REV FR DOM, PRISON CHAPLAIN
REV FR DOM LIBREA, PRISON CHAPLAIN
He rides on his trail bike, exuding youthful bravura and looks formidable. The rider from a distance may just be our neighbourhood juvenile, anxious and always at the edge. But no. He is the prison chaplain of Davao Penal Colony, a man entrusted with the spiritual hope of some six thousand prisoners a fragment of said population comprise the female offenders of Mindanao. (Davao Penal Colony is the only penal establishment in the country, to date, with a facility for female offenders. It is also the only prison facility where there are no gangs.) And this includes the family of correctional officers numbering around 300. (Likewise, during election period, Dapecol submits a singular voting bloc.) He is virtually the town’s leader as far as morals are concerned, the fountainhead of mystical lore, the reflection of divine dogma and a pious friend. He is Reverend Father Dominic Librea, or to his parishioners, Fr. Dom.
He has barely received his orientation in the penal setting when he began a methodical approach in his ministry, joining the youth and having regular banters with the elderly less than a year ago. In said period, he would rally the people to build their church, one that would replace the fledging edifice in favour of a new structure. It was a daunting challenge and almost an impossible task since construction of a facility does not only require massive funding but a solid will to persuade a conservative sector in the community to change their emotional and traditional outlook. For years—and Dapecol facility has been a historical relic older than the province of Davao del Norte itself—people flock the old chapel. Years of neglect however had a toll on the architectural configuration until it is almost a threatening experience to enter, much more so, attend the regular celebration of Mass. It is also no wonder why there is a dwindling of church goers attending the spiritual assingment every week end. Fr. Dom suspected that it is more an issue of safety than faith that reduces attendance. It can be factored that Fr. Dom came at a time when the penal colony never had a resident chaplain for the last decade, except for some friendly pastoral visits of priests from nearby towns.
Fr. Dom, like the present day youth, rejoices at education. After he has completed his masteral course, he immediately moved to attain the next higher level, a doctorate degree. Amidst all the tight schedule of ministering to the spiritual health of all prisoners in Dapecol, finding time to be with his youthful constituencies in the town, coordinating with his peers and superiors in his congregation, supervising the construction of a new church in a new site (across the old structure), he could still travel around on his dirt bike. Such a sight of a free spirit enjoying the air of adventure as well as the saintly discipline of a man of the cloth. Such a sight to behold for a young man, clutching a prayer book, trying to change a community torn by indifference, influenced by scepticism, overwhelmed at times by distrust and for a time, in the absence of a spiritual guide, almost consign to a period of disbelief. He must walk through these challenges and like his predecessors who almost succumbed to the pressures and temptations of uncertainty, he must, like a bike rider as he is, hold on to his balance, negotiate the rough roads and reach his destination unscathed.
He has multiplied his believers and in no time, will he succeed where others before him only wish they should.