Latest Stories

A commitment to education and vocation


COLUMBIA, Missouri—For six years, Rene Tacastacas juggled his time as a student and as a priest in the United States.

He read the Bible and his university books and, besides celebrating Holy Mass and ministering to the faithful, he was participating in class discourse or conducting research for his dissertation.

“The experience was very enriching,” Fr. Tacastacas said of the time he was pursuing a doctorate degree in rural sociology and at the same time organizing, in remote Missouri villages, Catholic communities where he became well-loved.

His devotion to his studies and his vocation has brought blessings. In May, he received the Outstanding Graduate Student Service Award upon his graduation from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The annual award is given to a graduate student who brings the ideals of the academic community to the world outside the classroom.

Further studies

Tacastacas was parish priest of the remote town of Titay in Zamboanga Sibugay. After naming him vocation director, his Jesuit superiors sent him to the US in 2005, in the belief that he could contribute more to the Jesuits’ commitment to education and research if he pursued further studies.

“I needed… the know-how…to pursue rural development, especially involving work with small farmers in the countryside,” agreed Father Rene who, by that time, already had a master’s degree in sociology (1996) on top of a management engineering degree (1986) from the Ateneo.

When he flew to Missouri in August 2005, Tacastacas’ mission was clear: study hard so he could help in the Jesuits’ mission to assist Filipino farmers. Tacastacas specialized in food and agriculture.

In his first few weeks in the US, he spent his time celebrating private Masses or attending those celebrated by other priests. But there was something missing.

“It made me feel empty and lonely at times,” he recalled. So Father Rene talked to the vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Jefferson City and volunteered to substitute for any priest who was not available.

Soon, he was being sent to remote villages in Missouri, and he found his purest joys as a priest and as a student in the far-flung communities.

Tacastacas would drive out of Columbia on weekends, the trip sometimes taking several hours. It was exhausting but also fulfilling for him to visit American farms, as he had long been interested in agriculture.

First-hand experience

At the farms, he played around with the machinery and gained first-hand experience in American farming that helped him put into shape his doctoral research’s focus on small vegetable farming.

The dissertation sought a model to link small-time vegetable growers in Bukidnon with big fast-food chains. Tacastacas hoped the link would provide farmers sustainable livelihood.

“Getting to know the farmer-parishioners allowed me to view my studies as primarily directed towards helping small farmers back home,” he said.

“There was no disconnect between my priesthood and my being a student,” said the Jesuit, who said Mass for parishioners in small towns, some with populations of less than a thousand.

His graduate courses mostly involved class discussions. The priest made sure he read assigned materials before class. He also joined his classmates in group study sessions.

“Studying away from your home country is never easy and simple,” Tacastacas said, as he had to adjust to a different culture and also had to endure homesickness. He turned to the Filipino community in mid-Missouri for “support during my studies, for companionship and for plentiful Filipino foods at parties and gatherings.”

Father Rene celebrated Mass for the growing community of Filipinos in Columbia composed mostly of doctors and nurses. Columbia has some of America’s top-ranked hospitals. The University of Missouri-Columbia also operates its own hospital.

Filipino parishioners enjoyed his homilies which, aside from reflections, were filled with humor. One of his jokes was about how, when he first arrived in the US, he ate doughnuts that were really hard. He found out later that these were bagels.

His last parish before graduation was at Brunswick, a small town about 90 minutes away from Columbia, where he stayed for about six months. His enthusiasm not only encouraged more parishioners to attend Mass but also revived moribund community organizations.

To show their gratitude, the parishioners contributed funds to support his ministry with small farmers in the Philippines.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Education , Personalities , priesthood , Rene Tacastacas , vocation

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  2. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  6. DOJ to NBI: Arrest Cedric Lee, 4 others
  7. Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it
  8. Estrada, Gigi Reyes denied access to evidence from other respondents
  9. Thoughts on Holy Week
  10. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  3. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  4. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  5. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • Moderate earthquake jolts southern Iran
  • DOH asks co-passengers of OFW carrier to test for MERS-CoV
  • 5.5-magnitude quake hits Sultan Kudarat
  • Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  • Firetruck rams California eatery; 15 injured
  • Sports

  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Durant has 42, Thunder beat Pistons 112-111
  • Walker leads Bobcats over Bulls in OT, 91-86
  • Man City slips further out of title contention
  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • Business

  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • Technology

  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest
  • Marketplace