After our quick visit to Tarlac Cathedral (Check : A Pilgrimage to Tarlac : San Sebastian Cathedral), we headed next to our fifth destination. We went to an interesting church in Gerona, Tarlac dedicated to a newly canonized Saint, San Josemaria Escriva. The church’s brown and gold color scheme is something cannot go unnoticed.
Compare to the previous churches we visited (Check : Pilgrimage to Tarlac), San Josemaria Escriva Parish or now canonically known as the Diocesan Shrine of St Josemaria Escriva, is relatively new. The construction of the church started in 2010 and was blessed in 2014 in which the church was declared as a Diocesan Shrine. It is also the first shrine in Asia to be dedicated to San Josemaria Escriva.
Who is Josemaria Escriva
Josemaria Escriva is a priest from Spain who initiated the Opus Dei, an organization of laypeople and priests dedicated to the teaching that everyone is called to holiness by God and that ordinary life can result in sanctity. Escriva was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 6 October 2002 in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Interestingly, the Diocesan Shrine of San Josemaria Escriva in Gerona Tarlac houses a first class relic from the saint, his tooth. The relic can be found enshrined in the baptistery.
One of the most notable features of the church’s exterior is the huge bronze statue of a Guardian Angel standing at the corner of the bell tower. Saint Josemaria Escriva is said to have a strong devotion to guardian angels. The statue was designed by Professor Noel Escultura from UST.
The interior of the church is even more fascinating. We were all welcomed by a stunning design where everything from one corner to another were intricately presented. Father Alex Bautista who is also apparently a former architect designed the whole church. The wonderfully designed ceiling was hand painted by the local artists from Bicol as well as the walls and the pillars.
The magnificent retablo features incredible framed artworks from Mr Richie Palatao, an artist from Concepcion Tarlac.
The paintings depict images of Saint Josemaria Escriva and other notable events in the bible.
The statue of Saint Joseph near the altar.
Another glimpse of the stunning altar from a different angle.
In one of the sanctuaries, you’ll find an image of Nuestra Señora De Torrecuidad (Our Lady of Torrecuidad). Torreciudad is the name of a Marian Shrine in Aragon, Spain built by San Josemaria Escriva.
Interestingly, the Shrine also offers a drive-thru visit where visitors can drive by the back of the church – where a sensor activates the lights on the altar – and then pray and view the Blessed Sacrament.