Fr Jovito Dales

A Close Encounter with the Columbans in the Third World, Part 2

By Fr Jovito Dales

Fr Jovito Dales, who was born in Marawi City and grew up in Ozamiz City, tells the second part of his vocation story. After serving in Peru he is now Columban Vocation Director in the Philippines.

Becoming a Columban

I joined the Columbans in June 1997. The following year, with the opening of our International Theologate in Chicago, I was sent to the United States for theological studies. In 2002 I left for Bolivia for five months for an intensive course in Spanish language and then proceeded to Peru for my First Missionary Assignment (FMA). I had a meaningful experience in Peru with an interruption in 2003 when my father died.

Fr Jovito with Fijian Columban Fr William Lee and Filipino Columban Lay Missionaries Irma Cantago and John Din in Lima, Peru

The Columbans are family-orientated. The fact that I was able to come home for my Dad’s funeral made me even more appreciative of them. I finished my theology in 2005. The following years until my priestly ordination were spent in the Columban parish of Our Lady of Remedies, Malate, Manila. I was ordained deacon there in 2006. It was there that I learned more about poverty in my own country.

A Close Encounter with the Columbans in the Third World

By Fr Jovito Dales

Father Jovito shares how his childhood wonder at the ‘huge house inhabited by white strangers’ in Ozamiz City led him ultimately to leave a good job in the bank and become a Columban priest in Peru. He is now back in the Philippines as vocation director. He will be very happy to hear from any young man interested in following his footsteps at

‘I pray especially for you to have the gifts of the Spirit of Discernment and the Spirit of Mission.’ That was the prayer of Columban Fr Desmond Hartford when he confirmed me in January 1997 in the chapel of the Carmelite Sisters, Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. After finding no proof of my confirmation Monsignor Des, then Apostolic Administrator of the Prelature of Marawi, suggested that I be confirmed there. He looked for my baptismal godparents, whom I had never met. He eventually found them and brought them to the ceremony. That was an unforgettable event precisely because I was born and baptized in Marawi City in 1969, but grew up in Catadman, Ozamiz City, when we left the war-torn place in 1972.

Encounter with the White Strangers

My first encounter with the Columbans was during my elementary years. Going to school I passed by a huge house inhabited by white strangers. We called it ‘Ang Palasyo’, ‘The Palace’, as it was the biggest house in town. Those passing by were curious about the overwhelmingly big house, about those white men what they were they doing in our place. Their towering height seemed threatening to little kids like me. But I was not afraid of them because they were very nice. They tried to speak and ask questions in Bisaya, and would even laugh as they were corrected. I learned that they were missionary priests and that Ang Palasyo was the central house of the Columban Fathers in Ozamiz City. Most of the Columbans I met in Mindanao were people-oriented, lived a simple lifestyle, were very down to earth and courageous, and chose to stay despite the danger – things that captivated me as I was silently discerning my vocation.