A welcome distraction at Father Roland Jaluag’s humble office at the Jesus, Lord Divine Mercy Parish in Mapayapa Village I, Pasong Tamo, Quezon City, are three tall display shelves and a wall filled with a couple of hundred crosses and crucifixes in varying shapes, colors, and sizes. They come from different parts of the country and the world. Some are from Spain, Rome, Bali, and South Africa.
None of these were bought, the Boholano priest tells ANCX. They were birthday and sacerdotal anniversary presents and pasalubongs from friends and parishioners throughout his ten-year journey into the apostolic ministry. “Actually, I did not intend to be a collector of crosses,” he shares. “But since I have quite a few accumulating dust in one corner of my office, I decided to hang them in 2013.” Parishioners and friends started giving him more crosses every time they catch sight of his display—and that is how his collection grew.
Asked what was the first piece that started this mini-gallery, he says—as if he realized it just now—it is the vow cross. “It was given to me when I took my first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the Society of Jesus,” says Father Jaluag. He was a Jesuit for 11 years, and later on transferred to the Diocese of Novaliches. “I am a Diocesan priest now. But I bring the cross with me.”
There are a lot of intricate and even curious-looking crosses on his display. But one of the most special is a very simple wooden cross, about 6” x 3” in size. It’s too ordinary-looking that you wouldn’t think it was used by a late Bishop as his pectoral cross. Given the simplicity of this Bishop, however, Fr. Jaluag thinks the cross is such a match to his personality.
“I look up to him because of his humility and love for the poor and his brilliance. We loved to listen to him talk about his missionary experiences and his take on social and church issues,” shares the priest.
Fr. Jaluag also received a cross from Architect and Professional Regulation Commissioner Yolanda Reyes, a pasalubong from her Bali trip. “It’s covered by a brown batik type cloth—very Bali,” says the priest.
Two pieces he considers most interesting are a black wooden cross from South Africa, given by his friend Jorge Sabina, and a metal cross from Caravaca Spain, which was given by their host during the World Youth Day Spain in 2011.
When he decided to seriously collect crosses, the Loyola School of Theology graduate says he made it a personal policy not to buy any cross for himself. He wanted them all to be gifts from friends or parishioners, he says. And that is why they mean so much to him. They remind him of two things: One, the thoughtfulness of his friends and parishioners. Two, they remind him to pray for the givers of these crosses.
To some people, crosses signify challenges that we have to bear in life. In Jaluag’s case, the heaviest cross he has to carry in his ministry so far is the construction of a multi-million church project, the Kristong Hari Shrine of the Youth. He was assigned to become the priest director of the church’s construction. It’s a 2500-seater church, with a basement parking, and a youth center. It started construction in 2016 and is now about 50% percent complete. They are currently focusing on the building of the church columbarium with 10,500 vaults.
“I always believe that you are not carrying your cross alone. God shares with your cross,” he says. “In fact, God proves to you that He is the one carrying your cross when he sends many people who share with the challenge of building the church. The heavier the cross, the greater is the opportunity to grow in hope, faith and love.”
Just like the crosses on his wall, Fr. Jaluag says our life’s crosses come in all shapes, sizes and colors. But there is only one who can give meaning to our cross. “Only Jesus can unconditionally share with our cross and save us from it and offer us hope and new life,” he says.