In the Diocese of Stockton, California, Seminarian Ronald Manango will be ordained to the priesthood in 2016. In the last four years, Catholic Extension has extended $290,000 to Stockton for seminarian education. Funding history for seminarians in the diocese goes back to 1967.
Tell us about your faith journey.
I was born and raised in the Philippines in a Catholic family with 11 children. Growing up, I went to Mass, but I did it mainly for my mother. Faith was not a big part of my life. In fact, during my high school years, I got into some trouble and was part of a gang. But I did keep a small connection to the Church. I was an altar server and I used to accompany a priest to do Masses in rural areas.
One Saturday morning, we drove two hours in pouring rain to a village. The priest said, “These people have an opportunity to attend Mass in their village only once a year. We need to be there for them.” This really impressed me. A seed was planted that maybe this vocation was for me.
So you become a missionary?
I wasn’t ready to become a diocesan priest, but my mind was open. In 1997, brothers from a religious congregation called Missionaries of the Poor, based in Jamaica, came to visit my high school. I had no idea where Jamaica was and had to go to the library to find it on a globe, but I was intrigued. At age 17, I decided to leave my family and homeland and join the order in Jamaica.
Then you wanted to become a priest?
Yes. I loved my seven years in Jamaica, working with the poorest of the poor, but I had a deep down desire to be a priest. A friend from the United States suggested that I apply to the Diocese of Stockton, California. It is a very diverse diocese with many cultures—Filipinos, Hispanics, Africans—there are even two Vietnamese seminarians. I like the richness that these ethnic groups bring to the diocese.
Your missionary zeal continues?
Absolutely. I am now studying the history of American Catholics—about the influx of Catholic immigrants here. They came with a mission. They wanted people to know that Christ died for a reason and that His life had meaning. Just like those missionaries in the 1700s, we have to spread the faith by the way we live. We have a message.
How does Pope Francis inspire you?
He brings the Church to the people. He said we should meet people at their level, to smell like the sheep and not wait for people to come to us. I like his simplicity and how he preaches through his life. He takes selfies with people and hugs people that don’t seem huggable. He crosses barriers of all sorts.