As a ship approaches the port of the City of Tagbilaran, a welcome sight to a visitor’s eyes is the picturesque view of the city’s skyline. Outstanding in its beauty and attraction is a multi-gabled roof which turns out to be that of Our Lady of Lourdes Church along Gallares St, the first street to come upon as one leaves the pier. Built on a promontory overlooking the city’s scenic bay, the church could be a first stop of a traveler who wishes to thank the Lord first for a safe and happy trip.
The structure, which now houses the Our Lady of Lourdes Church., was originally a clubhouse of the Knights of Columbus Council 3290. Erected in 1955, this was the venue of the K of C’s social and religious functions, foremost of which were the Holy Masses held regularly for the members and the families of this fast-growing organization. With Boholanos being well-known for their religiosity, these masses were a great boon to nearby communities.
Eventually, with the mass-goers multiplying in number, the church became a chaplaincy, with Rev. Fr. Thomas Chao, a refugee from mainland China, as the first resident chaplain. The chaplaincy was installed to address two important needs: 1) to provide for the spiritual needs of the fast-growing K of C organization; and 2) to shepherd the increasing number of the Filipino-Chinese populace.
Sometime in 1993, after 33 years of chaplaincy, the Lourdes Church congregation felt it was time to be an independent parish. They had to meet the following requirements, as prescribed by the Commission on Church Art and the Creation of New Parishes 1) the population should be at least 3,000 in urban areas and 5,000 in rural areas, 2) 75% of the prospective parishioners must agree to the establishment of the parish, 3) the site seat must be decided upon by 75% of the parishioners through a referendum, 4) the following physical structures must be present : a) church building, b) rectory, c) at least one-half hectare of property, d) a cemetery; 5 ) the Patron Saint shall preferably be that of the seat.
The prospective Our Lady of Lourdes Parish met all the requirements, except that of the cemetery. The parish-to-be was within a 3-km. radius of two existing cemeteries – the Catholic Cemetery at Dampas and the privately-owned Victoria Memorial Park.
On February 4, 1994, the K of C Lourdes Church was granted Quasi-Parish status by Bishop Leonardo Tumulak, D.D. The church was to drop its K of C title and be simply called Our Lady of Lourdes Church. It was given one-year probation to prove its worthiness to ably run parish activities. In 1995, it finally became a full-pledged parish.
From a clubhouse, the church building has metamorphosed into a work of art, with its structure reminiscent of old Gothic designs, with its roof sharply pointing heaven-ward and with three gables in each side. This well-ventilated church can properly seat 500 people at a time.
The altar has a modern theme; a far cry from the altars of ancient churches that abound in Bohol. The main altar is a landscape painting on the wall, of sea, clouds and sky as backdrop to a sculpted heaven-ward rising Christ in its midst. Beneath the bronze figure of the Risen Christ is the sepulcher from which He emanated, with its half-opened tomb and stone cover.
Midway on the right side wall is a beautifully-made rock grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, with St. Bernadette kneeling beneath, among the rocks where a real fountain flows. Across the aisle, in the middle of the left side wall, stands a life-sized Crucified Christ. A portrait of Jesus of the Divine Mercy is placed nearby.
The lovely stained glass windows reflect Biblical scenes. Above the right wall is that of the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Presentation of the Child at the Temple. On the left wall are clearly shown Mary and Joseph Finding the Lost Child at the Temple amidst synagogue elders questioning Him, Jesus Changing the Six Jars of Water into Wine, and the Crucifixion Scene, with St. John and the Blessed Mother looking up at the Crucified Christ.
One can easily notice that the church is well-kept, with its clean, sturdy uniformed wooden benches and brightly shining floors. There is a two-storey rectory nearby, with office spaces, 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, a spacious dining hall, and function rooms for meetings. Beside the church is the St. Therese Kindergarten School run by the MIST Sisters. The nuns, in addition to providing needed education, also assist the Parish Priest in the office and in the performance of his apostolate.
The Our Lady of Lourdes Parish has become the hub of various religious organizations. In addition to its being the seat of the Knights of Columbus, other groups meet there, such as the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (whose members are wives of the K of C, the Legion of Mary, the Confraternity of Our Lady of Lourdes, and many others.
The more important consideration made in making the chaplaincy into a parish was its capability to implement the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) concepts in its pastoral activities, in keeping with PCP II. These grassroots neighborhood organizations serve as a conduit between the people and the Church. The cooperation of the faithful is evident in the support they show in all church activities, such as the Fiesta Celebration which falls on February 11 of each year, the Lenten Passion, the Cenacles, the Easter “ Hugos”, the Flores the Mayo and many others.
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