Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Lord’s “Dress Code”

Halasz and Koschinski. These surnames obviously are foreign-sounding for Ludwig (Luis) Halasz and George Koschinski are German priests assigned in our province. The both came from the same congregation, the Society of the Divine Word or SVD. Both served in Occidental Mindoro for a very long period of time, specifically in the towns of Sablayan and Magsaysay, respectively. And despite of their shortcomings as human beings, they came to the wedding banquet fully observing its dress code (Matthew 22:1-14 [tomorrow's Gospel]), so to speak.

Well, I will share to you a little something about these two great men who became part of the journey of Christian communities of Sablayan and Magsaysay. First is a little anecdote when Fr. Ludwig Halasz’ first set foot in Sablayan and the late Fr. George Koschinski’s poem called “Walking Tall”, the author’s short reflection on the “death-defying” position of a bishop, among other things. Well, in short, I am just giving a little tribute to the two great men of faith that in one way or another, touched the lives of multitudes in the parishes where they were assigned.

On Ash Wednesday in 1958, Bishop Wilhelm Duschak, SVD on a breakfast table told Fr. Ludwig Halasz, SVD, “I like you to proceed to Sablayan and be the parish priest there, and I wish you God’s blessings.” In his write-up which appeared in the Souvenir Program for 50th Anniversary of the Canonical Erection of San Sebastian Parish (1953-2003), Fr. Halasz wrote that he do not know then where Sablayan was when he accepted the appointment realizing what are the challenges ahead of him. In recollection, he imparted, “From Calapan, I proceeded first to Manila, and on Saturday, Feast of the Good Shepherd, I reached Sablayan on a boat carrying prisoners for the Penal Colony, celebrated my first mass in Sablayan together with the inmates and employees.”

“After lunch, I boarded again the Colony’s truck and under the heat of the sun, was brought again to the shore where we first landed, and took a small boat in the direction of the town. Small children guided me to the convent. Fr. Albert Cook, SVD, awakened from his nap, heartily and brotherly welcomed me. After he has read my appointment apparently as the in-coming parish priest, he said, “Good, I know, I told the Bishop that I can no longer remain in this post. I have to work somewhere else, where I am needed.” From his words, I felt that the hard works and loneliness await me, with only a motorboat as a connection with my Society brothers.” Fr. Halasz was alone for many years in his work as a missionary in Sablayan. Under his pastoral and administrative care, additional chapels in the barrios and school buildings were built and the Catholic school grew known today as the Colegio de San Sebastian or CDSS.

In 1968, the Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Barangay Sta. Teresa, Magsaysay was created and Fr. George Koschinski, SVD was appointed as its first parish priest. He stayed in Occidental Mindoro, particularly in Magsaysay, for many years, not unlike Fr. Halazs. In his little humorous book titled “Macaronic Doggrels” published in the late 80s’ we can read a poem called “Walking Tall” (from page 7) and I am sharing you this word for word:

It is a true matter of fact:
Being a bishop is a balancing act.
Because of high riding position,
More so if somewhere out in the mission.
Let us pray for those walking tall,
That they never, never may fall
May they go down in history,
But never in filibustery…”

Through Fr. George Koschinski, the Particular Church teamed up with the local government in many social projects aimed at improving the living condition of the people in this part of the province.

Like in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, all of us are invited to the wedding, saint and sinners alike. And to say the least, we would be unworthy to even come near the door of the banquet hall if we are “improperly dressed”.

Wearing the “proper garments" of worship and service just like what Halasz and Koschinski and the rest of us did in our province…

(Photo : Wow Sablayan)

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