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The historical beginnings of the diocese can be traced as far back as 1595 when the Jesuits from mission centers in Leyte evangelized the southern portion of the island of Samar.  The eastern coastal inhabitants, on the other hand, were evangelized by the Jesuits from their missions.  In Catubig, or Palapag on the northern coast of the island of Samar.

The missionaries educated the inhabitants in the faith, raised stone churches, and protected the people from the Muslim raids from the south.  The major settlements then were Bacod (now Dolores), Tubig (Taft), Sulat, and Libas, (now San Julian), Borongan, Guiuan and Balangiga.

When the Jesuits moved out of the country in 1768, the Franciscans took over the parishes except for two which went to the Augustinians.  But a parish life had already evolved.  And before the end of the Spanish regime, there were already 11 towns with parishes in the territory of what is now Eastern Samar, constituting a vicariate under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Cebu.

On April 10, 1910, Pope Pius X separated Samar and Leyte from the Diocese of Cebu, and formed them into one diocese, with Calbayog as its episcopal see.

On October 22, 1960 Pope John XXIII created the Diocese of Borongan, installing Most Reverend Vicente Reyes, D.D., then Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, as the First Residential Bishop of Borongan.  On June 19, 1965, the island of Samar was politically divided and the province of Eastern Samar was born.  On December 5, 1974 Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of Catarman.  Thus the island of Samar now has three dioceses, following its political division:  that of Calbayog for Western Samar, that of Catarman for Northern Samar, and that of Borongan for Eastern Samar.

The population of Eastern Samar is made up of 374,225 people, 97 per cent of whom are Catholics.  The province is bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the north by Northern Samar, on the west by Western Samar, and on the south by Leyte Gulf.  Historically Samar is remembered as the initial beachhead made by the expedition of Magellan in 1521, on the island of Homonhon off the southern coast of what is now Eastern Samar.  From there the expedition proceeded to the island of Limasawa off the coast of Leyte, there to celebrate the first Mass on Philippine soil.

The Diocese of Borongan is divided into three regions, each consisting of 2 vicariates.  The diocese covers 26 parishes in 22 municipalities and 4 barrios, ministered to by 60 diocesan and 5 religious priests.  Borongan, the capital town of the province is also the seat of the episcopal see.

Though poor, the diocese is viable.  It receives some help from abroad, but it also able to help its neighbors.  It does not have a system of benefices, but maintains an arancel system, and the material needs of the priests are generally taken from offerings and stole fees.  In many ways the Diocese of Borongan is really a Church of the poor, by the poor, and for the poor.  Many parishes do not have enough resources to maintain decent daily sustenance in their rectories.  The people are generous, but their contributions remain meager.

The diocese is now seeing the flourishing of faith communities.  The Basic Ecclesial Communities are being introduced.  Present-day challenges to the faith include that of Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism.  But these challenges are being met by the diocesan priests, the faith communities, and the diocesan radio station, DYVW.  In order to assure a unified pastoral action, a diocesan pastoral secretarial has been formed.

The faithful do not find difficulty in following the liturgical reforms, but the balance between liturgy and devotion has not yet been properly attained.  Though many people have become more participative in eucharistic celebrations, a good number still places stress on devotional practices.

Contacts between the ordinary and the clergy are rather frequent and can be described as cordial, spontaneous and fraternal.  The value of celibacy is held in high esteem, and if some runners stumble, these remain isolated cases.

The number of priests is on the increase, but still the diocese does not have enough to answer the pastoral needs of the people.  Both laymen and lay women serve in parish pastoral councils and in the various ministries of the Church. Needless to state, they are a big help in the evangelization efforts of the diocese.  They are effective in Christianizing the environment, in deepening knowledge of Christian doctrine and spirituality, and in affirming Christian identity.

The pastoral plan of the Diocese of Borongan contains programs of action which are guided by pastoral principles within an ecclesiological framework.  These principles are themselves derived from the decrees of PCP II.

The programs of action are classified into three levels:  the diocesan, the regional, and the parochial.  And following the national pastoral plan, the diocesan pastoral plan may be categorized into four areas of concern:  Christian Life, Religious Concerns, Social Concerns, and Agents of Communion and Renewal.

The different programs of action of the diocese include, among others: 1) various forms of response to the Fundamentalist challenge; 2) promotion of mission awareness; 3) active involvement in political issues and elections; 4) monitoring of violations of human rights; 5) social programs for the poor and calamity victims; 6) encouragement of various types of faith communities; 7) program for priests in crisis; 8) utilization of mass media for evangelization and 9) the gradual abolition of the arancel system.

Among the Catholic institutions in the diocese are 16 kindergarten schools, 2 elementary schools, 11 secondary schools, 2 colleges, and 2 clinics.

There is also in Borongan a seminary offering complete courses in humanities, philosophy and theology.  Its best known alumnus today is the late Julio Cardinal Rosales.

The youth program has been enriched by the presence of Don Boco fathers who have set up the Don Bosco Youth Center.


Most Rev. Leonardo Y. Medroso, D.D., BSE, STL, JCD
Bishop's Residence
Borongan, 6800 Eastern Samar
Philippines
e-mail: 
bpmedroso@yahoo.com

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