Alfredo Obviar was born on August 29, 1889, in the city of Lipa in the province of Batangas in the Philippines. His parents were devout Catholics, and Alfredo was their only child. Sadly, they died when Alfredo was a young boy, leaving him orphaned. He was taken in by maternal relatives who raised him, continuing the Catholic upbringing that Alfredo’s parents had started.
Alfredo felt the calling to the priesthood as a teenager and in 1907 he entered the Jesuit Seminary of San Francisco Javier. Upon graduating, he entered the Pontifical Seminary at the University of Santo Thomas for his theological studies. On March 15, 1919, he was ordained a priest. His road to sanctity stretched before him.
During his first parish assignment in the city of Malvar, Batangas, it was discovered that Father Boviar had an exceptional ability for not only teaching catechism but also for developing programs to train catechists. He also began opening catechetical centers in different neighborhoods and even in the business districts.
He quickly was moved up to Vicar General for the Diocese of Lipa and was appointed chaplain and confessor to the Carmelite Monastery in the city. Soon after his arrival there were more than 300 catechists teaching children every Sunday. His work increased dramatically when in 1944, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Lipa. His primary goal at the onset of his ministry was to increase the formation of new catechists on a diocesan level.
Sometime between 1948 and 1950, it was said that Our Blessed Mother was appearing to a nun in the Carmelite Monastery where Bishop Boviar was the confessor. Whenever Our Lady appeared, she was accompanied by a shower of roses. There was speculation that Bishop Obviar was aware or involved with these apparitions and word of them reached the hierarchy.
A six-member panel of bishops decided to give the “apparitions” a stamp of non-approval. Bishop Obviar obeyed and followed the ruling, always maintaining complete silence about the reports.
The bishop was then appointed Apostolic Administrator for the new Diocese of Lucerna. It was during this time that the influence from the apparitions might have revealed themselves through the bishop’s actions.
Bishop Obviar began to develop his new diocese with only 30 priests. His primary personal mission was to catechize and he saw the need for permanent workers to teach and develop a flock of catechists. As a result, on August 12, 1958, he founded the MCST (Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus). These were the sisters who would faithfully carry on the dream of Bishop Obviar to expand the work of evangelization. (Did the name of the order come from Bishop Obviar’s experiences at the Carmelite Monastery? Many say yes).
Faced with the shortage of priests, the bishop founded the Mount Carmel Seminary which later became the St. Alphonsus School of Theology. By 1975 there were more than 100 priests. Among them was Ricardo Jamin Vidal, who would be ordained by Bishop Obviar on St. Patrick’s Day 1956. In 1971, Father Vidal would become Bishop Vidal. Then, in 1985, he would be elevated to the rank of Cardinal. In 2005 he participated in the Papal Conclave that elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict the XVI.
At the age of 80, Bishop Boviar was still gathering groups of catechists around him to discuss doctrine and teaching techniques. They would meet in the sacristy of the cathedral or at his residence, and he would always encourage them to gather on street corners or in public places so people would see them and maybe join in the conversation. He believed the Word of God should be shouted from the rooftops.
Bishop Alfredo Boviar died peacefully on October 1, 1978 (the Feast of St. Therese) in the Mount Carmel Clinic he had founded. Pope Francis declared Bishop Obviar “Venerable” on November 7, 2018.
Venerable Servant of God Alfredo Boviar, please pray for us.
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