By Leslie Ann Aquino
Father Gregory Ramon Gaston is the new coordinator for the pastoral care of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Italy.
According to a CBCP News post, the priest’s appointment was announced Sunday by the Italian priest in charge of migrants in Rome, don Pierpaolo Felicolo, during a Mass presided over by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
Gaston, who has been serving as Rector of the Pontificio Collegio Filippino, the official residence of Filipino priests studying in Rome since 2010, succeeded Fr. Paulino Bumanglag, SVD, who served the post for nine years.
Ordained a priest for the Manila archdiocese at the Vatican by Pope John Paul II in 1993, Gaston served as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family in the Vatican from 2002 to 2007.
In January, 2015, he was also among the Vatican Accredited Media Personnel (VAMP) during Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
In his homily at the Santa Pudenciana, Cardinal Tagle invited Filipinos to be faithful to God’s commandments.
He stressed that God’s commandments “are not meant to burden upon us, but to guide us in our relationship with him and with others.”
The Vicariate of Rome has designated Santa Pudenciana in 1991 as the Pastoral Center for Filipinos in Rome, also called the “Sentro Filippino”.
Prior to that year, the PCF has served as the de facto Filipino Chaplaincy, with an office at one corner of the PCF building, coordinating perhaps 20 or 30 Filipino communities.
In the 1970s, when more Filipinos started migrating to Italy, three religious congregations initiated Masses for the Filipinos: the Salesians of Don Bosco in Sacro Coure beside Termini, the SVD near Pyramide, and the Irish Pallotine Fathers in San Silvestro, in the city of Rome.
Every Sunday, about 50 to 60 Masses in Filipino, English, Ilocano, Cebuano, and Bicolano are coordinated by the Sentro Filippino in different parishes, convents, and chapels, with PCF priests assisting the Sentro in around 15 to 20 Masses.
The PCF priests also cater to OFWs in many European countries, especially Switzerland, Greece, Malta, Germany, Spain, Norway, and France.