Rooted in faith
Father Rogelio Organiza is adventurous; he likes to travel, discover new things, and scuba dive.
So when he had the opportunity to travel from his native Philippines to Vermont to minister as a priest, he took it — not for the scuba diving, of course, but for the chance to live in a new place and meet and serve new people.
“The priesthood is a universal call, not exclusive for your local Diocese,” said the administrator of Holy Family Parish in Springfield and Chester. “I wanted to challenge myself — new culture, new environment, new people, new weather.” Doing so gives one the “capacity and capability” to adjust to every situation.
He traces the beginning of his call to the priesthood to his childhood. Even before he was 7 — the age at which he became an altar server — he was drawn to that service. At Christmas the local altar servers would put on their cassocks and go from house to house with a statue of the Baby Jesus. There would be a prayer at each home and people would kiss the statue.
He remained an altar server through high school and university where he studied mechanical engineering. English was part of the curriculum since elementary school, but he also speaks his local dialect and the Tagalog national language.
During summers, seminarians worked in his parish, and he was drawn to their prayer life and camaraderie.
The call to the priesthood persisted, and when his department closed at the university, he applied to the seminary and eventually was ordained a diocesan priest on June 5, 2001.
He served as a parochial vicar then pastor of two different St. Isidore parishes. St. Isidore has a special place in Father Organiza’s life; he is the patron saint of farmers and also of the priest’s home village, where he was raised on a farm, one of six siblings.
After a pastorate at another church, Father Organiza, 51, came to Vermont in 2015, serving first as parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Rutland then as administrator of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in the Champlain Islands before being assigned to Holy Family Parish last October.
The priest had a garden when he lived at the rectory in Alburg, and he plans another in Springfield where a raised bed is already in place to which he has been adding compost.
He likes to have what he calls “a refrigerator in the garden” where he can pick what he needs for a meal as he needs it — lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, spinach, lemon grass and other ingredients for a salad.
“I love to plant,” Father Organiza said with a smile. “I think I have a green thumb.”
But his thoughts about food reach beyond the garden. “There is no such thing as barren lands, only barren minds,” he said, explaining that food is a basic need, and those who have more than enough must share with those who don’t, from individuals to nations. “We have more than enough food in this world. The problem is we have this greedy mentality. And we try to produce [more] using chemicals and fertilizers. Then instead of giving nutrition to our bodies, it harms our bodies.”
The priest’s parents still live in the Philippines, and he enjoys visiting them and the small, rural coffee/coconut/rice farm where he grew up. There he enjoys planting, collecting eggs and feeding the animals. He finds it relaxing to hear the animals and the birds, instead of going to a mall. “I love the quiet,” he said.
One of the challenges — besides winter weather — he has found in Vermont is the smaller parish communities than those with thousands of parishioners in the Philippines. To bring more people to the parish, he and parishioners are engaged in various committees including those addressing service, family, youth and evangelization. They host pot-luck dinners, coffee hours, free holiday dinners and Lenten fish frys.
The parish community, he said, “is working very good.”
Because he is adventurous and likes to discover new things, Father Organiza has found joy in Vermont where he especially likes the fall foliage. “Every place has a lot to offer,” he said.
And he has a lot to offer the Diocese of Burlington.
—Originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.