GROWING up with members of the faith, the president of the Adamson University continued to soar in serving the Vincentian mission to evangelize those in need through quality education.

As early as high school, Fr. Gregorio Bañaga, Jr., C.M. had been inspired by his uncles and aunts to enter the seminary of the Congregation of the Mission, an order of priests and brothers following the teachings of St. Vincent de Paul.

“My younger brother and I both became priests after entering the seminary,” Bañaga said.Fondly called Fr. Gregg, Bañaga finished his degree in Philosophy in Adamson before continuing his studies in UST where he earned a degree in Theology. He was ordained a priest in 1979.

At present, Fr. Gregg is the president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), th nationwide association of Catholic educational institutions.

“It is a very heavy responsibility because you have to be the president of 1,345 schools all over the country so it is a huge responsibility on my part,” he said.

Foundation of faith

Fr. Gregg at first “just wanted to become a priest” without knowing the differences among religious orders when he entered the seminary in his first year of high school.

He said that it was only when he was ordained that he realized that “the real meaning of being a Vincentian is to evangelize the poor.”

After entering the priesthood, he was sent to various missions in poor areas in the provinces of Rizal, Pangasinan, Camarines Sur and Bataan. This was interrupted for more than a year after he was assigned as a parish priest in the St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Manila.

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He said that he was really thankful for this work in the missions because it would give the “foundation of faith” needed to quell skeptical minds about religion.

“Because, you know, if your foundation is not really strong intellectually, you will have difficulty in dealing with questions of the faith, questions that you have to grapple with as a priest,” said Bañaga, who took a Master’s degree in Organizational Development at the Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois.

Aside from taking up religious duties, his father wanted him to take up Architecture or Engineering because of his good technical skills, but his mother pushed him further into his vocation when she told him that she would be truly happy when all her children become priests and nuns.

Despite an early exit by his brother from the seminary, Fr. Gregg said that his family was really happy for him when he took the highest seat in Adamson and CEAP, but they were also worried that he might not be able to live up to the demands of his positions.

“I also know that while my brothers and sisters are very happy, they were also concerned about my health, how I will carry the leadership role,” said Bañaga.

In 2003, a twist of fate happened for Fr. Gregg when he learned that he would be sent to Adamson after finishing his studies in the States.

“I never envisioned that I will be in Adamson. My plan is to be of better service to the Philippines, especially in the rural areas,” he said. “After that, my superiors called me and asked me where I wanted to be assigned but Adamson was not in my list.”

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“Sometimes we cannot plan everything in our lives. There are times wherein God has different plans for us,” he added.

Faithful to the mission

Being the president of a nationwide organization, the UST alumnus strived hard to shoulder the huge responsibility given to him in handling 1,345 schools in the country.

“I was happy with the trust that was given to me by the board of trustees of CEAP. But at the same time I could feel the heavy responsibility that always goes with that kind of privilege,” he said.

To perform his two roles, his sole motivation was God.

“At the end of the day, it is between me and God. That is very important. I did what I was supposed to do and followed what I though should be done,” said the Fr. Gregg.

Through the years, the CEAP president was also a member of the Movement for a Better World, an international non-government organization which aims to provide a “better world” through evangelization projects to various religious institutions and parishes, starts the work of making the world better in the university he runs.

Although he has defected to the Falcons, Fr. Gregg has not missed out what UST has instilled in him and continues his mission to radiate goodness to the society.

“The greatest value I got from UST is intellectual rigor and theological formation according to the mind of the Catholic Church,” he said.

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