Adding an unusual flavor to his pastoral ministry, a Catholic archbishop in the Philippines went undercover to personally find out how parishes under his jurisdiction deal with the poor. Weeks before assuming his post as the new head of Lipa, Archbishop Gilbert Garcera disguised himself as a farmer and visited parish offices. The archbishop went to great lengths to make sure he wasn't recognized, even wearing dirty and ragged clothes. "I wanted to know how [parish] secretaries are dealing with the poor," said the prelate. "I went into their offices and I know what is happening there," he said.
The 58-year old archbishop said he was satisfied by what he saw, but added that some offices continue to face challenges in serving people. To address issues in his archdiocese, Archbishop Garcera is conducting a survey "to better understand and meet the spiritual needs" of people, especially the youth. He said the study will involve the clergy and lay people from the archdiocese's 64 parishes and 40 church-run schools. "I want to reflect on one question: What are you doing to shape the minds and consciences of our young people today," said the prelate. He said the result of the survey "will help us shape how we could continue to find ways to meet the needs of our people." The 58-year-old archbishop said he wants to make sure that everyone in his archdiocese finds a home and place in the Catholic Church.
Garcera was bishop of Daet from 2007 until Feb. 2, 2017, when Pope Francis transferred him to Lipa in Batangas. He was installed archbishop of Lipa on April 21, taking over from Archbishop Ramon Arguelles who stepped down. At his formal installation at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Batangas, Archbishop Garcera plans to visit the different parishes, besides visiting Catholic schools and parish organizations as well as examining existing programmes and improving services to the faithful. “To be an archbishop, to be a bishop, to be a priest is not about position… it’s about pastoral charity. According to Pope Francis it’s about service,” Archbishop Garcera said. He urged for prayers as he took up the reins of one of the largest archdioceses of the Philippines. (Source: UCAN)