In this lifetime, many of us seek a good life— a happy family, a stable income, and a legacy to leave behind when the time comes. However, for Fr. Antonio Molavin, living a good life is simple: It’s doing everything for and by the Lord.
The parish priest at San Ildefonso Church in Makati and My Pope Philippines’s Outstanding Parish Priest of 2021 has always dreamt of pursuing a life in the priesthood. As a matter of fact, he has found his true calling as early as when he was still a preschool student in Don Bosco Mandaluyong.
“I was just fascinated with the Salesians,” he tells My Pope Philippines. “I wanted to be like them, I wanted to join their company. Of course, there was a choice to be a priest or a Salesian brother, and that was as early as around Grade 3.” (Read: 3 Books to Feed Your Curiosity About Catholic Saints)
Fr. Molavin (or Fr. Beng-beng to his parishioners) was invited by a Salesian cleric to enter the seminary when he was still an altar server. And when he turned 11, young Antonio entered the then-Don Bosco Pampanga Seminary with a supportive family behind him.
Growing up in the Church
According to Fr. Molavin, no one in his family opposed his decision to enter the seminary— despite the fact that his father was an army man.
“My dad, although he was in the Army, he was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and my mom was a lector. Both of them were also members of the Christian Family Movement in the 1970’s, and my sister is in the choir,” he says.
Fr. Molavin adds that he entered the seminary “just out of curiosity.” But when he started to know more about life in the priesthood, he also grew to love the purpose it entails. “There was every reason to love the calling,” Fr. Molavin says. (Read: 3 PH Schools to Consider if You Want to Become a Priest)
And what’s not to love? Life inside the seminary was a well-rounded experience— you study, you work, and you learn all sorts of things from chores, religion, and theology to working with different communities. These learnings are what Fr. Molavin has taken with him ever since he was ordained in 1986.
“I think the most important thing I learned is that spirituality, priesthood, and closeness to Christ are deeply related,” he says. “You should really strive for holiness, to become a saint.” (Read: 3 Priests in the PH Who Are Also Accomplished Scientists)
Following in the Pope’s Footsteps
One of the things that amazed us during our interview with Fr. Molavin was his genuine reaction when we asked him about our dear Pope Francis. (Read: Meet the My Pope Philippines Outstanding Parish Priests of 2021)
“This pope is fantastic, I have no words,” he says. And just like how Lolo Kiko would use some of his time to meet, sit down, and talk with people from all walks of life, Fr. Molavin also makes sure to develop a close relationship with his parishioners and those living around the community.
As parish priest of San Ildefonso Church, Fr. Molavin would sometimes take his bike around the community to meet his parishioners and get to know them personally. “I would joke that I was going around for the census, but would tell them that I was doing it to get to know them more,” he explains.
“That’s one thing I learned from the Pope— to really go out, not to remain inside the church. In that way, I can develop the basic ecclesial communities, and the only way to keep it active is to really visit them,” he adds. (Read: Pope Francis Surprises Kids at the Vatican Summer Camp)
Apart from visiting the communities, Fr. Molavin also prefers to live simply and sustainably. He doesn’t own a car, so the only way for him to get around town is by using his bike. (Read: 5 Times Pope Francis Championed Sustainable Living)
And of course, whenever he transfers parishes, he makes it a point that all his belongings and necessities can fit in one backpack.
500 Couples for 500 Years
If there’s one thing that Fr. Molavin learned during his time going around the community, it’s that not all couples who are living together are married in church.
“Sobrang daming hindi kasal sa simbahan, it’s either they are living together o kasal sa huwes,” he says.
That’s when they thought of holding a kasalang bayan just in time for the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines— and coincidentally, Pope Francis also declared that March to June 2021 is the amoris laetitia year which highlights the importance of family and the sacrament of matrimony!
Fr. Molavin’s goal is to marry 500 couples— symbolic of the years that the Philippines has been a Christian. And this is free of charge! From the papers and documents to the sponsors and even to the rings, couples will not be spending a single centavo.
And even during the pandemic, the San Ildefonso Parish has been marrying at most eight couples every Saturday— an alternative to the monthly kasalang bayan that they used to hold before the pandemic. (Read: How This Couple Beat ‘Wedding Mishaps’ Amid Taal, COVID-19 Disasters)
The church has also been active in holding outreach programs for poor communities around their parish— but this time, because of the pandemic, Fr. Molavin and his parishioners are the ones going house-to-house to bring the food to avoid people crowding in one place.
Fr. Antonio Molavin, SDB
If there is one thing Fr. Antonio wants to convey through his projects and the way he lives his life, it is that everyone should make it a point to become a saint in their mortal lives.
“You might be thinking of the capital ‘S,’ but it’s enough to be just the small ‘s.’ You just have to be kind and live according to the Lord’s word,” he says. “That’s my project in life, to become a saint. Simply to do God’s Will.”