Reverend Father Ranulfo Goneda was sent by Bishop Luis Antonio Secco of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Willemstad on Curaçao, to be the new resident priest in Saba. This writes The Daily Herald. He will replace the late Reverend Father Danilo Pastor.
Prior to his current mission as Saba’s new resident priest, Rev. Fr. Ranulfo Goneda served on Bonaire since 2002. In his youth and formative years, he lived on St. Eustatius for some time and is familiar with the local community and the vicariate of the Dutch Caribbean Leeward Islands of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba.
During the Mass on Sunday, April 6, Fr. Goneda introduced himself to parishioners speaking openly about his native roots, his education, his calling, ministry and his humble intentions to serve the community to the best of his abilities. He called on all to communicate openly, plainly and directly to him any of their concerns, including his own shortcomings.
Goneda comes from the mountainous island of Cebu, one amongst thousands making up The Philippines. It hosts some seven million inhabitants. He is one of five children, born on July 11, 1960, to hardworking simple farmers who subsisted solely on the yield of the land. Pondahan, a barrio in Upper Beceril of Bolijoon Town, where Fr. Goneda grew up, was an isolated area with no roads or local market. Goneda worked from the tender age of 12 as a house boy and later, as a pharmacy sales person, sustaining himself though high school and college and earning his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in mathematics. For two years, he worked whilst attending law school in Manila until his sister was diagnosed with cancer. Trying to help her financially, he stopped his studies.
In his youth, he lived in St. Eustatius helping his uncle, Rev. Fr. Socrates Gonesta, the resident priest there at the time. In 1993, he met Monsignor Willem Michel Ellis, the Bishop of Willemstad at that time, who played a major role in his life. The bishop, Fr. Goneda said, told him at first sight that he would become a priest, teasingly saying, “I can see it in your forehead.”
Impressionable Fr. Goneda took it to heart having been told the exact the same by an elderly woman on The Philippines. While Bishop Ellis was visiting St. Eustatius in 1994, Fr. Goneda pleaded with him and his uncle for assistance in pursuing priesthood studies in The Philippines. The bishop instead offered to have him study under his diocese. The bishop decided in 1995 to financially support his study either in the United States or Europe. Fr. Goneda was accepted with a one-year scholarship for studies at a seminary in Washington, DC, but chose to go to Rome, Italy.
He lived in Rome until 2001, having received from German, Austrian and Italian foundations generous scholarship grants for six years. He returned to his adoptive diocese on Curaçao in April 2002, where he was ordained deacon in Rincon. Months later, in the presence of parents and family, he was ordained priest in Manila.
He became parish priest on Bonaire in 2003, at the Parokia La Birgen Maria di Coromoto in Antriol.In his first message to his Saba parishioners, Fr. Goneda stressed his hope that “we work together towards one vision. I would like us to establish trust amongst ourselves and begin to understand each other’s problems through proper dialogue.”