Saturday, March 21, 2009

HISTORY OF OUR LADY OF THE RULE FROM PARISH PRIEST

HISTORY OF OUR LADY OF THE RULE FROM PARISH PRIEST

The church of Our Lady of the Rule is in Opon town on the island of Mactan. The people first saw a picture of the Virgen de la Regla in 1735, when the first parish priest, Francisco Avalle, an Augustinian friar from Spain. He officially began his term in 1735. A baptismal book that can still be found in the parish archives bears his signature and notes that he was the “Prior y Ministro Del Convento de Nuestra Señora de Opon”. It was the Augustinian fathers who governed the parish since its founding until 1898, except for three short intervening years (from 1739 up to 1742) when the Jesuit fathers took over. From 1898 up to 1906, the parish was under the administration of a Filipino diocesan priest named Fr. Vicente Roa. In 1906 the administration was handed to the Redemptorist fathers who are credited for founding the present-day Saint Alphonsus Catholic School. The Redemptorist fathers stayed in the parish until 1929. Since 1929 up to the present, the parish has been under the administration of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC). The first MSC who became a parish priest in Opon was Fr. Johannes Jansen, a Dutch father. Historical records show that the first parish to have been created by the Augustinians in mainland Cebu was the San Nicolas parish in 1584. From the early 1600’s up to the beginnings of the eighteenth century, roughly more than a hundred years, Opon was a visita of San Nicolas. As a visita, Opon was both civilly and ecclesiastically under the administration of San Nicolas. Together with Opon, the visitas of San Nicolas included Naghalin, Cotcot, Olango and Lilo-an. Opon was elevated to parish status only in the 1730. Father Avalle was a devotee, having lived for 10 years in the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de la Regla in Chipiona, Andalucia, Spain. St. Augustine himself venerated this image. When he died in 430, his monks continued the devotion to her. When the Vandals invaded Africa in 433, the monks fled to Spain, taking the image with them. For several centuries, the Virgen de la Regla was venerated under several names: Virgen Libica, Virgen del Sagrario, Estrella de los Mares and La Virgen Morena, or Morenita. Centuries passed and the image had been almost forgotten until, in 1330, the Virgin appeared to an Augustinian priest in the city of Leon, where King Ferdinand, after reconquering Spain, dedicated the Cathedral to Santa Maria de la Regla.. The Virgin, who was carrying the Child Jesus in her arms, told the priest to go to the Sea of Cadiz and look for a cave where the image had been hidden away. She told the priest to get the image and place it in her church. She said she would guide him with celestial light. The priest did what he was told, and went on a long journey. One day, he rested under a tree and fell into deep slumber. Then he heard a sweet voice saying this was the place. He prayed and asked the Virgin to show him the exact spot. A ball of fire from heaven fell and struck the tree, but did not burn it. With the help of the people in the area, the priest dug the earth, until he found a huge rock. When the people lifted it, they saw the opening of a cave, and when they opened it, they saw a wooden crate, in front of which a lamp was burning. A church was built on the spot where the statue was found. There, the statue of Our Lady of the Rule had been permanently enshrined. In 1735, the people of Opon chose Our Lady of the Rule to be their patroness. They had a big picture made and placed it on the altar. Miracles began to happen. Nov. 21 became Our Lady’s feastday.


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