MLANG, North Cotabato (Sept.8/NDBC)— One of the biggest contributions of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) missionary priests, who celebrate its 75th year jubilee anniversary of daring presence in Mindanao on Sept. 25, was laying down the foundation of faith and education in this town, Mayor Joselito Pinol today said.
He said the local government unit is recognizing the Oblate missionaries for pioneering quality education and strengthening peoples’ faith in God as baptized Christians.
“Their contribution came the hard way as priests had to walked miles to reach far flung communities and spread the Good News,” Pinol described the works of early Oblates during the early stage of their mission in 1940s.
Pinol said the OMI fathers first came to Mlang in the early 40’s and there they have started their mission in spreading the words of God among various tribes living even in the far flung places.
“But despite the hardship especially in understanding the culture and diverse beliefs of the villagers, the OMI missionaries persevered,” he said.
He said the deep influence of the OMIs in Mlang, a highly rural and agricultural town in North Cotabato, clearly showed on the number of the people of Mlang who joined religious life, either as Oblates or diocesan clergy.
Bishop Angelito Lampon, OMI, DD Jolo bishop, was born and raised in Mlang. The OMI charism influenced him to join the mission, became priest and serve various OMI ministries until he became one of the five OMI bishops.
Father John Palomar, OMI, Father King Tabuada, OMI and Father Federico Labaglay OMI, are among other Mlangenos who joined the Oblates.
At least a dozen of diocesan priests and nuns from the town of Mlang later joined the bandwagon and serving in various dioceses in the country.
“All of them were influenced by the early Oblates assigned, worked and live with the people of Mlang since 1940s. Thank you for touching our lives, Oblates,” Pinol said.
The OMI also established the Notre Dame of Mlang (first as Notre Dame College) here in 1949 along with the establishment of the Sta. Teresita parish situated in front of the town’s plaza and at least 20 meters away from the municipal hall building.
Oblate fathers also built the Corsello (Samaria House), where retreats and recollections are being held.
Among the most popular contributions of the Oblates in f Mlang was the establishment of the Shrine of the Holy Cross on top of the hills of Nuevabida village in 1959.
Father Aramand Carignan OMI, then the director of Notre Dame of Mlang, helped put up the shrine. As priest he loved to say mass in the.
In one of his barrio masses, Carignan who loved environment noticed the uniqueness of a hill in Barangay Nuevavida.
“As director of ND Mlang, I brought 1st and 2nd year high school boy scout members to the hill in Nuevavida for an excursion.
I was happy with whole affair and awed at the beauty and range of the site that I have decided to put up a cross,” Fr. Carignan once revealed in a story telling program with this writer.
He had new assignment after that and moved to another parish but returned a decade later.
“I was given a new assignment in Tulunan. So everything stood still until about 10 years, when I was reassigned to Mlang.
One of the first thing I did was to have Fr. Alex Yap, my assistant parish priest, to undertake and continue the project of the Holy Cross in 1970,” Fr. Carignan said.
The Diocese of Kidapawan named it as the Shrine of the Holy Cross and became a pilgrimage site among Catholics especially during the Holy Week celebrations.
“My dream has always been to set up a fluorescent or neon light on it for it to be seen at night. It can be seen from a number of places in Mlang, Tulunan, Kidapawan and even parts of Makilala,” Fr. Carignan once said.
Other Oblates contribution in North Cotabato include the Galilee farm in Antipas, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine in Barangay Binoligan, Kidapawan, a tribal school in Matalam and the several radio stations for evangelization in Kidapawan, Cotabato and Koronadal area.
The Oblates also established Notre Dame schools in then Cotabato Empire, now the provinces of North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Saranggani and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Tacurong and Gen. Santos. (NDBC)