Never imagined I’d develop a working and personal relationship to a priest. Perhaps I was just lucky to be in a position that I got to work closely with a priest, being a church choir conductor and eventually an organization officer.
That’s why I am very grateful to the Lord for the gift of Rev. Msgr. Roberto C. Canlas, MBC or Mons Bobby to us volunteers and the community, Lolo Mons to Aria. To me, he was a spiritual adviser and a father figure, influencing most of my adult life as a Catholic, church volunteer, musician, and parent.
To honour Mons Bobby, here are some of the best things I learned from him and from the Shrine of Jesus community all these years. There are more, but these ones I would like to share to others who, like me, might be inspired and be reminded of, too.
1. Discipline. Mons Bobby makes this a top priority all the time. As volunteers, we should be the first examples of this to the churchgoers. Discipline in arriving early at church for Masses, meetings, or other events. Discipline in proper attire. Most of all, discipline and decorum during Holy Masses. He is being misconstrued as masungit and suplado (strict and a snob), but I totally get it when I had my own child, too. Discipline must be instilled by parents first, for who else should do this to their own children?
2. Give until it hurts. For Mons Bobby, helping is the constant call of a Christian. He would always call for a second collection or for help from volunteers whenever there are typhoons and earthquakes. He has a string of outreach activities to mark the Shrine’s Fiesta celebrations, be it medical mission, building classrooms, rebuilding communities, outreach visits to our needy brethen–in orphanages, home for the elderly, the sick. One of the most remarkable was when the Shrine raised one million pesos for the PGH Pediatric Cancer ward, and this was topbilled by a concert of the Philippine Madrigal Singers. Mons made sure all volunteers and the community, regardless of the amount given, for as long as you have done your part is more important to him.
3. Planning ahead. For me, Mons is the king of planning. He would plan out church activities at least two months before. He has a clear picture of what the liturgy would be, and delegates the tasks to the council and officers to cascade to co-volunteer members. As for me, this includes planning and properly coordinating liturgical music prior the Mass. I learned to use the Ordo, too. I used to make a lot of mistakes, but I learned from them eventually.
4. Honour and love your parents. We are witnesses to this as he honours his own, especially Nanay Pining, who lived beyond a hundred years. What blessing it is for him to have served his own mother for a long time, even with his priestly duties.
5. Pray without ceasing. There are so many things I learned from Mons Bobby about praying. Sure, we pray everyday and hear Mass, but we should be specific in our prayer. Pray before and after each meeting or activity. Pray before and after meals. Pray for our departed loved ones. Pray during difficult situations. Pray during happy moments. Pray for families, friends, and other people. Seek the intercession of Mama Mary, the holy angels and saints. The holy hour and rosary during feast days help the community pray better and focus more on Jesus.
6. Honour the priests, especially the retired and elderly. Mons taught me to love, honour, and respect our priests. He has an annual activity for retired and elderly priests, and he invites us to sing for the Holy Mass and the program to sing some songs for them. Praying for the priests and the religious vocation is the best way to honour them.
7. Attitude of Gratitude. Walang Hanggang Pasasalamat. That was our theme for his tribute program. And that’s what he teaches us to do, as he also never runs out of words and ways to thank us, too, for serving our Divine Master alongside him all these years. Truly grateful for the opportunity to serve through the gift of music the Lord bestowed on us.
Walang hanggang pasasalamat, MBC! We wish you well in your new pastoral assignment. But we pray for your health and full recovery, first and foremost. Praise Jesus for the gift of new rector to the Shrine of Jesus as well as to all the churches of the Archdiocese of Manila! No goodbyes, Mons, but we will see you soon.