Last 16 April 2014, Holy Wednesday, a news came to the parish that shook to its core. Msgr. Mario Arenas, the 23rd and current parish rector, joined our creator. It was not a very pleasant news. But more than the news is the fact on how the people took a grasp on what happened. Some met it with grief and disbelief. Others went on to accept the hard truth but it did not always went smoothly. Fr. Menald Leonardo, the parochial vicar, suddenly rushed out of the church to go to Manila and to the late monsignor.
The news is a shocker to everyone serving the church. However, the reason is not a surprise – according to his homily last 23 March 2014, his last mass where he presided over, he is suffering from a tumor that was removed at that time and he is undergoing chemotherapy. Another thing to consider is the heart bypass surgery he underwent less than a year before.
It has been only five months after he was formally installed as the new rector of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish – Barasoain Church. He could be considered as having the shortest term in the parish, but his legacy is not counted by the months he served but rather the number of programs he implemented or still being implemented at the time of his passing.
- Live streaming. The biggest legacy of his term is the live streaming. Barasoain Church is still the only church in the Diocese of Malolos that offers live streaming of masses during Sundays and special occasions. It allowed people from far places to view and listen to masses as long as they have internet connection, eliminating the problem of distance.
- New parish logo. Msgr. Mario Arenas oversaw the creation of the new parish logo. The logo was unveiled to the entire parish during the Acquaintance Party last 30 December 2013.
- Alay-Aral Para sa Kabataan Scholarship Program. This scholarship program has been a boon for poor students within the parish and gave hope for those needing money for their education. Most of those who signed up for the grant are incoming freshmen collegiate students.
- Termite control. Termites in the ceiling have been plaguing the stability of the church. To address this, he set aside funds for the repair and rehabilitation of the church ceiling. Unfortunately, by the time he died, the ceiling is still undergoing repairs.
- Grotto del Carmen. A new grotto dedicated for the Our Lady of Carmel was constructed in the Patio del Carmen, previously known as the Barasoain Garden. People may rinse their hands in the waters of the grotto, offer thanksgiving and donations for the church. There was an interesting story in this grotto: During the time of its construction, the church is looking for funds to pay it. Suddenly, crew from GMA 7’s television series Carmela arrived with the intent to shoot several scenes in the church (Carmela – similarly sounded like Barasoain Church’s patroness – Our Lady of Carmel). The church asked for a donation from them and the donation was used to cover the expenses.
- Divine Mercy Healing Mass. Ever since the first healing mass, it has been widely popular amongst the sick in the parish. Msgr. Mario Arenas presided over the first two healing masses, the most recent other two was presided by Fr. Joseph Fidel Roura.
- Weekly Bible Study. For those having problems comprehending and understanding the bible and also for those who desire to know more about the bible, Msgr. Mario Arenas’ launched the Weekly Bible Study every Wednesday, after the 6:00 PM mass.
- Restructuring of the Church Structure. He implemented several changes in the structure of the church. The office of the parish was transferred into the mortuary which increased its size and he also established Café Barasoain which serves a healthier alternative coffee and beverages.
During the time of his passing, some of his projects are still being implemented or under planning.
The term of Msgr. Mario Arenas taught the parish one lesson – it is not always about how long you served to call yourself successful; it is about on how you served that will matter most. For five months after he accepted his position as the new rector of the parish, Msgr. Mario Arenas demonstrated commitment and the desire to change things into good for the improvement of the parish. In the end, despite his short stay, he was able to renovate and improve the church that mostly took years. However, as time has said, five months still appeared too fast, too short, but very fruitful and memorable for the community of Our Lady of Carmel Parish – Barasoain Church.
As a whole, the parish thanks those who joined us on our grief in Msgr. Mario Arenas’ passing.