When the Rev. Bernard Tabaranza “Father Bernardito” Getigan preaches about forgiveness, he sometimes cites his own experience.
The 57-year-old native of Tagbilaran, Bohol, the Philippines, had just been ordained on Dec. 14, 1985, when he was approached by a man he had never seen before. “He introduced himself to me as my bio-dad,” said Getigan, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 612 E. 18th St.
“I’d been raised in a family with a dad and a mom and I believed the man who raised me was my biological dad. It ruined my beautiful ordination day that was supposed to be a joyful day. I was really upset.
“My problem was that as a priest I preached on forgiveness, love and mercy, but there I was, having a hard time forgiving my own dad. I finally came to the point where I decided the best way to a peaceful life and to be a man of God was to forgive him. It taught me the beauty of being able to make peace.”
Since then, Getigan has visited the man in the Philippines and been visited by him in the U.S. He has two sisters.
Serving churches in his country till coming to Odessa in 1998 as an associate of the late Monsignor Francis X. Frey at St. Mary’s, he was also at St. Lawrence Church in Garden City, Holy Redeemer and San Miguel here and in Midland and Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Ozona before returning July 15 to St. Mary’s, where 600 to 700 people attend Masses at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 and 11 a.m. Sunday. Getigan says a Filipino Mass at 5 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month.
“I had seen pine trees and beautiful places in American movies, and when the plane started to descend I wondered, where are the trees?” Getigan said. “Am I in the United States? But when Father Frey met me at the airport, he was so welcoming, so hospitable, that all my fear was gone. And the people at St. Mary’s are very welcoming.
“I base my homilies on the Word of God, the Bible, and situations in the lives of the people, and I include my personal story. We are the people of God, God loves us, he is here for us to forgive us and he does not condemn us. He gives us the assurance, ‘I am your God and I’m here to protect you and to love you.’
“I’m happy as a priest and blessed that God chose me to be his minister and gave me this beautiful opportunity to minister to people in the diocese and now here at St. Mary’s.”
Getigan has a story for children about obeying their parents, illustrated by the long horizontal scar on his forehead. “My mom asked me to stay in, but I said ‘no’ because I’d just learned to ride a bike,” he said.
“I was 13. I fell from a cliff and hit a rock and was in the hospital.”
The Rev. Nilo Nalugon, pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church at Sweetwater, said Getigan “is very prayerful and generous with the people.
“Father Bernardito was seven or eight years ahead of me, but we were at the same seminary,” said Nalugon. “He is the same guy now, very disciplined and hard-working with his pastoral ministry.”