WENCESLAO is the name I bear, a saint’s name, taken by my father from the Church calendar. You can still see this name appearing in some Church calendars
on September 28. (I thank my father for being practical in having my birthday and feast day together in one day. It spares me now of celebration expenses). I am the fifth in the family of seven children. Two older brothers and two older sisters of mine are all teachers by profession. My youngest sister is a nurse and is presently living in the USA and my youngest brother is a farmer, tills the family lands, and stays close to my ageing mother, who turned 95 years old this year. My youngest brother died 2 years ago.
Born and brought up from a conservative middle class family, my upbringing was colored by “Spanish-influenced-catholicity” and by a Christianity brought by foreign missionary fathers and sisters from the West, the CICM and ICM missionaries. My father, who has been a long time catechist of the CICM confreres in the mountain regions of Northern Philippines, had his deep missionary imprints on me. He served faithfully the confreres for 36 years. Through my father’s involvement with the Church, I was reared in a Catholic grade school under the ICM sisters and just after my elementary education, I entered the Minor Seminary of CICM. I persevered with CICM having my secondary, college, and theology education. This was how I was fully incorporated to the missionaries of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary…OR… [Was it the magical touch of a confrere that made me enter CICM. My mother’s story has it that when I was a small boy, my mother used to clothe me with the dresses of my 2 sisters that are my senior. Mother’s intentions or convictions were naive that if she clothe me with a girl’s dress I will be a good boy… a gentle person. So, one day, a confrere came to the house (we lived in the compound of the Church), and I was with my sister’s dress standing at the doorsteps. Knowing of course that I am a boy, the confrere asked me ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ and simultaneously he went into my private parts that I kicked him on the face. I was punished afterwards but the touch must have been magical that if it is so, I don’t have the least regrets of what I have done and what I become now… a religious missionary of the CICM].
Ordination to the Priesthood was conferred on me way back March 17, 1976. During my ordination, my mother should have gotten the first prize for being a ‘woman of tears’. After some time, I asked her why she was crying so much and she said that she remembered a promise she and my father made to God when I was still an infant. I happened to be a very weak and sickly child and I can’t suck on my mother’s breast. [In fact I was the only child among the 7 (seven) children who didn’t suck my mother’s breast. I survived with ‘Alpine’ milk] Having that condition my parents thought of bringing me to a shrine of St. Joseph the Worker and there and on they made a pledge and offered me to God praying to Him that if I recover, God can do anything with me as He pleases. My mother, a simple woman who finished just grade two in the elementary grades, but with a strong faith in God, saw my ordination as a fulfillment of the prayer she made twenty six years before. Her tears were surely tears of joy!
After ordination, I was assigned at the CICM Major seminary, Maryhurst Seminary, simultaneously doing responsibilities as a religious instructor, spiritual director and vocation director of northern Philippines. I was in these tasks for a year while waiting for my papers for departure to the missions. Then, I got the go signal for mission departure to Taiwan, my first mission destination. I stayed in Taiwan for about 15 years, of which the last 6 years were spent as a Provincial Superior, serving the missions of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Now, I am already in Mongolia for more than 16 years. Spearheading the establishment of the Catholic Church presence, with two other confreres (Frs. Robert Goessens & Gilbert Sales), in a non-Christian country was not easy. If my head’s hair grew thin and has now turned gray, it can only be attributed to the hard times experienced even up to this present time. This nascent Church is still on trial owing to the many difficulties that come our way. But be assured that I don’t give up. This Apostolic Prefecture will move onwards with the remaining confidence and determination I still have. Of course, I rely much on the good will and dedication of the missionaries! May the Lord continue to bless the works of our missionaries and people!
As I look back into the past, what remains an enigma for me is the fact that when I was young, I didn’t aspire to be a builder, spiritual leader and an administrator as I didn’t specialize in any of them. I should have preferred to be in the frontier missions of the mountain provinces of the Philippines doing mission as my father did. But now, I see these responsibilities summed up in being the Apostolic Prefect/Bishop of Ulaanbaatar. Part of the riddle I am negotiating with are other childhood memories on the titles/names I got. I remember that I was called by my grandmother with the name ‘Lucifer’ because I was always fighting with my brothers and sisters…. and when I was already in the minor seminary, a palmist read my father’s and mother’s palms and said that the fifth child of theirs is the ‘black sheep’ in the family. I am my parents’ fifth! …What do you say???
Once in a while when discerning and reflecting, I ask myself the question: ‘How did I become what I didn’t aspire to be?’ I often end my reflection with a note of ‘Thanks’!
Please pray with and for me in this nascent Church in Mongolia! THANKS for your continued and unfailing support!
+Wens Padilla, CICM