With the showmanship of a Broadway musical, 11 diocesan priests brought “Paring, Pinoy and Friends: Three Shows for Thanksgiving, Togetherness and Inspiration” to life the evening of Nov. 11 before a full house at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wildwood.
“Ahmen 2,” as it is affectionately called, comes six years after “Ahmen 1,” when the priestly singing sensation debuted in the diocese.
The concert name translates to “Priest, Filipino and Friends” in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, and it perfectly describes the dynamic group that sang and danced their way through two hours of entertainment. The songs ranged from the Beatles to John Legend, from the patriotic to romantic ballads in English, Cebuano and Tagalog. Father Bernard Fernando, who is retired, also performed as a stand-up comedian, and Father Juanito Figura, head of the Filipino Ministry in the Diocese of Orlando and parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish in Orlando, led as master of ceremonies.
This was the third show this year for the Filipino priests of the diocese, who sought to raise money for the Filipino Ministry and to strengthen camaraderie among Filipino priests serving the region. The priests also wanted to thank the Filipino communities and friends in the diocese for their support, especially for their hosting of the second National Assembly of Filipino Priests in the United States in 2014.
“One of our goals was also to encourage vocations through the music, the message of the songs, and to show them that we are also human beings,” said Father Ramon Bolatete of St. Joseph Parish in Lakeland. “We have talents and we have something to offer to the world. And in fact, through the priesthood, we grow more in our vocation and in our knowledge and love of God.”
Father Bolatete served as the troupe’s music director and helped compile the playlist with Father Roy Eco of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Clermont. Father Eco, the appointed production designer, also suggested costume changes and set ideas. They brought in the laity to help with ticket sales, local talent, promotion and execution of set design. Father Bolatete explained the idea came to the group because, “music is an important fiber in the Filipino culture.”
“We are able to sing harmonies together and practice those beautifully, so we were encourage by a few people to hold a concert,” he said. “People said that we’ve got the groove,” Father Eco chuckled. He quoted one of his parishioners who said, “They’re not only good preachers, but they are great singers.”
Laura Jane of St. Joseph Parish in Winter Haven handled choreography. “She guides and inspires us and handles the whole look, even the stage makeup,” Father Bolatete said.
Some of the clergy attended seminary where they had “chant” classes. Father Bolatete also explained that seminaries in the Philippines often use seminarian concerts as fundraisers. “Filipinos love to sing,” he said. “So we were exposed to the stage.” It was natural progression and the response from the community was, “Take it on the road.”
The show required a yearlong commitment on the part of the clergy who started with monthly rehearsals, then twice a week for the past three months.
Some would even like to see the priests perform yearly. The group is giving some thought to making it a ministry, “so as to build up the Filipino community as well as the whole Church in the Diocese of Orlando,” Father Bolatete said.
A Tribute to My Brother Priests
by Bishop Elect, Joseph E. Strickland
A Catholic priest is a man of God but shares all the hopes, fears, dreams, concerns and daily challenges of every other man.
He often finds himself alone but at any moment he may be called into the most significant moments of another persons life. The door bell rings, a cell phone buzzes, there’s a knock on the door or the office phone clangs and in a moment he goes from alone and quiet to “ministry mode” congratulating on a new birth, consoling in the midst of crisis, accepting an invitation to dinner, offering comfort at the news of a death, trying to calm a complaining parishioner or simply accepting the latest blurb that MUST be included in the next bulletin.
He often finds himself surrounded by a crowd of people but at any moment transported to a deep and quiet place where he encounters the Lord alone. Often this occurs at mass when the words from a hymn, a glimpse of a familiar face, as favorite phrase from scripture or an oft repeated line from the ritual of the mass cause him to pause and be reminded of the deep purpose of his life.
In between these moments the priest finds himself going about the business of life with all his brothers and sisters. The myriad of normal daily life images that every man encounters from the sublime thoughts of the mysteries of God encountered on a marble altar to the realization that he really does need to see what that “check engine” light on the dashboard of his car is all about.
When priests fail those they are called to serve, when they stumble in their own sinfulness or when their patience wears thin……….remember they are just men.
Men called by the Lord to do great things in the name of Jesus Christ God’s own son.
Pray for your priest as they pray for you.