Column – Ongen shares spring message at priesthood celebration

Published 5:56 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

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As the season of Lent is in full swing for all Christians worldwide, a local pastor with 40 years of priesthood has summoned the congregation or faith community who gathered together to celebrate with him at the only Catholic church, St. Mary’s of the Presentation Catholic Church, established in 1909, in Suffolk. He answered the call to serve God and the community of believers. 

The Rev. Father Rogelio “Ongen” Largoza, a Filipino priest of the Diocese of Richmond, celebrated his 40 years of priesthood and 65 years of life with a solemn Mass at the historic church in downtown Suffolk, Monday, March 20, the first day of spring. 

The celebration was joyfully and faithfully attended by his fellow pastors and  former parishioners from different parishes in Virginia, friends, siblings and relatives, who came all the way from New Jersey, San Diego and the Philippines. 

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As the main celebrant of the Mass and pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. Ongen, as he is fondly called, welcomed and thanked everyone who, despite their busy schedules, attended the special occasion in his honor. 

He also thanked the church’s choir, under Ms. Francis, for the beautiful liturgical music, and the young altar servers “who happened to be four brothers and were not even parishioners from the parish, but they will be,” he jokingly said. 

During the well-attended lively Mass, invited homilist Monsignor Juan S. Celso, a friend of Fr. Ongen from the Diocese of Alabama, and fellow pastor originally from the Diocese of Nueva Caceres in the  Philippines, quoted Matthew 14:27-29, “Do not be afraid…come.” He spoke about himself briefly being a priest, and the celebrant who, a priest for 40 years, has to undergo and encounter many challenges along the way in proclaiming and bringing the Good News to all people from different places and parishes where he is dutifully and faithfully assigned. 

Msgr. Celso said Fr. Ongen answered that call to be “single” throughout his life just so he can be fully of service to God, to bring the Good News of salvation through his begotten son, Jesus Christ.

The preacher-homilist also mentioned about St. Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of Jesus, since the day coincides with the solemnity of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church.

After Mass, Fr. Ongen invited the whole congregation to a reception in the church’s Social Hall where food and drinks were served by St. Mary’s staff and volunteer parishioners. 

While the faith community or congregation were enjoying food and fellowship, a slide show presentation was also shown highlighting Fr. Ongen’s 40 years of pastoral service and ministry in various parishes in the United States, the Philippines and the Caribbean. 

The church’s parish council chair, under the leadership of Chris Francis, presented Fr. Ongen at the reception with a gift, a framed painting of St. Mary’s altar by a Suffolk artist-parishioner. Fr. Ongen thanked Francis for his active church involvement and stewardship. 

Members of St. Mary’s Knights of Columbus council 7363 were also present to grace the special occasion. 

To Rev. Fr. Ongen, happy 40th ordination anniversary and 65th birthday. May you continue to be a faithful servant of God. May God bless you with many more blessings and years of service to God, our country, our church and the whole world. Thank you for being a good shepherd, like Jesus Christ, always looking out for others who may be lost, thirsty for the Good News and spiritual guidance and growth. 


-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy  veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at