February 1 was not an ordinary day for the faithful of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Trento, Agusan del Sur. It was the day of the most-awaited Thanksgiving Mass of Fr. Ritchell Salinas, SVD who was recently ordained in Germany. His homecoming was part of the Divine Word Missionaries’ program that their ordained priests go back to their respective hometowns and parishes to celebrate their mass of thanksgiving for the prayers, moral and financial support offered by the faithful in the course of the priest’s seminary formation. It was also an occasion to invite the faithful to pray for more vocations and scout for more candidates to the priesthood and religious life as well.
“Everybody was excited! The feeling of joy was very present that day. All of us were very thankful to God for the gift of vocation. It was indeed a grace-filled moment,” remarked Fr. Ritchell. The festive mood of his thanksgiving mass further moved him. The parish church was not only filled with parishioners and well-wishers, but also with friends and several SVD missionaries from other parts of Agusan, Davao and Cebu.
Fr. Ritchell entered the SVD congregation via the Divine Word Formation Center-Davao in 2001. He graduated in Christ the King Mission Seminary of Quezon City in March 2005. He took his first profession of vows in 2007 and had his theological studies in Divine Word Seminary of Tagaytay City. He was sent by the congregation to Germany under the Exchange Student Program (ESP). He had his perpetual vow last September 29, 2013 and became a deacon on October 20, 2013. Archbishop Ludwig Schick, Archdiocese of Bamberg, Germany, ordained him to the priesthood last December 31 at the seminary chapel of Sankt Augustin Kloster near Bonn, Germany.
The St. Francis of Assisi Parish of Trento was founded on 1965 by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) Fathers. It was turned over to the shepherding of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) in the 70s, with Fr. Max Abalos, SVD as the first SVD parish priest. German priest, Fr. Ulrich Schlect, SVD served the parish for 17 years, and later on was granted Philippine citizenship in 2007. Fr. Heinz Kulueke, the present Superior General of the SVD, was once assigned in this parish in the 80’s.
The parish was finally turned over to the administration of the Diocese of Butuan in 1995. Fr. Celso Laluna is its current parish priest. It is under the Vicariate of Mary, Queen of Martyrs of the Diocese of Butuan.