Photos By Meryl Molina
Fifty years have passed since a man of the Recollects became an ordained priest. Since 1971, he has been in mission in Philippine Recollect schools and communities.
Rev. Fr. Rafael E. Cabarles, OAR, the octogenarian Recollect, who is among the oldest priests in the province of St. Ezekiel Moreno today, achieved yet another milestone in his colorful career last June 29, 2021. Fr. Cabarles celebrated his Sacerdotal Anniversary in true Recollect fashion, which means the event was Marian, relevant to the Church’s call to be “Siempre en Misiòn” and communitarian.
As a true Marian, Fr. Cabarles pays tribute to Mother Mary by dedicating a Chaplet to the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at Monteagudo Recoletos, Barangay Rizal, San Carlos City on June 27. The exclusive religious event marked the first of Fr. Cabarles’s three-day Golden Jubilee festivity. The Immaculate Conception is his patroness and spiritual mother because after all it was the Memorare that inspired in him the priestly vocation. Beyond coincidence is the fact that Fr. Cabarles’s biological mother was also named Maria.
Relevant to the Mission
Months prior to the anniversary Fr. Cabarles picked the central theme around which his homily and activities revolved.
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attach and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever.” 2 Timothy 4:18
It is the Lord’s faithfulness that rescued him during the trials of his priesthood and the challenges he faced as school administrator, he stated during the Thanksgiving Mass at the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva – Recoletos Chapel on June 29.
It can be recalled that Fr. Cabarles took on the challenge of recruiting young men to become Recollects. The tasked proved to be frustrating in many ways after countless failed vocations. However, Fr. Cabarles found assurance in an even longer list of successful priests and religious, who he had personally recruited.
Among them is the prior provincial Rev. Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR, who would have attended the anniversary sans the pandemic. Fr. Selma thanked his vocation promoter in a video greeting. The prior provincial added that among the many anecdotes which Fr. Cabarles told the “Bayawak Story” is his favorite.
“I did not expect that they [would come] because of the pandemic,” the octogenarian said in mirth as he opened his homily. His Recollect brothers from nearby Bacolod, Talisay and Ayungon communities arrived on June 28 to celebrate his career and times. The brothers, who were constricted from travelling due to protocols sent their felicitations through videos which were compiled into a mini–documentary. Each greeting contained a brief recollection of the inspiration of Fr. Cabarles on their mission and vocation.
The festivity ended with Fr. Cabarles sending off his visiting brothers and selected guests back to the communities where each of their mission belonged.
That June 29, while the golden sun was poised to set over Colegio de Sto. Tomas Recoletos, Fr. Cabarles’s Home Community since 2004, the accomplished Recollect and his loyal Japanese Spitz, Mik-mik, ambled the familiar trail to the Grotto of the Immaculate Conception. There the priest and Marian-at-heart lighted candles and whispered prayers to the Mother who interceded for his 50 years of priesthood. Undoubtedly, the same Mother will intercede for him as he moves forward to the next 50 years.