DIOCESAN and missionary priests and nuns in Zamboanga City led by Archbishop Romulo Valles paid their last respects to slain Oblate priest Fr. Reynaldo Jesus Roda during a mass and vigil held at the mortuary chapel of the Metropolitan Cathedral in the evening of Friday, January 18.
Fr. Roda’s remains made an overnight stopover in Zamboanga from Tawi-Tawi province, where he was killed last January 15, to Cotabato City to be buried at the Oblates’ cemetery located in Shariff Kabunsuan province on Wednesday, January 23.
Reports said several still unidentified men attempted to kidnap the priest and killed him when he resisted. An examination of his body during a re-embalment in a local funeral parlor showed that he was shot several times including in the head, hacked and beaten. The killing happened while the priest was saying his evening prayers in the chapel of the Notre Dame school in Tabawan, South Ubian municipality, of which he was the director for the past 10 years. He was 53.
“In the strongest term, we condemn this despicable evil act”, Archbishop Valles said in a joint statement with the bishops of Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan provinces. “We convey our deepest sympathy to Bishop Angelito Lampon, OMI, DD, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), the family, relatives and friends of Fr. Rey Roda, and the people of God in the Vicariate of Jolo. We grieve with you and offer you our prayer and support”, the bishops further said, Lampon is th bishop of Jolo, whose vicariate encompasses Tawi-Tawi.
During the vigil, Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) president Fr. Angel Calvo expressed the sentiments of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRMSP). He said “Fr. Rey’s death must both inspire and lead (lovers of peace and justice) on to continue even as he, in his sphere of work, continued walking the steps of martyrdom, following his brothers, Bishop Ben De Jesus and Fr. Ben Inocencio”. The latter two Oblate missionaries who were also violently killed in recent years in Sulu.
“Let Fr. Rey be a shining example of the courage we need to help assure others of a caring place where the dignity of life is pursued as a birthright of all”, Fr. Calvo added.
The mass and vigil were also attended by officials and some students of Tabawan’s Notre Dame school.
Fr. Antonio Moreno, SJ, speaking on behalf of the Zamboanga Basilan Sulu Tawi-Tawi Association of Private Schools, said during the vigil: “We call upon our authorities to conduct a speedy but thorough investigation and hold accountable the perpetrators of his killing. We extend our deepest solidarity to the people of Tabawan, his relatives and friends, and the Oblates congregation. We call upon everyone to continue the path of peace and development as the only way to address conflict and poverty”.
“Let us encourage each other to work even harder so that poverty and conflict will no longer have the power to tear our lives and communities apart”, Fr. Moreno said in conveying as well the grief and sentiment of the presidents of a coalition of nine Jesuit, Oblate and Marist universities and colleges in Mindanao.
A Mindanews report quoted CotabatoCity Arcbhishop Quevedo, who also belongs to the Oblates congregation, in justifying their missionary work in farflung, Muslim-dominated areas. Quevedo said: “Let me give one answer to that important question by referring to Fr. Rey Roda. Fr. Rey learned his theology after Vatican II (held in 1962-65) and it helped him to understand that Mission in contemporary Catholic Theology is no longer Mission as understood at the time of St. Francis Xavier. In 1971, a Synod of Bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome and taught that ‘action for justice and participation in the transformation of the world is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.’”
Fr. Jonathan Domingo, chief executive officer of the Mindanao Cross, added: “Ministry of presence. Dialogue of life. Uplifting socio-development of people. The OMI have been doing that in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi for almost 70 years,” the Mindanews report added.