It was no ordinary episcopal ordination for a new bishop for the southern Philippine island of Sulu amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a nearly empty church, Father Charlie Inzon was ordained bishop by Archbishop Angelito Lampon of Cotabato on Thursday, May 22.
Only a live streaming on the internet allowed the new bishop’s family, friends, and the local community to join the celebration.
Due to strict quarantine protocols, attendance in the Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato was very limited.
The government only allows a maximum of 10 people to attend religious services in areas under “general community quarantine” like Cotabato.
The small congregation included Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, retired prelate of Cotabato, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, three priests, and a few members of the choir.
While the pews inside the church were almost empty, Bishop Inzon said he knew many of his friends and loved ones were watching and praying online.
He said the gathering may be “rare and unprecedented” but its simplicity still made “the Lord at the center of the celebration.”
“(Nothing) can stop us from celebrating God’s gift and grace,” said Bishop Inzon.
In his homily, Cardinal Quevedo stressed that a bishop has to be a “model” of outstanding faith and good morals.
He said that as a shepherd, a bishop is also called “to be holy” because “he is called to guide his people to holiness.”
“This task is truly challenging,” said Cardinal Quevedo, adding that a bishop must also lead his flock “to the path of truth and justice.”
Pope Francis appointed Bishop Inzon on April 4 as the new and sixth prelate of the apostolic vicariate of Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in the southern Philippines.
The 54-year old priest was serving as provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the country when he was appointed bishop.
He succeeded Archbishop Lampon who was transferred to Cotabato in late 2018.
An apostolic vicariate is a local Church in missionary regions that do not have a diocese. Its administration is assigned to the apostolic vicar who governs it in the name of the pope.
A native of Sorsogon province, Bishop Inzon joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation in 1982 and made his perpetual profession on Sept. 8, 1990.
He studied Philosophy at Notre Dame University in Cotabato City and Theology at the Loyola School of Theology at the Ateneo De Manila University.
He was ordained priest on April 24, 1993, in Caloocan City.
Bishop Inzon holds a master’s degree in theology from the Loyola School of Theology and a doctorate in psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University.
In the days leading up to the ordination, he said: “I rejoice in the mercy of God and trust in his assurance of strength and consolation as I take up this ministry of service in the Church in the Vicariate of Jolo.”
Bishop Inzon will be formally installed as Jolo prelate in the vicariate’s Mt. Carmel Cathedral on May 28.