Cebu News

Binghay: The priest who made homilies relatable

John M. Destacamento - The Freeman
Binghay: The priest who made homilies relatable
Monsignor Esteban Binghay reflected on his five decades as a priest. He remembered that high school life at the Pope John XXIII Seminary made him confident and certain that the priesthood was his calling.

CEBU, Philippines — Seven years ago, in a Mass he was celebrating to mark his 50th year in priesthood, Monsignor Esteban Binghay told parishioners in Balamban town that he initially wanted to become a doctor.

But being a person scared of blood, he later realized it was probably not his calling.

He was right. He was called for something else, but just the same, for service to people.

Binghay officially entered priesthood on April 27, 1962.

Fifty years later, in a fitting occasion, he would return to his hometown to celebrate his golden year in the vocation with the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi in Balamban.

Binghay reflected on his five decades as a priest. He remembered that high school life at the Pope John XXIII Seminary made him confident and certain that the priesthood was his calling.

He was thankful that a “kuya” guided him through the early years of seminary life, making him feel secure despite being away from home.

Binghay’s experience in the vocation produced an array of achievements. He held a doctorate degree in Canon Music, which he earned after studying Liturgical Music in Rome for five years.

This is the reason why the monsignor was very particular on how a Mass is celebrated. He also believed that the homily should be something that people can understand and relate to.

He recalled that Masses at the Sto. Rosario Church, where he used to be assigned, was celebrated for only 20 minutes during weekdays to accommodate those who had to work or go to school.

However, he made it a point to have it set to 40 minutes saying that although 90 percent of those who attend these Masses were working and in a hurry, the essence of the Holy Mass should not be sacrificed.

If you noticed that there are parts of the Holy Mass that are sung by the priest, that’s also because of the monsignor.

Binghay served as the parish priests of Sto. Rosario Parish in Cebu City, as well as the parish of Minglanilla and Theotokos Shrine in Carcar City.

He was also an episcopal vicar, which means he was tasked to oversee certain parishes in the archdiocese.

A matrimonial judge, he also decided on the declaration of marriages as void.

“I have annulled many [marriages],” he shared, adding that some of these marriages are of people who are known in society.

He said being a matrimonial judge was the most difficult among his responsibilities. Aside from the long hours he had to pour into this task, he also had to consider the couple who wanted to have their marriage annulled.

An experience that left an imprint in him as a priest was an encounter with a former teacher from the Abellana National School.

The teacher, he said, went to the convent asking the priests there to baptize her grandson. The other priests in the convent scolded the lady, but the young Fr. Binghay secretly told the lady to follow him and he performed the baptism.

The boy whom the young Fr. Binghay baptized is now all grown-up and based in the United States. He remains grateful for what Msgr. Binghay did and never fails to remember the goodness of the priest.

Having reached the milestone of 50 years, there was nothing in Binghay’s heart but pure gratitude: thanksgiving to the Lord and thanksgiving for each and every day of those years that he witnessed the greatest miracle, that is the goodness of the people who proved to be very helpful and generous, as well as respectful to priests like him.

“People need me; I am needed. For me, it's enough to serve the people,” Binghay once told The FREEMAN in a previous interview.

Yesterday, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma announced that Binghay, 84, had joined his Creator.

Binghay’s close contacts confirmed that he was rushed to the hospital October 31 reportedly after suffering a mild stroke. Since then, he had been unconscious.

Before he was taken to the hospital, he still managed to go on air for the Our Daily Bread, a spirituality program over radio station dyLA, which he regularly hosted.

When news of his death made rounds online, sympathizing netizens left nothing but words of thanks to a “well-loved” priest.

One netizen wrote: “Monsignor Binghay’s homilies hit close to home. They were powerful because they were understandable and relatable to ordinary people.”

(Editor’s Note: Some portions of this article are excerpts from “Golden years, still serving” feature published in this paper in 2012.) (FREEMAN)


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