Batangas: At the early age of 45, Monsignor Marcelino Antonio Maralit was appointed by Pope Francis as the new bishop of Marinduque. He is the fourth to be appointed as bishop of the Diocese of Boac, Marinduque.
Known to many as “Fr. Junie,” Maralit is a true blooded Lipeño and was the former parish priest of Alitagtag, Batangas under the Archdiocese of Lipa.
“I didn’t know that my name was among those being considered. In fact, I think that the scrutiny being done keeps the candidate really under the radar when it comes to one’s own candidacy. I was even one of those who was being asked to evaluate another candidate. So I never thought I was also being evaluated,” Maralit said.
When Maralit was asked by the Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, to present himself to the Nunciature last December 16, he was taken aback when the appointment from the Holy Father was read before him.
“I was just silent for a few seconds, and then asked him if I can refuse or not accept the appointment. He looked at me and said, yes I may not accept, but only if there is a grave reason. And then he told me to think about it and pray about it for about 7 to 10 days,” Maralit narrated.
After the appointment with the Nuncio, the young bishop went back to Lipa and went straight to the Carmel Monastery and spent the day praying.
“The time I spent in prayer caused two feelings in me: one of fear and another of guilt . . . I started feeling fearful of what being a real and good bishop would mean. It was suddenly like a very heavy burden,” Maralit said.
He added that he couldn’t help but cry when he started seeing his past life, his past mischief and wrongdoings.
On December 20, Maralit received a call from Msgr. Seamus, the Nuncio’s assistant who asked for his decision.
“My response on that day would be a NO. So I told him that maybe if he can give me a few more days to pray and reflect on how and why I was feeling that way and if I would be given the permission to talk to at least one person to help me process everything, then maybe my decision might change”.
After a few days of prayer and a chance to talk with former Boac now Imus Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista, Maralit finally accepted the appointment.
“Bishop Rey enlightened me of my feelings. He said that it was good that I felt that way because it showed that I knew it was a mission and not a position. And that the guilt or feeling of unworthiness was also to help me see that I am a Bishop not really because of my being a good priest, but because of God’s goodness,” Maralit said.
When asked what he would consider as the greatest challenge for his new appointment in Boac, Maralit said it would be himself.
“If I fail to see the grace before me, if I fail to love the people He has entrusted to me, if I live in mediocrity, if I fail to become a good shepherd in His own image, if I fail to become the priest that He has always willed me to become . . . Then I will not only be its’ greatest challenge, but even more, I’ll be the biggest stumbling block of my being the bishop of Boac.”
He is set to be formally ordained as a bishop on March 13. Meanwhile, his actual installation in Marinduque is yet to be determined.
Encounter with Pope Francis
“I haven’t had the grace of having an encounter with him yet and I thought I wasn’t even getting a chance during this Papal visit,” Maralit said.
The newly appointed bishop was not fortunate enough to be drawn among the clergy of the Archdiocese. However, because of his appointment as bishop of Marinduque he was given the chance to meet Pope Francis and to be present in almost all of his activities.
The top post for the Diocese of Boac had been vacant since Bishop Reynaldo Gonda Evangelista was named Bishop of Imus in April 2013. Boac was created a diocese in April 1977, separating it from the mother Diocese of Lucena in the province of Quezon.
Maralit was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Lipa on March 13, 1995. Before his appointment, Maralit served as Vicar of the Immaculate Conception parish in Bauan, Batangas from 1995 to 1996. He was a professor at the St. Francis de Sales Major Seminary in Lipa City in 1996 and was director of the Diocese’s commission for vocations. Maralit was also vice chancellor, professor, educator and dean of studies at St. Francis Theological Seminary from 2003 to 2009, and rector of the St. Francis Theological Seminary from 2009 to 2013.
From 2013 until his appointment as Boac bishop, Maralit served as pastor of the Invencion de la Santa Cruz parish at Alitagtag and member of the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Lipa.