Diocese of Cabanatuan
The province of Nueva Ecija lies on the north-eastern
portion of Central Luzon, Region III, hemmed in by Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Vizcaya and Quezon provinces. It has mountain ranges on its upper stretches, with the Cordillera Mountains separating it
from Nueva Vizcaya. On its eastern side the Sierra Madre Mountains separate it from portions of Quezon Province.
Nueva Ecija was originally part of the province of Pampanga until it was declared a separate province in
1705 by the Spanish governor, Fausto Cruzat. In Philippine history Nueva Ecija played a similar role to that of other Central Luzon provinces during the Philippine Revolution of 1896. It proclaimed itself at
war against Spain. The proclamation was read to the inhabitants by General Blanco. Filipino revolutionary troops stormed the Spanish garrison in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, led by general Mariano Llanera.
Hukbalahap rebellion in the 1950's, Nueva Ecija became a base of operations for the rebels. This rebellion later turned into an agrarian movement, but government forces and Huks
had often battled it out in the uplands of the province, scaring away farmers and their families from their only source of livelihood.
Aside from farmers, Nueva Ecija counts among its population commercial
traders, businessmen and retailers. Its principal crop is palay, supplemented by corn and sugarcane. A national highway running through Cabanatuan City
goes straight to the Dalton Pass, a tortous mountain pass in the north, and into the Cagayan Valley, making Nueva Ecija an important trading point between the north and south of Luzon.
The Diocese of Cabanatuan was created on the 16th of February, 1963 out of territories taken from the Diocese of Pampanga and the Archdiocese of
Lingayen-Dagupan. At that time it comprised the entire province of Nueva Ecija and the chartered cities of Cabanatuan, San Jose and Palayan. On June 14,
1984, the Diocese of San Jose, also in Nueva Ecija, was canonically erected, paving the way for the partition of the Diocese of Cabanatuan.
Today the Diocese of Cabanatuan has jurisdiction over 18 towns of Nueva
Ecija, Cabanatuan City and Palayan City. It is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. Its titular patron is St. Nicholas of Tolentino, whose feast
is celebrated on September 10. The land area covered by the diocese is 2,743.5 square kilometers, and its Catholic population of 733,797 is 82 per cent of total.
As an offshoot of the Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991, the Diocese of Cabanatuan began preparations for a diocesan assembly. The First Diocesan
Pastoral Assembly of the Diocese of Cabanatuan was finally held May 31 to June 3, 1993 at the Maria Assumpta Seminary Complex, coinciding with the 30th
anniversary of the diocese. It was participated in by the bishop, 35 priests, and 100 laymen. To commemorate the occasion, a Holy Year was proclaimed for the diocese from June 3, 1993 to June 5, 1994.
Data collated in the assembly gave importance to the following topics: 1) Christian Life, 2) Religious Concerns, 3) Agents of evangelization, 4) Social
Concerns, and 5) Temporalities. The resolutions approved resulted in group workshops once a month by the same delegates. From the assembly 110 decrees were promulgated for implementation.
The delegates of the First Diocesan Assembly, after months of workshops, felt the need to call for a second assembly to chart a common direction for the
pastoral activities of the diocese. The Second Diocesan Pastoral Assembly of the Diocese of Cabanatuan was held in Baguio City in May and June 1994,
with the aid of the Southeast Asian Interdisciplinary Institute (SAIDI).
The assembly pinpointed its root-cause problem as the lack of witnessing to a
life of faith, and the limited number of priests and competent lay leaders. Its resultant vision-mission statement: "The Diocese of Cabanatuan envisions
itself as a Community of Disciples, renewed and continuously renewing itself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, evangelized and proclaiming the Good
News under the protection of the Divine Shepherdess Divina Pastora, patroness of the Diocese of Cabanatuan, with fidelity to the teachings of the Holy Mother Church; joyously celebrating the mysteries of salvation, and
happily serving the poor and the oppressed towards the fullness of life. It commits itself to a continuing formation, faithful in proclaiming and witnessing
the Word of the Lord; to be united in love; to a meaningful celebration of the sacraments and an incessant life of prayer; to a life of poverty and a
preferential option for the poor and the oppressed; to a life of service for the attainment of a kingdom of justice and truth for all."
Among the priorities listed for action programs are: a renewed clergy,
committed lay leaders, solidarity between priests and laity, and renewed evangelization.
The diocese is comprised of 25 parishes, served by 40 diocesan priests.
Among its Catholic institutions are 1 seminary, 2 colleges, 8 high schools, 4 elementary schools, 10 kindergarten schools and 5 diocesan centers.
Most Rev. Sofio G. Balce, D.D., STL
Ordained priest: June 12, 1965
Ordained bishop: July 12, 1980
Appointed Bishop of Cabanatuan: November 11, 1990
Most Rev. Sofronio A. Bancud, SSS, D.D.
Ordained priest: May 5, 2002
Ordained bishop: August 15, 2001
Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cabanatuan: 2001