Cebuano priest ordained as bishop
Serving coffee and carrying the luggage of a cardinal would have been easier.
But Msgr. Dennis Villarojo said God intended him to shepherd His flock as a bishop.
“Now I understand what it means to be asked by the Lord, ‘Peter, do you love me more than these? Feed my sheep’,” said Most Rev. Dennis Villarojo as he was elevated to the Order of Bishops during his episcopal ordination this morning.
About 200 priests and over 30 bishops from around the country took part in the solemn rites held at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown Cebu City.
Villarojo’s appointment to the episcopate, written and signed by Pope Francis, was read during the liturgy.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma presided over the Mass and ordination rites, while Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, were the co-consecrators.
Present during the event were Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, and Judge Alexander Acosta–a friend of Villarojo.
Clad in red vestments, Villarojo lied flat, face down before the altar as the congregation chanted the litany of saints to invoke the intercession of God’s holy men and women.
As a sign of the episcopate, Villarojo was given a ring, a miter or headdress, a crosier or pastoral staff, and the Book of the Gospels. One by one, all the bishops approached Villarojo and laid their hands upon him to invoke the Holy Spirit.
Villarojo, and Bishop-elect Oscar Florencio of Palo join Bishop Emilio Bataclan as Cebu’s auxiliary bishops.
Florencio, who was present during today’s event, will be ordained at the Palo Cathedral on Sept. 4 before he will be formally welcomed in Cebu on Sept. 7.
Villarojo, who chose the episcopal motto ‘Consolamini Popule Meus (Be Consoled my people), was also given the Titular Bishop of Gisipa.
In a message he delivered before the Mass ended, the soft-spoken but brilliant bishop said his elevation to the episcopacy is nothing but God’s work.
“I thank all of you who are part in the journey of my life. For you, I may be a bishop, but with you I am a fellow pilgrim,” he added.
Villarojo, a 48-year-old native of Cebu City, expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis who appointed him a bishop. Being a bishop, he said, entails great responsibilities.
“At that time (when I served as secretary of Cardinal Vidal), there’s only one person to please; only one person to serve. Now, you have to serve everybody. It must require much love to be taking the responsibility of caring for the flock not only for a six-year term or two but for a lifetime,” Villarojo said.
Cardinal Vidal, who delivered the homily, could not help but expressed the joy seeing his former secretary elevated to the episcopate.
“Today my friends, I am very, very happy that my dream came true. Msgr. Dennis has been with me during my years of service in the archdiocese. He’s an eloquent writer and a trustworthy companion in the apostolate,” he said.
“At first, I was so afraid of him. Why? Because he was too gwapo (handsome) . And so he got the first attention from the crowd,” added the cardinal who drew laughter from the congregation.
Vidal advised Villarojo to “concretize holiness in the episcopal life, to know and relate to the flock, to love and respect the priests, and to never quarrel with women especially with religious sisters.”
After the Mass, priests and lay people rushed to Villarojo to kiss his ring, to send felicitations, and to take photos with the new bishop. In an interview, he said he wants to bring God’s presence to the people.
“I’m just a human being. But I hope to bring God’s presence to people in my little ways as a bishop,” he said.
Villarojo, the secretary-general of the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), said preparation for next year’s big event in Cebu City shall continue.
Archbishop Palma, in a separate interview, said Villarojo shall remain at the Capitol Parish until the IEC is over.
For 13 years, Villarojo served as private secretary of Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal before he went to Rome for further studies from 1998 to 2001.
When he came back to Cebu, he became the head of the Pastoral Planning Board of the archdiocese.
In 2010, he was appointed team moderator of the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Cebu City.
He was then assigned as secretary-general of the 2016 IEC. Villarojo finished his philosophy studies at the San Carlos Seminary in Cebu City.
He completed his theology studies at the University of Sto. Tomas and earned his doctorate degree for philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.
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