“LAND for them (referring to the Manobos and Higaonons) is not only life, but also it is a repository of culture, their ancestors are there. Land is the repository of their faith, their beliefs, if they are dispossessed of their land, they are dispossessed of their culture. They must have their land to preserve their culture, their environment, their local knowledge and systems of faith.” – Fr./Dr. Randy Odchigue, 2011
Fr. Randy Odchigue hails from Butuan, a city in Agusan Valley and once the capital of Agusan del Norte.
He was born to Jorgenoel G. Odchigue and Lucita S. Calo, a businessman and a school principal.
After his ordination on June 1, 1999 by Bishop Juan de dios Pueblos, he was assigned to St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish, where he ministered to the poorest farmers and fisherfolks in the Agusan River.
They were members of the Manobos and Higaonons tribes. These tribesmen were manipulated to part with their ancestral lands, which contained memories of tribal lives, holder of communities’ beliefs and ultimately, sacred ancestral burial grounds.
He immersed himself in their cultural beliefs, for a year and a half. His first concern was not to convert nor to baptize them, but to support the indigenous people, in their advocacy to stop the encroachment of mining and logging enterprises into their ancestral domain.
After his work with ‘people and life,’ he became the bishop’s secretary — assigned to prepare his homilies, crafted statements and facilitated the schedule of the bishop.
He got his moral calling, in the form of overwhelming stirrings within, in his second year of high school at Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy. As serendipity would have it, he was introduced one morning on Dec. 17, 2011 at 5am, by Immaculate Heart of Mary Church’s Fr. Camilo Pacanza as “Doctor Randy Odchigue,” a graduate of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, who presided over a concelebrated mass, along with Fr. Rodel Balagtas,D.Min., Fr. Anthony Carreon and with them yesterday was Fr. Rey Matunog.
1,000 parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (IHMC) listened to Fr./Dr. Randy’s “well-crafted, brilliant homily”, as described by Fr./Dr. Rodel Balagtas, IHMC pastor, where all pews were filled, 15 minutes before, while more stood by the byways.
Fr./Dr. Randy spoke of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and David, who were part Jesus’ family tree. Tamar and Rahab were prostitutes, Ruth was a descendant of a tribe resulting from an incestuous relationship, while David murdered one of the generals, Uriah.
“The Son of the Most High, powerful against dominions allowed himself to be born into such a family of murderer, prostitutes and product of incest. Why is that?” To which a parishioner replied, “Because you can’t choose your parents.” “That if Jesus family is like our family, a not perfect ordinary family, yet when Jesus came, when he arrived, everything changed. Salvation arrived. So did redemption, “ Fr./Dr. Randy continued.
If Jesus arrived, after 42 generations before him, for example, Eleazar before Mattham, who begat Jacob, who gave birth to Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to a son called Jesus Christ, if we accepted Emmanuel, to be with us, have we now allowed a space in our lives such that Jesus has made a difference in divinity, in grace, in salvation for us that we will remember that the coming of Jesus is now redemption for us? It was such a probing question to a thousand or so parishioners at 5am, so early in the morning, that during offertory, many were wiping tears from their eyes, feeling overwhelmed that Jesus was blocked from entering and was not quite welcome and allowed into our ordinary lives and into ordinary families.
It called to mind how he started in his spiritual journey to priesthood. He completed his BA in Philosophy and English in St. Peter’s College. At San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila, he completed another Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology and after completing his assignment with Bishop de dios Pueblos, he was sent to Belgium.
He completed his doctorate in Sacred Theology, in the field of Ecclesiology, a study of relationships within the Church and the secular community: bishops and pope, bishops with secular powers, and civil society in six years.
His dissertation was on ” Local Church from a Filipino Perspective, ” where he concluded that the Philippine Church can contribute a lot to the Universal Church, primarily because of its cultural manifestation of faith: ” that our celebration of faith is a celebration joy of seeing one another, of being with each other, manifested primarily in our joyous fiesta occasions.”
He described “IHMC in Los Angeles as a very vibrant community, led pastors Fr. Rodel and Fr. Miloy, whose generosity has a multiplier effect. “They do so much for the parishioners that because of that, volunteers are so happy and love and service are poured back to the community. I am recharged here. Their Love begets love for others, diba?”
In Hague, Fr. Randy concelebrated mass for Filipino Catholic Community in 2008, when it celebrated its 7th year anniversary. FCC is a local community in the city of Hague that has been cultivating depth of faith and spirituality amongst its members and they have remained “steadfast in uniting Filipino Catholics and inspiring creative spiritual renewal and evangelism.” (Agnes van de Beek-Pavia).
Fr./Dr. Randy currently teaches in two different seminaries: St. John Vianney in Cagayan de Oro and Seminario Mayor de San Carlos in Cebu. His full time job is being the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fr. Saturnino Urios University, the local diocesan Catholic university of Butuan. He is a smart Catholic intellectual that this author enjoyed discussing larger issues of concerns with him.
An excerpt of our discussion:
“Seminarians today live in a different context, where the traditional barriers that provide some distance from contact with the world are increasingly transgressed with the onset of technology. We need to craft a new framework that allows for a teaching of core values of priesthood and spirituality to allow for their formation wherever they maybe.
First, it calls for intimacy with Jesus, cultivated by prayers, service, reflection, retreats, discernment process where there is a life review of day to day actions, feelings and orientation vs. Scriptures and spirituality.
Second, it calls for the formation of humanity, where it means we are comfortable with our commitments as priests, following vows of celibacy, obedience and simplicity of life.
Third, values of restorative and rehabilitative justice have to be taught in formation. This has relevance in current issues like sexual abuse. I believe that sexual abuse is connected to issues of human formation: an inability to relate in a very human way, a very mature way and in a very spiritual way. Once an abuser, their priestly duties have to be restricted and where they can not be placed in context with the young and the wounded victim. The wounded victim needs justice and to be restored to their wholeness. Likewise, the wounded priest has to also undergo another human formation, a form of rehabilitation, a form of intervention where they undergo rehabilitative therapy so they cannot wound another human being again. For without help to the priest, they are not healed from their woundedness.”