Hagonoy’s 116th priest-son celebrates thanksgiving Mass
Fr. Niño Jomel Halili De Leon, who has roots in Hagonoy town, celebrated his thanksgiving Mass at the National Shrine and Parish of St. Anne in Hagonoy, Bulacan in celebration of novena in honor of the Blessed Mother as Virgen delas Flores, May 22, 201. TRISHA ROSE ANN VEGA
By Kendrick Ivan B. Panganiban and Vince Joseph L. Inocencio
May 25, 2018
A priest with roots in Hagonoy, Bulacan on Tuesday celebrated a Mass in thanksgiving for receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Fr. Niño Jomel Halili De Leon, 26, led a Eucharistic celebration at the National Shrine of St. Anne at 6:00 p.m., coinciding with the novena in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Immaculada Concepcion de la Asociada de Hagonoy (Our Lady of the Most Pure, Immaculate Conception of the Association of Hagonoy), a title of the Blessed Mother special to the hearts of the faithful in this town.
Fr. De Leon is the eldest son of Napoleon De Leon, who originally lived in Hagonoy and Susana Halili-De Leon of Sta. Maria, Bulacan. Despite having been raised in a different town, his paternal lineage places him in a list of several priests with roots in the town, further cementing its reputation as a “Levitical town”.
Also, De Leon served Hagonoy during his assignment at the National Shrine and Parish of St. Anne and St. Anne’s Catholic School during his pre-diaconal program late last year.
The blessing of vocations
Reflecting on the Gospel on Jesus’ love and service, the young priest said, “Love must be expressed. It’s not just about words. It’s about [imitating Jesus] with one’s actions.”
He reflected that in beginning his ministry as a priest, it has always been important to choose to love everyone as God does. De Leon said, “God’s love is not choosy. He loves everyone. The Holy Spirit comes in his special way [to each of us] because you are preciously loved.”
According to him, it is this grace of choosing to love everyone that brings meaning to the way of life a priest lives, “in the service of the community, guided by the spirit of the Gospel.”
A town’s heritage
Priestly and religious vocations have been known to come from this town ever since the first known ordination of one of its townsfolk, Fr. Sebastian Dela Rosa De Lara in 1765. Research confirms Hagonoy town has produced 116 priest-sons, 68 of which are alive and assigned in different parishes and communities both in the Diocese of Malolos, other dioceses, and in other parts of the world.
According to Msgr. Sabino A. Vengco, Jr., “Despite the difficulties in producing priests in today’s age, it has been such a blessing for the town of Hagonoy to continue having an abundance in such vocations.”
He further said this wealth of vocations could also be attributed to the intercessory power of the local patroness, St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
With Fr. De Leon’s addition to the roster of the town’s priest sons, he is automatically a member of the Kapatiran ng Kapariang Taga-Hagonoy, Inc., the priest-sons’ association founded in 1971. He follows Fr. Daniel M. Coronel, who was ordained in the Diocese of Malolos on March 20, 2017.
De Leon finished his primary studies at St. Paul School of Sta Maria and had his secondary studies and priestly religious formation at the Immaculate Conception Seminary (Minor) and Immaculate Conception Major Seminary in Guiguinto, Bulacan.