaflet which contains daily Gospel readings, prayers and the order of the Mass widely used by parishes.

In a visit yesterday to the  church compound in barangay Cansojong, Talisay, an unfinished  two-story building, reportedly   the “dream museum” where Msgr. Garcia had planned to house his extensive private collection of Sto. Niño icons and other religious figures.

Garcia was suspended   from his priestly duties by the Vatican  in mid-2012 before the National Geographic magazine  released its October issue and whose  cover story “Ivory Worship” mentioned the Cebu monsignor as “one of the best-known ivory collectors in the Philippines.”  The suspension was for a different reason — a revived case of child abuse involving an altar boy in the United States about 30 years ago which the Vatican is now investigating.

Recently the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Region 7 said it   closed its investigation of Garcia after finding “insufficient” evidence in his alleged involvement in ivory smuggling.

Of his  collection of almost 5,000 religious icons, only three appeared to have ivory parts. The NBI, however, does not posses the  expertise to  determine the age of the ivory and whether it was acquired before the 1989 global ban against ivory.

The NBI said the allegations  in the article by NatGeo reporter Bryan Christy remain as  hearsay but the case can be  reopened if new evidence will surface.

The accusations against their founder,  caused SAP members  much pain.

“Msgr. Cris has done so much for the Church and just like that, everything seemed to be forgotten. But that’s how it is if you serve the Lord,” said the SAP brother.

The young man said the controversies putting Garcia in a bad light was the “work of the devil.”

 

SAP FOUNDER

Garcia founded the religious society in  1992 with a focus on liturgical services. The chapel built there is now  the Archdiocesan Shrine of Hesus Nazareno.

When the Vatican had Garcia removed from all his positions in the Cebu Archdiocese in 2012,   Archbishop Jose Palma assumed  leadership of the SAP but day-to-day operations are  handled by three priests who were former SAP brothers.

The three, ordained in  2010, are  Fr.  Romeo  Vitor,  Fr. Alvin Medina and Fr. Rhanmar Singuran.

SAP  also has a school for brother seminarians who are taking the  4-year  AB Philosophy course. Garcia’s  private collection of religious icons were  housed in the Talisay shrine   with some items displayed during Christmas and special occasions.

 

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