Bishop Tonel on Ipil assignment: Be not afraid

"Layo," (far) the mother said as she gestured to her daughter to keep silent and listen to the homily.

Father Tonel will be installed bishop of the prelature in the western Mindanao province on September 11.

In the August 26 thanksgiving mass at the parish in GSIS, he spoke of his assignment as "a new door.”  He focused his homily on Jesus' call to "come through the narrow door."

"I responded yes to the invitation (as Ipil bishop)," he said quoting another biblical phrase, "Be not afraid."

His appointment was announced just as pursuit operations were going on to rescue kidnapped priest Giancarlo Bossi, a member of the Prelature.

Father Tonel urged parishioners to go through the narrow road of faith to follow Jesus, saying going through trials and suffering is juts like going through "the way of the cross."

"Let us not be carried away by anxiety," he told hundreds of Catholics in his home parish prior to his assignment at St. Paul’s parish also in Matina.

The new bishop said the titles that people acquire are not important.  

"It is the heart that God sees," as he explained that becoming a bishop is a responsibility not only of crossing his own "narrow door," but also opening it for others.

He said a bishop is a shepherd who has to help people become closer to God.

The new bishop began his homily with a joke about his vestments. “Bagay ba?” (Do I look okay?), he asked.

During his ordination on August 20 here, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles challenged Tonel to become the voice of the voiceless, of the displaced indigenous communities because of big-scale mining, the unborn children, the dying environment, and to tackle other social issues which the church must take a stand.

Among the issues in the prelature of Ipil are mining, environmental degradation, and peace and security.

Valles said the new bishop may be an effective voice "to proclaim the Gospel" and "offer hope against the mounting despair.

I have no friends there but I will seek comfort from all the love and support you have given me all these years in taking on my new task," he said.

Bishop Tonel fills the vacant seat held previously by Antonio Ledesma, now Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)