Rome’s youngest parish priest got calling in Albay | Inquirer News

Rome’s youngest parish priest got calling in Albay

By: - Correspondent / @mbjaucianINQ
/ 07:23 AM October 29, 2017

MEETING HIS ROLE MODEL Fr. Ted with Pope Francis (left)

LIGAO CITY — The Lord’s calling came very early for Fr. Bonifacio “Ted” Sarte Lopez VI, who was recently installed as the youngest parish priest in Rome, Italy.

Lopez, 47, who was born in Sta. Cruz village here, will give pastoral care to the faithful in Saints Elizabeth and Zacchary Church in Rome after his installation this Sunday.


As an altar boy at the St. Stephen Protomartyr church in this city in Albay province, Ted loved collecting religious objects particularly rosaries and images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, his eldest sister Maria Teresita Lopez recalled.

“Ted was very fond of cutting out (pictures) of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Friday edition of a nationally circulated newspaper. Then he would put the pictures between his clothes inside the closet,” Teresita said.


But it was Fr. Eulogio “Oloy” Lawenko Jr., a priest who used to serve in the same church, who inspired Lopez to finally choose the priesthood, she added.

Flower offerings

It was while serving as sakristan under Lawenko that Lopez’s future vocation formed in his mind.

In fact, the boy had dreams of becoming a Pope, said a friend and neighbor of the Lopezes, Maria Concepcion Samson, 53.

When he was 6 or 7 years old, the boy would often sleep over at their house, Samson said. Before going home, the young Lopez would ask permission to pick flowers from their garden in exchange for the giant guavas that he had picked himself. The boy would carefully place the flowers in a hat he had turned over like a bag with a handle made of string.

“Little did I know that he would offer the flowers to their Sto. Niño (the Child Jesus) at home,” the neighbor said.

When he finished his elementary years at Ligao West Central School, Lopez decided that he wanted to enter the seminary. But his parents were initially against the idea, Samson said.


If they won’t give him permission to enter the priesthood, they could disown him, Samson quoted the young Lopez as telling his parents.

They relented, and Lopez entered St. Gregory The Great Minor Seminary in Tabaco City for high school.

Good voice

“He did not excel academically but he was so full of passion and love for the Lord and the church. A very jolly priest—no dull moment with him at all,” recalled Msgr. Ramon Tronqued, rector at St. Gregory the Great seminary, of the young priest.

Lopez was a very friendly guy, said former classmate Jay Rebanal.  He had never heard of Lopez getting into a fight or getting angry with fellow seminarians during their four years’ stay at the seminary, he added.

“He excels in music. (He) has a very good voice. In fact, he was the singer in our batch,” Rebanal added.

Lopez went on to earn his Theology degree and master’s with cum laude honors in Italy.

“He left the country when he was 16 and got to Rome through the help of an uncle, (the late) Bishop Concordio Sarte,” his sister Teresita said.

Lopez was ordained in 1994.  Prior to becoming a parish priest, he was assigned to Parrochia Nostra Signora Di Lourdes in Italy.

The priest has been staying in Rome for the past 30 years, but visited the country briefly in 2015 during Pope Francis’ pastoral visit.

Catalyst of faith

For Ligao City Mayor Patricia Gonzalez Alsua, a close friend of Lopez, the priest is “a catalyst of strong faith and has a positive disposition in life.”

She added: “His enthusiasm to share his wisdom and present himself with humility to the people is truly admirable. He never fails to look back on his modest beginnings and be of help to his family and community. He has an amazing ability to smile in the midst of adversity and to defy uncertainties in life with great optimism.”

Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi said having a Filipino priest in Rome was “a big honor.”

“We are all very proud of him,” Lopez’s sister Teresita said, adding that the news came as a surprise to the family. They only knew about it two weeks before his installation.

The priest had asked the family to pray for him so he would be able to overcome temptations that come his way, she added. “We also asked him to pray for peace and unity in the country and in the whole world,” his sister said.

Lopez’s 83-year-old mother, Teresita, spoke for the family when she said that her youngest son has made her “the happiest mother on earth.”

“All praises and thanks to God for the fulfillment of his dream,” she said.

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