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Vienna- Austria – For the first time, a Filipino Roman Catholic cleric has the distinct honor and privilege of heading an Austrian parish.
The first Filipino priest of the Roman Catholic Church to lead a parish in Podersdorf, Burgenland, Austria had been formally installed on September 7, 2019 in the Parish of St. Catherine, Podersdorf, Austria.
The installation for the 47-year-old Fr. Gabriel Velasco Chumacera took place at the St. Catherine Parish church in Podersdorf, Austria.
The ceremonial investiture of Father Gabriel Chumacera was officiated by P. Lic. Lorenz Voith CSSR, during a well-attended Saturday evening mass. The mass was celebrated by Fr. Gabriel himself and co-celebrated by Abbot Maximilian Heim, Rector of the Cistercian Abbey, Heiligenkreuz, Monsignor Karl Schauer, Vicar General of the Diocese of Eisenstadt, Burgenland and priests from the Filipino Catholic Community in Austria: Fr .Ely Dalanon, Fr. Victor Tamayo, Fr. Ron Sandoval, SVD and Msgr. Mar Castillo.
As the first Filipino to head am Austrian Parish in Burgenland, Austria, Fr. Gabriel said it is a “gift” for an immigrant from the Philippines to be recognized in the church. He sees the appointment more as an opportunity to “learn and work collaboratively with the Austrian people.”
“I am very proud and thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to serve an Austrian parish. With the support of the Austrian and Filipino community, I will do my best to be of service to both communities. The best part of being a priest is the ability to serve. The service is key for me, and that’s what’s most enjoyable, because you are able to help other people, and get people closer to God,” Fr. Gabriel said.
During the agape which followed the mass, Saint Catherine parishioners congratulated Father Gabriel and assured him of their support.
The Vicar General of the Diocese of Eisenstadt, Monsignor Karl Schauer expressed his confidence in Father Gabriel’s ability to renew and strengthen the Catholic faith, particularly in the context of increasing secularism in Europe.
“Fr. Gabriel, in behalf of the Filipino Gottesdienst Gemeinde in Wien, I would like to congratulate you on this very memorable occasion. It is something to be proud of that a Filipino priest heads a Catholic Parish in Austria.I wish you the best and God Bless in all your undertakings,” Fr. Ron Sandoval, SVD said.
Born on January 23, 1972 in San Pablo City, Laguna province, Philippines, Fr. Gabriel attended seminary in St.Peter’s College Seminary in Laguna. He finished Bachelor of Arts in Philosophie in 1996.
Fr. Gabriel pursued his theological studies at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City and was ordained a priest in 2002, and later worked on the pastoral level, serving in various parishes in the diocese of San Pablo and professor at the St. Peter’s Seminary.
After Fr. Gabriel’s six years pastoral exposure in the Philippines as a secular priest (He served the diocese of San Pablo for 6 years. He was 3 Years assistant parish priest in 3 different parishes and was assigned at St. Peter´s College Seminary in San Pablo as Oeconomous and teacher), he decided to enter the Cistercian Congregation. During the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005, he met Abbot Maximilian Heim, a Cistercian Abbot from Germany. Fr. Gabriel was very much inspired about the lifestyle of the Congregation. He entered the Cistercian Monastic Community in Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria in 2008, and professed his perpetual vows on August 12, 2010.
As a cistercian monk, he got a wider pastoral exposure as pastor. He served as assistant parish priest in St. Marian Bochum, Stiefel, Germany and at the same time the Director of Marian Piligrim Church. He also served as pastor for the foreign students at the University of Ruhr, Bochum. Fr. Gabriel cultivated his contact with the Filipino community in Bochum, too. He founded the Filipino Marian Pilgrimage here and served as the Spiritual Director of Legion of Mary to the Filipino Communities in Germany.
As head of the Saint Catherine Parish, he will be attending to the spiritual needs and pastoral formation of the entire Roman Catholic Community in Podersdorf, Austria. END
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