“Santuario de San Antonio Then” by Carina C. Lebron

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Shortly after Fr. Hugh Raymond Zurat, O.F.M., was designated Parish Priest of Santuario de San Antonio in the early 1980s, he visited me at my place on Palm Avenue. It was a surprise but he was then getting to know the parishioners. He also invited me to be a member of the Education Committee of the Parish Pastoral Council which was being organized.

After expressing a few reservations, I felt honored and, thus, I accepted the invitation.

Thereafter, we were introduced to the bigger membership of the Parish Council who were parishioners / residents of the area: Susan and Rene Concepcion (†), Winnie and Christian Monsod, Amelita and Cards Guevara (†), Ito and Bill Velhagen, Marilou and Manny Arteficio, Eddie Elegir (†), Sebe Ledesma (†), Linda Villanueva, Ellie and Tony Esteban (†) and many others.

The office was manned capably by Bernadette Andulte and Petronilo Palomo (†). They operated from a counter and a desk did their best to respond to the demands of parishioners. Some of us in the Council “worked” in the office, as needed, with enthusiasm and dedication in the various committees to which we were assigned. There was no air-conditioning but there were electric fans. The “office” was cool enough because the back of the office was open and led to the garden.

The first weekly Parish Bulletins were written by Sebe Ledesma (†) and mimeographed on newsprint at my place.

Parish Renewal Weekends drew many parishioners to re-learn how to appreciate the importance of keeping one’s faith alive and centric in their daily lives.

Not only were parents involved in many team building and actual renovation projects, our children were often with us, their school schedules permitting. Inevitably, they also became good friends, members of one big, happy family with many “titas” and “titos”. Family and church life blended so closely together that it was difficult to think of one without the other. After Masses, parishioners lingered a bit to talk happily with new-found friends.

Winnie Monsod was into everything that needed to be done, such as being a lector, organizing the first group of singers for the choir. They sang from the choir loft with their voices wafting into the church.

Amelita Guevara, then and now, organized the first honest-to-goodness choir like it was a professional group. There were rewards and recognition for the excellence of their music in the parish and in other places.

Big projects were successful because cooperation was pervasive. The Parish Center was built in record time during the term of Rene Concepcion as President of the Parish Council. It served the community as a suitable and well-located town hall during the time when there was much clamor for changes in government. Topics of great interest, both in religion and in socio-civic concerns, were discussed in the Center by well-known and respected resource persons invited by the Education Committee.

Linda Villanueva and Susan Concepcion were tasked with looking after the finances of the church. Susan also managed the construction of the first crypts and the mortuary.

It was a time to remember for us, many delightful memories that are too numerous to recall now. Until now, we can sit together and endlessly reminisce joyfully about those days and thank God that under the stewardship of Fr. Hugh, we were called to serve in Santuario de San Antonio and have become participating members of the Parish Family.

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