Remembering Msgr. Vengco
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” (Mt. 25:21)
This passage suits well the life and mission of Msgr. Sabino A. Vengco, Jr. as a priest. I believe he is now in the loving bosom of God our Father. He returned home on the memorial of a great saint, St. Paschal Baylon, who had a deep love for the Eucharist. As a form of remembering, I thank God for the lessons I have learned from my encounter with Msgr. Vengco.
We know how determined and energetic Msgr. Vengco was in living out his priestly ministry. Being an academician for four decades, many of the priests from various dioceses and seminaries became his students. He was very much concerned on the life and learning of the seminarians to become good and faithful priests someday. He had taught us in a non-conventional way. He injected humor and vibrancy in sharing his life and experiences as a priest in our classes and in his homilies.
You could never see him down. He was the type of person who is always smiling and easy to approach. I remember our first encounter when I was a still in elementary, we would watch his Sunday morning masses. It was sometime December 2016 when I finally met him face-to-face. I was awe-struck by his presence and it gave me the chills because I felt that this person I was talking to was a very holy man. Later on, I would see him at the Christmas gatherings for elderly priests organized by the Kadiwa sa Pagkapari Foundation. This foundation he established for the purpose of helping care for the needs and formation of priests even when they retire. He was very jolly and enthusiastic. There was no dull moment with Msgr. Vengco. When he learned that I come from the Diocese of Malolos, he expressed his delight that another senior seminarian hails from his home diocese. He encouraged me to persevere and pray for one another.
I feel blessed that I became his student, albeit online, in what was to be his last year of teaching at San Carlos Seminary Graduate School of Theology. We were able to finish our class in March, just before he succumbed to Covid. I remember when he would give stories during our classes in Matrimony (1st Semester) and Mariology (2nd Semester), it was as if we were present and part of the stories he was conveying to us. He would also share his own experiences and when he would give life to them, we felt transported to the past. One gets a glimpse of how those stories shaped him to what he had become. (For more stories, see his book Shaping the Filipino Marian Piety.)
A word from Monsi that struck me the most has served as a reminder for us who are pursuing the call to the priesthood and for those who are priests already. He said, “Have a heart of the Son of Mary.” This means that the ministry does not need a man who can just manage but a man who has love, mercy, and compassion for the other person. This is his central message, to become like the Son of Mary, Jesus. To be a priest is to share in the priesthood of Christ. Therefore, as a priest or a priest-in-process, one should be like Him. Being one with others—treating them as they should be, and loving them as one loves himself.
Msgr. Vengco established a foundation for retired diocesan priests. He had this calling to care for the old and aging priests because he was urged by a question—“Priests dedicate their lives for the people but when they grow old who would care for them?” He established the KADIWA SA PAGKAPARI FOUNDATION, INC. under the auspices of Mary, Our Lady of Ephesus, the Mother of Priests. He was there for the old and aging priests. He had shown his compassionate love by conducting programs and creating venues for fellow retired and elderly priests to gather. Through these moments, they feel the love and concern from the God and his people. He was true to his challenge. He possessed a heart like that of the Son of Mary.
Msgr. Vengco had lived a happy and meaningful life. In our classes he was very positive in saying—or shall I say, prophesying—“I would be very happy to see all of you become priests someday but I would be happier if you become good, loving and holy priests.”
When the news reached us that he had contracted COVID-19 a week after we ended our Mariology class, I was in shock. Even during our batch’s 30-day Ignatian retreat last April, we were praying for his recovery. Those days, I felt God had been present even in the midst of his sickness, suffering and eventual passing.
Many people had been truly touched by the life of Msgr. Vengco. I am one of those who, in his sickness and dying, was impelled to pray to God and trust in His divine providence.
I am a proud student of Msgr. Vengco. Aside from the dogma, anecdotes and stories that he had taught me, I am ever more grateful to him for showing me how to become a Vibrant pastor, Energetic minister, Natural story-teller, God-centered priest, Compassionate lover, and Optimistic prophet.
Paalam at Maraming Salamat, Msgr. Vengco.Maligayang Paglalakbay, pabalik sa Ama.
Sem. Peter Collin C. Crisostomo is currently in his sixth year of formation. Sem. Peter was a high school teacher prior to his entrance to the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary. Sem. Peter is from the Diocese of Malolos.