By Leslie Ann Aquino
He asked for a “sabbatical” to grow as a priest, but God apparently has a different plan for then Father Roberto Gaa.
On Thursday, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle ordained Gaa to the episcopate as the new bishop of the Diocese of Novaliches.
“I know how difficult it is or it has been for you. We have been discussing his sabbatical. He asked permission after so many years in the seminary, to have time not only for rest but for growth as a priest. He wanted to experience some other aspects of the priestly ministry,” Tagle revealed in his Mass for the ordination of Gaa at the Manila Cathedral.
His Eminence said he granted the wish of Gaa, convinced that the priest asked for a sabbatical not just for himself but so he could equip himself to be a more well-rounded and effective pastor.
“But somewhere along the line… somehow I got to know that another sabbatical is waiting for him. When we met after the announcement (of his appointment), it was just tears,” Tagle said.
Pope Francis appointed Gaa as Bishop of Novaliches last June. Before his appointment, the 57-year-old Gaa has been serving has Rector of the Holy Apostle Seminary in Makati City.
Cardinal Tagle said they are thankful to God for the gift of Gaa.
“We are grateful to God that the Archdiocese of Manila has received a beatified gift in Fr. Robi who is now asked to share that gift to others, especially to Novaliches. That’s the nature of a gift, it is given. It must be continuously given. If it’s not given, it ceases to be God’s gift,” he said.
In his speech, Bishop Gaa admitted feeling inadequate.
“I feel so inadequate because all I know is seminary formation… that’s the only ministry I was exposed to. I even asked Bp (Antonio) Tobias to give me an orientation on how to be a bishop,” he said.
Gaa then asked the faithful to continue praying for him so he could face all the challenges in his new task.
“I don’t want you to stop praying for me. There are so many challenges ahead but with your prayers, God’s guidance…everything will fall into place,” he said.
Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Gabriele Caccia said Gaa should not be afraid as he will not be alone in his journey and that Jesus will always be there to guide him.
“Don’t be afraid because the Pope has chosen you. God has elected you. Jesus is your guide and you are welcomed by your brother bishops. You will have many good collaborators and the people of God will accompany you with their prayer. You are not alone,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid. Go love and serve the people who today have been entrusted to you,” added Caccia.
The papal nuncio even told Gaa in jest that he will get his sabbatical when he retires.
Gaa will be formally installed as third bishop of the Diocese of Novaliches on August 24.