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Troubled southern Philippine island gets new bishop

MANILA (UCAN): Claretian Father Leo Dalmao was ordained and installed as the fourth bishop of Isabela, the capital of Basilan province in the southern Philippines, known in recent years as a hub of insurgent activity by various Islamic extremist groups, on May 24.
The 49-year-old Bishop Dalmao, suceeded Bishop Martin Jumoad who was named bishop of Ozamiz in 2016. He becomes the first Filipino Claretian missionary to join the College of Bishops.
Bishops, priests, religious sisters and laypeople from across Mindanao and members of the Claretian congregation attended the installation ceremony.
In his message to the people of Basilan, Bishop Dalmao remembered “those who have died keeping their faith” in the province.
“I remember poor farmers, fishermen, Muslims, Christians, tribal people who have died as victims of this senseless conflict,” the new bishop said, referring to the insurgency.
“To those of you who continue to stand firm in faith ... from you I learned how to live on the peripheries of society,” he said. “I feel honoured to be back and to share life with you again.”
Dalmao was the general prefect of formation of the Claretian Missionaries in Rome when Pope Francis appointed him bishop of Isabela on March 25 (Sunday Examiner, April 7).
After his priestly ordination in 1997, he was assigned to Basilan where he managed a project for Samal-Badjau tribal people, also known as the sea gypsies of Mindanao.
From Basilan, he was named prefect of students in 2000 and three years later, became novice master while serving as prefect of formation of the Claretian Philippine Province.
In 2010, he was elected provincial superior of the congregation.
He also served as co-chairperson of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines until his election as a council member to the Claretian general government in 2005.
The prelature of Isabela was erected in 1963 and comprises the whole of Basilan Island with a population of 400,000, about 30 per cent of whom are Catholic.
On 24 October 1963, Monsignor Jose Maria Querejeta, a Claretian, became its first local ordinary. To date, the Claretians are present in three locations on the island running schools and parishes.
“We are glad that we have a new bishop,” said Bishop Jumoad who delivered the homily during the celebration. “I am happy with his appointment,” he said.
Bishop Dalmao was born on 1 December 1969. He joined the Claretian congregation in 1986 and studied philosophy at St. Anthony Mary Claret College in Quezon City.
He made his first religious profession on 3 May 1992, in Zamboanga City. He finished his theology studies at the Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City.
He made his perpetual profession on 16 July 1996 and was ordained priest by Bishop Querejeta on 31 May 1997. 

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