OMIs to Fr. Gacis: "Vaya con Dios Fr. Pros"
Fr. Prospero Gacis, OMI laid to rest today
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Burial mass will commence at 8:30 a.m. at the OMI Auditorium at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine 830 a.m. today. Burial will take place at OMI cemetery after the mass.
Fr. Gacis died in his sleep on Thursday at the OMI Buldoc Home, the OMI retirement home in Fairview, Quezon City. He expired a day after he turned 91 years old.
Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI who has been writing about the life of his Oblate colleagues, said Fr. Gacis, more known among Oblates as “Fr. Pros,” breathed his last at 6:10 a.m.
Fr. Gacis had been in the Buldoc Home since June 1, 2008 after serving most of his life in difficult oblate missions.
He was the third Oblate to have died this year or in the last three months. Fr. Elino Isip, OMI and Fr. Manny Mina, OMI separately died on August 6 and August, 30, respectively.
Born on October 11, 1926 and took the road to priesthood in 1949, Fr. Gacis was the 9th Filipino to become priest and was ordained in Rome in December 21, 1957.
Fr. Mercado said it was during his second year in high school that Gacis began to experience the religious call. He said Fr. Gacis found the Oblates “very human, warm, outgoing, happy and full of humor.” And he was attracted to the Oblate Cross and the Cincture.
Fr. Gacis’s desire to become an Oblate missionary was inspired by Fr. Gerard Mongeau, the chief of mission of pioneer Oblates (Magnificent 7) arriving in the Philippines in 1939.
“Fr. Gerard Mongeau was the most dignified Oblate that I saw,” Fr. Mercado quoted Fr. Gacis as telling him in an interview in 2014.
Fr. Gacis’s parents were both public elementary teachers in Cagayan de Mapun in Tawi-Tawi. He had a very short stint with his father who he only saw twice and never his mother.
The young Gacis was under the custody of her aunt along with his brother, retired Gen. Feliciano Gacis who later became National Defense undersecretary until 1998.
“For Fr. Pros, the Oblate Way of Life meant to preach the Gospel to the poor. Yet, he believed that the second aspect of Oblate Charism is to seek the poorest of the poor or, the most abandoned,” Fr. Mercado said in an article posted on www.omiphil.org.
Fr. Mercado said Fr. Gacis had experienced “failures” in life while still studying, especially in Rome where he was sent by the Oblates together with the late Fr. Primo Hagad, OMI.
One thing Fr. Gacis learned in Rome was “failure.” “At the Ateneo and San Jose, I got all medals and honors but in Rome, it was first experience of failure,” Fr. Gacis told Fr. Mercado.
While at Ateneo de Manila University and San Jose Seminary, Fr. Gacis could not understand why students would fail. But in Rome he understood it and he became humble, Fr. Mercado said.
Those failures taught Fr. Gacis a lesson. He learned how to be more understanding, especially those who actually slow.
Fr. Gacis’ happiest moment as a religious was when he was assigned in Jolo for 10 years with foreign Oblates.
“I was most happy in the OMI community in Jolo. We were all different characters and yet we lived as a family. Bishop Francis McSorley was like our “Yahweh” and Fr. Francis Crump – Rector of NDJC and Superior was like “Moses” and he was close to me,” he said in Mercado’s article. “With Fr. Crump, we started the consumer cooperative in Jolo.”
His unhappiest moment as a religious was when he was assigned to Our Lady of Assumption Scholasticate (OLAS) where he served as superior for two years.
“I accepted the post on condition that Fr. Chris O’ Leary would join me, but he was assigned to JOMI (OMI Juniorate in Cotabato City,” Fr. Gacis said.
Fr. Gacis’ previous assignments were parish priest of Isulan parish (1959-1962), parish priest of Jolo (1962-1972), OLAS director (1972-1974), parish priest of Dulawan, Datu Piang, Maguindanao (1974-1976), parish priest of Landasan, Parang, Maguindanao (1976-1982), assistant parish priest in Carmen, North Cotabato (1982-1985), parish priest Sto Nino parish in Midsayap, North Cotabato (1985-1992), OLAS spiritual director/superior (1992-1993), OMI Juniorate spiritual director (1999).
He retired at the OMI Buldoc Home in Fairview, Quezon City starting June 1, 2008 until he died.
Fr. Mercado said in the twilight of Fr. Gacis’ life in the Bolduc Residence, he remembered his stay in Rome where he experienced a total and complete failure, yet he transformed this into a glorious success.
“Then he got sick and learned what it means to be sick and helpless - understanding the meaning of being helpless and learning the meaning of suffering,” Fr. Mercado said.
“He asked the Lord to make this illness as his purgatory and turning suffering into positive.” Fr. Gacis said he had no regrets in his life as missionary Oblate.
“There are no regrets of becoming a priest. If I die, I can die with a longing in the heart - longing for the Lord - like a deer longing for the stream water and this is my dream.” Accepting his days on earth are numbered, he had this last will to his OMI confreres: “Fidelity to our charism - the heart of our mission is the poorest of the poor! Fr. Mercado ended his article about Fr. Gacis with Spanish words: Vaya con Dios! ("Go with God"). (Edwin O. Fernandez)
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