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Cebuano is first Pinoy bishop appointed by Pope Francis.

Byline: Ador Vincent S. Mayol

He's 60 and asthmatic, but Fr. Narciso Abellana's mission to spread the word of God has become bigger. Abellana, a native of Talisay City, Cebu, is the first Filipino priest to be named bishop by Pope Francis, who assigned him him to the diocese of Romblon.

On January 9, he will be installed as bishop at the St. Joseph Cathedral in Romblon. The post was vacant for over two years.

"Never in my dreams did I expect to be a bishop. I could not believe it," said Abellana who served as chaplain of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in Nueva Ecija.

Abellana belongs to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC). He received a call from the secretary of the papal nuncio in the middle of a seminar late last year about his appointment.

"Why me? I'm old and asthmatic," he remembers saying. The nuncio's secretary told him that "60 is not old in the Church." As for his asthma, the secretary told him `you look healthy.'

"I had no choice but to accept it," he said. Abellana was ordained bishop on Dec. 11 last year and got his appointment for Romblon last Oct. 15.

As a boy he thought he'd grow up to become a lawyer or a doctor. " But I believe becoming a priest was the work of the Holy Spirit," he said.

Abellana's deceased parents used to serve as lector and choir member at the Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Talisay City during the time of Bishop Teofilo Camomot, whose cause for sainthood is being processed by the Archdiocese of Cebu.

When Abelllana was in Grade 6, an MSC vocation promoter visited his school and asked students if they are interested to enter the seminary. "I don't know why, I just answered `yes.'" he said.

Abellana has been a priest for 35 years. He earned his AB Philosophy degree at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1973 and continued his studies at the Loyola School of Theology. He was ordained a priest in Talisay City on Dec. 28, 1978.

Abellana was first assigned in Camotes Islands as assistant parish priest of St. Joseph Parish in San Francisco town then as parish priest of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Pilar town.

He became a formator in the MSC Seminary in Banawa, Cebu City and went to Rome where he earned his Licentiate in Church History. He also served as provincial superior of the MSC before he was appointed chaplain of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in Nueva Ecija.

From 2005 to 2011, he went back to Rome for "general administration work," and served at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rule in Lapu-Lapu City from 2011 to 2012.

He again returned as chaplain of CLSU, his last assignment. He will become Romblon's fifth bishop, replacing Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc who was transferred to the Diocese of Aklan in July 2011.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 7, 2014
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