by Margaux Salcedo
Rev. Msgr. Arsenio R. Bautista, known to his friends and family as Monsignor Enyong for Arsenio, nicknamed Sening by his friends at the San Jose Seminary. He was ordained as a priest on March 10, 1951 by Archbishop Gabriel Reyes at the Villa San Miguel.
He became parish priest of St Joseph Parish where he established the St Joseph Educational Center which became the St Joseph Catholic School in 1985 (see http://sjcsdoces.edu.ph/history/).
He was also instrumental in the creation of the Sta. Maria della Strada parish in the late 1970s. When the churchgoers of the St. Joseph Church on Aurora Boulevard (where Msgr Bautista was parish priest) and the Ateneo Campus chapel had swelled in numbers, it was Msgr. Bautista, along with a group of representatives from the villages in the area and two Jesuit priests who presented the petition for a new church to Cardinal Sin, who approved it immediately and appointed an interim priest in charge, Bishop Godofredo Padernal to undertake the parish project (see http://dellastrada.ph/about/history/)
He became parish priest of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto in 1989. As parish priest, he revived the Our Lady of Loreto Parochial School. He also opened the Cursillo movement under the term the ‘Kapatiran Kay Kristo’ (KKK) and he initiated the Dawn Rosary Procession at 4:0am and celebration of the mass indifferent barangays. (see https://www.rcam.org/archdiocesanshrineofourladyof.../about/)
When Monsignor reached the mandatory age of retirement for priests at 75 years old in 1999, he chose to retire at the Hospicio de San Jose as Chaplain to Minister to orphan children, and the elderly.
When he celebrated his 69th Sacerdotal Anniversary, Cardinal Tagle, then Archbishop of Manila, held mass at St Joseph and recalled in his homily: “... talagang gusto ko hong mag-misa rito kasi noong ako’y seminarista noong 1970’s nag-apostolate ako dito sa parokya na ito, si Msgr. Arsenio Bautista ang Parish Priest ... (kaya) kahit sandali ay naging bahagi ng aking paghuhubog bilang seminarista ang St. Joseph dito po sa Cubao. ... Pagdasal po natin si Monsignor bagamat 95 ba o 96 years old pero malinaw ang isip at nag-aalab pa rin sa paglilingkod.”
He later became known as the oldest living priest in the Archdiocese of Manila but he must be remembered not just for the length of time the Lord blessed us with him but for his notable and impactful contributions to the development of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
As we celebrate 500 Years of Christianity, we remember the legacy of Msgr Bautista, someone who was truly ‘gifted to give’, building schools, inspiring many to grow in their love for the Lord, and giving communities a venue to express their faith. He returns Home to the Father today, on the Feast of the Epiphany on the Year of St Joseph.
Thank you, Msgr Bautista, for being a bright shining example of how one priest can lift communities and bring generation after generation closer to the Lord. May the perpetual light of Our Lord shine upon you.
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