Troubled southern Philippine island gets new bishop
Claretian missionary priest Leo Dalmao becomes forth prelate of insurgency plagued prelature of Isabela.
Bishop Leo Dalmao is ordained and installed as the fourth bishop of the Prelature of Isabela, capital of the island province in the southern Philippines, on May 24. (Photo by Maria Tan)
Basilan province in the southern Philippines, a hub of insurgent activity by various Islamic extremist groups in recent years, has a new bishop.
Claretian missionary priest Leo Dalmao was ordained and installed as the fourth bishop of Isabela, the island province’s capital, on May 24.
Bishop Dalmao, 49, replaced Bishop Martin Jumoad who was named bishop of Ozamiz in 2016. He becomes the first Filipino Claretian missionary to join the College of Bishops.
Bishops, priests, nuns, and laypeople from across the southern Philippine region of Mindanao and members of the Claretian congregation attended the installation ceremony.
In his message to the people of Basilan, Bishop Dalmao remembered "those who have died keeping their faith" in the province.
"I remember poor farmers, fishermen, Muslims, Christians, tribal people who have died as victims of this senseless conflict," said the new bishop referring to the insurgency.
"To those of you who continue to stand firm in faith ... from you I learned how to live on the peripheries of society," he said. "I feel honored to be back and to share life with you again."
Dalmao was serving as general prefect of formation of the Claretian Missionaries in Rome when Pope Francis appointed him as bishop of Isabela on March 25.
After his priestly ordination in 1997, the new bishop was assigned to Basilan where he managed a project for Samal-Badjau tribal people, also known as the sea gypsies of Mindanao.
From Basilan, he was named prefect of students in 2000 and three years later, became novice master while serving as prefect of formation of the Claretian Philippine Province.
In 2010, he was elected provincial superior of the congregation.
He also served as co-chairman of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines until his election as a council member to the Claretian general government in 2005.
Bishop Leo Dalmao speaks after his installation, in Isabela, on Basilan Island on May 24. (Photo by Maria Tan)
The prelature of Isabela was erected in 1963 and comprises the whole of Basilan Island with a 400,000 population, about 30 percent of whom is Catholic.
On Oct. 24, 1963, Monsignor Jose Maria Querejeta, a Claretian, became its first local ordinary. To date, the Claretians are present in three locations on the island running schools and parishes.
"We are glad that we have a new bishop," said Bishop Jumoad who delivered the homily during the celebration. "I am happy with his appointment," he said.
Bishop Dalmao was born on Dec. 1, 1969. He joined the Claretian congregation in 1986 and studied philosophy at St. Anthony Mary Claret College in Quezon City.
He made his first religious profession on May 3, 1992, in Zamboanga City. He finished his theology studies at the Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City.
He had his perpetual profession on July 16, 1996, and was ordained priest by Bishop Querejeta on May 31, 1997.