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Archives Father Pesigan finds ‘joy in serving God’s vineyard’

Oct. 14, 2020

By Mary Beth Bracy

PLATTSBURGH – When they see Father Eduardo C. Pesigan III shooting hoops, college students say he is a “sick” basketball player. Often smiling and making jokes, which he laughs at the hardest, Father Pesigan experiences “joy at doing something good for God or the Church.” It makes him happy and there is “joy in serving in God’s vineyard.”

Father Pesigan, parochial vicar of Plattsburgh Catholic Parishes, credits his family for fostering his vocation. His mother, Patricia Corpuz, came from the Ilocos region in the Northern part of the Philippines (where the Marcos’ were from) and his father, Eduardo I, lived in the Bicol region in the Southern part of the Philippines. They met when his mother, a teacher, was assigned to his father’s area.

“She really had a strong devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and the Rosary in a particular way. She was very Marian,” said Father Pesigan, who also has a strong devotion to Our Lady.

His father was from a conservative family and later became a government employee. Father Pesigan attended a Jesuit school, Ateneo de Naga, where the pioneer American Jesuits ministered and he benefited from the “influence of the Jesuit mission.”

When Father Pesigan and his father walked or rode horses together, his father spoke of the goodness of the Jesuit priests. They walked among the people and would even go to the playground to hear confessions. After these experiences, his father would “always tell me how good the priests are.” He was a “die-hard Cursillo member and very vocal about his faith.”

Born in Naga City, Father Pesigan grew up in the town of San Pascual in Masbate, located in Burias Island. Father Pesigan is the second of five children – two boys and three girls.

“Part of life was to go to Mass every Sunday . . . we knelt and prayed the Rosary every night,” he said.

His father, who died when Father Pesigan was in his second year of high school, wanted him to go to the Jesuit school. Instead he attended the University of Nueva Caceres (UNC), a private non-sectarian university. In his fourth year, he took an exam to enter the seminary and passed. When he graduated from university, Father Pesigan had chicken pox. He was supposed to attend seminary orientation, so his elder brother, Eduardo II, went on his behalf.

During his first three years of seminary, Father Pesigan “really believed that this was God’s will for me.” He felt, despite difficulties, that “I could see my direction.”

He was “convinced that I could overcome finances or whatever, since it was God’s will, I would overcome the obstacles.” In the back of his mind, Father Pesigan knew that he would “never give up, never give up on my vocation.” He would “never give up on the priesthood, challenges were part, but by God’s grace everything would be fine.”

Father Pesigan’s father and elder brother helped him to discern that he should be a priest. One might consider his ordination a miracle, considering that there were no vocations on his island for 400 years. The faithful at that time were mean to the priest and the priest cursed the island. Many young men tried to become priests, but they felt that they couldn’t due to the curse. People said that Father Pesigan was “the answer to the curse.”

When he was ordained, numerous people from his island attended. When he was returning to his hometown by boat, he could see a number of priests waiting to welcome him. The faithful spent three days preparing for the celebration, roasting multiple cows and pigs.

“They beautified the whole town,” said Father Pesigan. “The whole town was at my first Mass. They really wanted to have a priest.”

Father Pesigan’s home church is one of the oldest in the Philippines. Fray Jimenez, a missionary during the Spanish exploration, is said to have been an “apostle” to this region.

Trained as a diocesan priest, Father Pesigan served at the parochial parish level and built two churches in the Philippines. The most important thing is to “build people, formation, formation for families to make them strong,” he said.

When he was pastor at the second parish he was assigned to in the Philippines, he sent around 100 parishioners to participate in Cursillo, to provide them with good Catholic formation.

Father Pesigan continues his ministry to families in the Plattsburgh Catholic Parishes. He enjoys welcoming and ministering to them.

There was a program in his home diocese where priests were invited to volunteer for missions, after serving as a priest for 15 years. Father Pesigan offered and was assigned to St. Peter’s in Plattsburgh. He is glad that he came or he “wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn from Msgr. Joseph Aubin and Msgr. Dennis Duprey, in one way or another, I learned a lot from them.” Father Pesigan enjoys teasing and playing practical jokes on them.

They enjoyed many laughs together.

Although the cultural differences were an adjustment at first, after four years, he has acclimated. Father Pesigan is “happy being here. It is God’s will, so be it,” he said.

He has had some adventures, like doing circles in the hospital parking lot when driving in the snow for the first time. The local Filipino community has also been supportive. They guided him to wear warm clothes, which he originally thought were just for children, so that he wouldn’t get sick.

Father Pesigan emphasized the need to “pray hard for more vocations.”

“This area was very Catholic, filled with the faith,” he said. “In the Bible, it says to pray so the Lord will send more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”

Father Pesigan says he finds freedom in his vocation.

“Celibacy is the gift of freedom,” Father Pesigan explained, “If you have children there are many obstacles. I can go anywhere I want. Being celibate is a gift of freedom.”

Father Pesigan referenced the prayer for priests which talks about how they are called to live “in the world though from the world apart.”

He mentioned that “mission works” and stressed the “influence of Catholic schools.” In the Philippines there are many Catholic schools that “help a lot with the Church.” They form youth in elementary school and high school, and are “active in the ministry of the parishes.”

In the end, Father Pesigan is “happy if I think that I am successful. I will work hard, even twenty-four hours, to do it. God’s grace really is there.” Father Pesigan shared that the “Blessed Virgin has played very much, a great role [in his priesthood]. She is “always there to help me.”


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