Island’s Catholics bid farewell to Bishop Ping Sorra on Feb. 1

The Roman Catholic Church has called on its faithful to observe a prayerful remembrance of the first Bishop of the Diocese of Virac, Most Rev. Jose Crisologo Sorra, D.D., who died last Jan. 21, 2021 at the age of 91 as the oldest bishop in the country.

“Mamo Ping,” as he was fondly called by fellow clergy in the island, succumbed to respiratory failure secondary to pulmonary embolism at the Tanchuling Hospital in Legazpi City and will be interred at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in the morning of Feb. 1.

The bishop’s remains arrived at San Andres port in the afternoon of Jan. 26 and was borne in a motorcade procession to the cathedral, where a Welcome Mass was concelebrated by all diocese clergy.

It will lie in state at the cathedral, with a daily concelebrated Mass and vigil on the following schedule: Jan. 27 (Wednesday) – Vicariates of Panganiban and Viga; Jan. 28 (Thursday) – Vicariates of San Andres and Baras; Jan. 29 (Friday) – Vicariates of Bato and San Miguel; Jan. 30 (Saturday) – Vicariate of Virac; Jan. 31 (Sunday) – Vicariates of Pandan and Datag.

All daily Masses will be at 6:30 P.M., except for Sunday when it will be at 7:30 P.M., followed by the Final Tribute to the late pastor at 9 P.M.

Expressing the diocese’s deep sadness, Bishop Manolo A. delos Santos also instructed all parishes and mission churches to hold the tolling of bells from Jan. 26 to 31 at 8 P.M. to pray and mourn for the death of Mamo Ping Sorra.

According to the circular, the young Jose C. Sorra was born on March 9, 1929 in Malinao, Albay to (+)Gabriel de Leon-Sorra and (+)Catalina Rojas-Crisologo.

He took his high school studies at the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga City and studied Philosophy and Theology at the Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Science in Education at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila; his Master’s Degree in Science in Education in Fordham University, New York, USA in 1970; and, his Doctor of Humanities in UST, Manila in 1999.

Ordained priest in the Diocese of Legazpi on March 17, 1956, his pastoral assignments were as Parochial Vicar, St. Stephen Proto-Martyr Parish, Ligao, Albay that year; Director, Boys Department, St. Benedict Academy, Guinobatan, Albay in 1960; Vice-Rector, Principal, and Literary Moderator of St. Gregory the Great Minor Seminary, Tabaco City, from 1961 to 1968; and, Parochial Vicar, Holy Innocents Parish, Bayonne, New Jersey, USA, from 1968 to 1971.

In 1972, he began serving as National Director of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines and Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

On May 27, 1974, after 18 years in the priestly ministry, he was appointed first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Virac and was ordained on Aug. 28 that same year, a day after the Diocese of Virac was canonically erected as a diocese.

Msgr. Ping pastured the baby-diocese, focusing his pastoral priorities on the Church of the Young and the Church of the Poor.

It was for this reason that the “Youth Encounter” program, a very effective formation for the youth was realized and initiated, with the YE program still being used all over the country and even abroad.

The success of his youth formation program led to his selection as Chairman of CBCP Episcopal Commissions on Youth, serving in that position until 1986.

In addition, he also prioritized the many formation programs for the faithful people in the diocese, to name a few: children and adult catechetical programs, school/campus ministry, the Diocesan Youth Volunteers of Catanduanes (DYVC) Program patterned after the Jesuit Volunteers of the Philippines program, the “Decade of the Family” from 1980-90, pre-Cana programs for would-be-couples and the Marriage Encounter.

After 18 years of being a pastor to his own native land, on March 1, 1993, he was appointed the Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi, the mother diocese of the Diocese of Virac.

He served for 12 years in the said diocese and at the same time a member of the CBCP Permanent Council from 1992 to 1996, venturing on the institution-building and pastoral re-direction before retiring on May 24, 2005.

However, his continued service to the Lord’s vineyard did not end there. He was always ready to answer the call of God and the need of the time with his episcopal motto ‘Fiat’, his Yes to whatever his services were needed especially the poor, the sick and the imprisoned.

Mamo Ping also published books called “Crumbs,” a series of reflections and meditations of his pastoral life and experiences.

All told, he served the Catholic flock as a priest for nearly 65 years and as a bishop for 46 years.

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