The time, 1945 Cebu City has just been liberated by the American forces. The Chapel of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Lahug, built in 1938 by Dr. Virgilio Gonzales and his wife, to fulfill a promise to the Little Flower of Jesus, is in ruins. Only the bell tower, façade (both scarred and pockmarked by shrapnel and bullets) with the statue OF St. Therese, the pillars and the tile floor remain of what was once a beautiful chapel.

The Japanese army had left a partially damaged chapel which they had first used a warehouse then as a stable for their horses. The people of Lahug returned to find their homes razed to the ground. They found the chapel with some usable building materials. So, they took away anything and everything that could be carried or pried loose. Thus, only the concrete columns and shell of the chapel remained.

When I first visited it in 1950, it was used to pasture carabaos and goats, with stray dogs, pigs and chickens roaming the area freely. And it remained thus until 1959.

Then, God called Juan Alburo, Registrar of Southern College (now known as University of Southern Philippines Foundation). He was inpisred, through St. Therese, to mobilize the community of Lahug to rebuild the chapel. As he recounted it, one night, as he watched the skies being lit up now and then by lightning, strong winds slicing the air, the rain falling in torrential gusts on the rooftops, he who lived just a stone’s throw from across the ‘chapel’, suddenly saw a bolt of lightning hit the cross on top of the bell tower. Down the cross fell!

To Johnny, the message was very clear, written in bold letters- “Rebuild my chapel!” For it was not long before when Rev. Fr. Veronico Salvador had visited him and suggested that something be done about the ruins, maybe its reconstruction. He politely demurred since it was such a huge daunting task. Now, he was being told to overcome his doubts and go to work.

This he did with admirable elan and energy, mobilizing the talents and resourcefulness of the Lahug Community. His enthusiasm inspired the group and they set to work clearing the area, scrubbing and cleaning and whitewashing. They found a discarded altar of the Redemptorist Church., and with a thatched nipa roof and sawali walls to protect the sanctuary, they had a ‘renovated’ chapel. I saw the pride in their faces the day they stood back to admire their ‘handiwork’.

                On March 19, 1959, the feast of St. Joseph, the first post-liberation mass was celebrated by then Rev. Fr. Pedrito Dean, now Archbishop of Palo.

                To quote from a feature article in the 1982 Parish Souvenir Program, “Not only did Juan Alburo play a significant part in the reconstruction of the St. Therese Chapel. He continued his active role in the growth and development of the Christian community was forming around the church. The Lahug Catholic Community association was formed with him as its first and only president. He may not have been aware of it but in his performance, of his function as president, he was sector (sic), sacristan, campanero, and lector all rolled up in one. As long as Johnny was around, the Lahug community of worshippers did not have to fear that the holy sacrifice of the mass would not be celebrated for want of a priest. He would go through great lengths to “hunt” for one. When he would come home with “the bacon”, the community would welcome both “hunter” and “hunted” with cheers.”

“Community at work” set the tone for future action

Thus, two years to the day, on March 19,1961, the feast of Saint Joseph once again, the fully reconstructed chapel was blessed by His Grace, Arhcbishop Julio Rosales, after a concelebrated mass. This was the fulfillment of one dream.

Another cherished dream took its place- to see the day when the chapel would be transformed into a parish. This cherished dream was aggressively and vigorously pursued by all. The Women’s Auxillary Committee which was originally organized by Rev. Fr. Dean, with Mary Bowler as Chair, accepted the challenge to raise funds to acquire the lot adjacent to the chapel where the convent would be erected, on condition that Fr. Dean bring to the attention of the Archbishop of Cebu the intense desire of the Lahug Catholic Community to become an independent parish. (The womenfolk showed their grit!)

Thus it came to pass that Archbishop Rosales signed a decree on February 1, 1964, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, creating the new Parish of St. Therese.

But it was a struggle parish, barely able to support its parish priests. The dream was somehow flawed.

Initially, the first three parish priests came from the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society of Canada. The Society had to augment the church’s interior, increasing its seating capacity fivefold. The Social Hall and the present mortuary were also constructed. Fund raising was the forte of Jess Martinez, who was able to raise considerable sums from his friends for this and succeeding projects.

The Scarboro missionaries had helped to established a successful cooperative in their mission in Leyte. So, they tried to do the same in Lahug and provided for the credit cooperative’s office near the Social Hall. The coop’s president was Atty. Hermie Cabinian. These feats somehow compensated for the failure to provide enough logistical support for the parish priest.

The St. Therese Parish Pastoral Council was formed in 1967. (Rev.) Fr. James McGuire, SFM, was the parish priest at the time. Mr. Jose Lardizabal was the first president.

Fr. Armand Clement returned as parish priest in January 1970. The construction projects were completed before the feast of St. Therese on October 3, 1970. On this day, October 3, 1970, Most Rev. Nicolas Mondejar was installed as parish priest.

When the Filipino priests took over in 1970, the struggle for subsistence took (on) real meaning. The Arancel could not generate enough income to meet the ordinary operational requirements of the parish. It was touch and go for several years.

Msgr. Alojipan, parish priest from 1972 to 1976, constantly feeling the pinch, many time having to shell out his own private funds, initiated the formation of the St. Therese Parish Foundation in 1973, to set up a Trust Fund, the income of the Fund to meet the financial needs of the parish for the maintenance of the church, catechetical and social action projects, but this proved to be not feasible, and the Foundation went into a deep sleep until 1983. Attempts to revive it failed also. Another attempt was raising for the pastoral center, with Mr. Carlos Santos as the president.

As far as can be recalled, the following sequence of parish priests assigned to St. Therese is as follows:

1964-67 Rev. Fr. Armand Clement
1967-69 Rev. Fr. James McGuire
Feb. 1969 Rev. Fr. Patrick Kelly
Jan 1970 Rev. Fr. Armand Clement
 1970-72 Bishop Nicolas Mondejar (Start Ocy. 3, 1970)
 1972-76 Msgr. Jose Alojipan
 1976-79 Msgr. Patricio Alo
1979-81 Rev. Fr. Rudy Villanueva (Rev. Fr. Rudy Manayon)
1981-91 Rev. Fr. Nemesio Sungcad (Start June 6, 1981)
1991-93 Msgr. Pascual Ypil
993-2000 Rev. Fr. Raul Gallego (Start July 26, 1993)
2000-2001 Team of Pastors:

Rev. Fr. Sindulfo Iriarte (Team Moderator)
Rev. Fr. Henrico Gabutan
2001 to date Team of Pastors:
Rev. Fr. Rolando Manayon (Team Moderator)
Rev. Fr. John Jonah Jude Thadeus Orat
Rev. Fr. Vicente Tupas, Jr.