By Bishop Wenceslao S. Padilla CICM
Bishop Padilla is from Tubao, La Union. After working in Taiwan he was appointed to lead the first group of missionaries in modern times to Mongolia in 1992. He was ordained bishop in the then newly built Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, on 29 August 2003. The Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar was established on 8 July 2002 and covers the whole of Mongolia, which has a population of around 2,800,000 and a land area more than five times that of the Philippines. Bishop Padilla is the first bishop ever in Mongolia and the first Filipino to be appointed bishop of a jurisdiction outside of the Philippines. The Papal Nuncio to Mongolia, Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, who is based in Korea, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Cebu. The two are not related.
On 10 July 1992 a Church was born in the steppes of Central Asia. This happened when three missionaries of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) set foot on Mongolian soil. It felt like it was an adventure for the three male religious to spearhead a mission where the Church had no physical structures or members to call her own. From the start, to establish a Church from scratch was a scary endeavor, full of challenges and excitement as well.
Arriving when the Republic of Mongolia had just been liberated from the grip of Soviet Russia, the country was on its first faltering steps to stand on its own. The newly constituted government was trying to address the various problems and needs of the country and the people. It was somewhat chaotic in the public places as a hunger strike was being staged in front of the Parliament/Presidential building asking for the stepping down of the then Prime Minister. The one leading the demonstration was a fearless and committed advocate of democracy, now President of Mongolia, Mr Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.