Welcome Father PJ
Father Alindogan is humbled to serve the Lord as a priest
By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor of the Monitor
The roads that Father Peter James R. Alindogan has traveled in his 25 years of priesthood have been many and varied with a few sharp and unexpected turns in between. Yet, what has kept the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, and diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, on track and passionate about his vocation is remembering his mantra that “God does not call the qualified, but qualifies those he has called.”
“I love the thought that God has called me as a priest in my unworthiness,” said Father Alindogan.
“That’s what my priesthood is all about: to tell my loved ones and the people I encounter about God and his generous love, and to ask them to also share generously through their lives.”
Father Alindogan smiles as he admits that his passion for the priesthood has only intensified in the almost 40 years since he realized his priestly calling and the 25 years since he has been ordained.
Growing up in a large family in the Philippines, Father Alindogan, who will celebrate his 50th birthday Aug. 6, said he was a 10-year-old altar server when he realized his desire to become a priest. That desire, he recalled, was quietly nurtured through the examples set by his mother, other priests he met in his home parish, in the seminary and later, in the Diocese of Trenton, and, through his own prayer to follow God’s will for his life.
As a child, Father Alindogan remembers how his mother would stay after Mass to finish her prayers. “She was always the last one in church to leave. Her spending time with Jesus after receiving our Lord in his blessed Body ignited the desire in me to give my life to the Lord and serving in his mystical body, the Church,” said Father Alindogan.
Father Alindogan was a mere 12 years old when he made his first step toward priesthood, entering Our Lady of Penafrancia, a high school seminary in Sorsogon. He then continued on in Holy Rosary Seminary, Naga City, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1985. Following his graduation, he spent a year there teaching.
Though he was living away from home and heavily involved in his seminary studies, Father Alindogan said his father’s death had a lasting impact on his own life as well as on other family members.
The Catholic faith became even more “integral and essential” in his family’s life, said Father Alindogan, who was 17 at the time (his youngest sister was barely a year old.) “My mother relied heavily on God’s providence as she raised her family.”
A major international life change occurred when the Sorsogon Diocese’s Bishop Jesus Varela asked Father Alindogan to consider continuing his studies for the priesthood in the United States in Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md. It was an invitation the young seminarian gratefully accepted.
At “the Mount,” as the seminary is known, Father Alindogan worked toward earning a master of arts degree in moral theology and a master of divinity degree, and it was also where he learned about the Diocese of Trenton through his good friend, fellow seminarian and racquetball buddy, Father G. Scott Shaffer, who is now pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River.
Though Father Alindogan had intentions of returning home and serving as a priest in the Diocese of Sorsogon, he recalled his introduction to his future home in the Trenton Diocese. As a seminarian he had opportunities to visit the Diocese with Father Shaffer on weekends and holiday breaks.
“Since I didn’t have a car, I pretty much had to stay on the seminary campus,” Father Alindogan said, but “Father Scott invited me to come to New Jersey with him and that’s how I got to know the Diocese.”
Father Alindogan returned to the Philippines for his July 7, 1990, priestly ordination in his home parish, Immaculate Conception Church. He spent the next 11 years serving a number of assignments including as: an associate pastor of two Sorsogon parishes; a philosophy professor in Our Lady of Penafrancia College Seminary; diocesan vice chancellor, and as a chaplain of a medical center and an orphanage in Manila.
When Father Alindogan was approached about furthering his education, at first he considered pursuing studies in the medical profession, but then changed to studies in canon law. For three years he attended the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Manila, where he received a licentiate in 2000.
Because there would be minimal opportunities for him to use his canon law experience in his home diocesan tribunal office and being that there is “no divorce in the Philippines,” Father Alindogan, instead, was granted permission by his diocesan bishop and Bishop John M. Smith to return to the Diocese of Trenton.
“I’m here to repay a debt of gratitude to the Diocese of Trenton,” said Father Alindogan, noting that he received assistance from the Diocese during his years of study in Mount St. Mary.
Since returning to the Trenton Diocese in 2001, he has served in the diocesan Tribunal as Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice, as well as parish assignments in St. Raphael, Hamilton, and St. Barnabas, Bayville. In addition to serving as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Father Alindogan is also diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, a post to which he was appointed in 2013 by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“In a way I consider myself to be a missionary priest,” having come to the United States from the Philippines, said Father Alindogan. Among his duties as diocesan missions director is hosting diocesan observances of World Mission Sunday each October and having an opportunity to travel to various mission countries in January. So far, Father Alindogan has visited Papua New Guinea in 2014 and India in 2015.
Though Father Alindogan readily admits that he never intended to serve as a priest in the United States, he realizes how “it was all part of God’s plan and providence.”
“The faithful of the Diocese of Trenton, which I have experienced through the parishes to which I’ve been assigned, has consistently shared with me God’s love and generosity,” said Father Alindogan, as he reflected on what gives him the greatest joy in his priesthood.
“The good Lord has already made his mark on my life,” he said.
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