When the Clergy of the Vicariate of San Isidro in the Diocese of Digos gathered at the House of the Clergy on March 13, 2017 for their monthly recollection, Father Perseus Gonzales, their speaker, shared a metaphorical joke quoted from the speech of Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla for IIREF last March 11, 2017.
After saying the anecdote about the difference between ‘complete’ and ‘finish’, he ended by saying ‘it is completely finished’, stood up and as he was about to walk, he suddenly collapsed unconscious at the hands of Bishop Guillermo Afable who was then behind him. He was brought to Digos Dominican Hospital where he was declared DOA.
This final moment of Father Perseus was narrated by Fr. Bong Lunas, Vicar of Digos, to IIREF staff and theologians who rushed to Saint Peter’s Chapel in Digos on Tuesday morning. “Father Perseus finally surrendered to his Bishop in his final hour”, Fr. Lunas quipped.
“It was an epiphany of Father Perseus’ death,” commented Dr. Manilee Araune of IIREF Doctoral Degree Program. “We didn’t expect that a simple metaphorical joke ‘completely finished’ turned out to be a deep theological impact on the death of Father Perseus,” said Dr. Araune.
The priests who witnessed the final moment of Father Perseus were stunned for they did not understand the meaning of his last words. Now they understood, that Father Perseus Gonzales is “completely finished”.
“He was still and silent, but resilient and firm,” this was how his elder brother Demosthenes Gonzales describes Father Perseus. “He was the fourth of the eight siblings of six boys and two girls who survived alone in Matanao when our parents died when we were still at our young age, and I used to be their Big Brother,” narrated Demosthenes during the last night of funeral wake.
At the time of his death, from Saint Peter’s Chapel, he was brought to San Isidro Labrador Parish in Hagonoy where he last served as a Parish Priest. Parishioners of Hagonoy offered prayers in his funeral wake until Friday.
In the morning of 17 March, he was transferred to San Isidro Labrador Parish in Digos for his last days of funeral wake. On 20 March 2017 at nine in the morning, Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable officiated his funeral mass dubbed along with Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, priests from Davao, Digos, Tagum and Mati, religious priests, brothers and nuns from distinguished congregations, staff from DACS and IIREF, theologians and seminarians.
The funeral mass was also jam packed with various parishioners from Matanao, Hagonoy and Digos, as well as Father Perseus’ relatives, friends and former classmates.
In his homily, Bishop Afable acknowledged the presence of the relatives of Father Perseus. He also acknowledged the presence of his classmate Archbishop Valles, and the presence as well of Father William Malley, SJ.
“Jose Perseus as he was baptized in Mediatrix Cathedral in Digos and was confirmed in Bansalan, had served the Catholic Church as a priest for 21 years since he was ordained by Bishop Generoso Camiña,” Bishop Afable said in his homily, “and following his Christian name ‘Jose’, Father Perseus will be laid to rest on the Feast of Señor San Jose”.
“Father Perseus had lived a good and righteous life, and died at the time of the priests’ recollection; he simply did what he ought to do while he was still living until the time of his death,” concluded Bishop Afable.
“My brother’s life is finished; my brother’s life is accomplished,” cried Demosthenes during his privilege speech after the funeral mass.
“Nahingpit ang bokasyon ni Father Perseus diha sa iyang kamatayon, kay ang pagtubag sa kamatayon kabahin man sa pagtubag sa bokasyon,” was the final comment of Msgr. Bong Lunas. (Vonz M. Hijada)