The Diocese of Malaybalay started as a mission territory of
the Recollect friars in the central highlands of Mindanao in the middle of the nineteenth century. These missionary activities, mostly baptisms, got recorded in the Baptismal
Register of Jasaan (now Jassan) in Misamis Oriental. The work of the Recollects culminated in the establishment of a chapel in Sumilao during the 1870's by Recollect Fray Mateo Bernad.
Towards the end of the 1870's, the Jesuits were entrusted with the evangelization of the entire island of Mindanao. This marked the beginning
of more permanent and more systematic missionary activities in this part of the country.
Under Spanish rule Bukidnon was made one of six districts in Mindanao. During the
early years of the American regime, it became a sub-province of Misamis. This undoubtedly explains why baptisms in Bukidnon appeared on the records of Misamis.
Years later settlements multiplied as forests were cleared, fertile lands were uncovered, and activities of multi-national companies began. Finally Bukidnon was made a separate province, with Malaybalay as the capital.
Bukidnon is a province in northern central Mindanao locked in by Misamis Oriental on the north, Cotabato on the south, Agusan del Norte on the east and Lanao del
Sur on the west. It is made up of plateaus of varying heights. It lies outside the typhoon belt of the country, and its mountains protect it from the eastern monsoon.
Its name came from that of a tribe that lived on its plateaus and its members were called Bukidnons, meaning people of the mountains.
The plateaus of Bukidnon are ideal for cattle raising, as the canyons lock the cattle on each plateau and keep them from moving about. The fertile soil has made
Bukidnon the country's top producer of pineapples, and the Philippine Packing Corporation, the company that produces Del Monte pineapple products worldwide,
operates huge plantations here. Today one finds even soybean plantations of Nestle Philippines, stretching over miles and miles of land in the area.
The resultant tremendous migration of Christians into the Province of Bukidnon after World War II witnessed the most intensive missionary work done by the Jesuits in Bukidnon.
On April 25, 1969, the Holy See made the province of Bukidnon into the Prelature of Malaybalay and appointed Fr. Francisco Claver, SJ, as Prelate Ordinary. He was
ordained as bishop on August 22, 1969 and installed in Malaybalay the same year. Two outstanding efforts of the prelature are attributable to him: the intensive
campaign to develop the native clergy, and resistance against the excesses of the martial law government and military.
On November 15, 1982 the prelature was elevated to a diocese and Bishop
Francisco Claver became the first bishop. Two years later he resigned, and Bishop Gaudencio B. Rosales, the coadjutor bishop, took over by right of succession.
The Diocese of Malaybalay today comprises the civil province of Bukidnon and the municipality of Wa-o in Lanao del Sur. It covers a land area of 8,294 square
kilometers and a population of almost one million, 80 per cent of which are Catholics. Its titular patron is San Isidro Labrador. It is a suffragan of Cagayan de Oro.
The diocese has 39 parishes and mission stations grouped together into 7 deaneries. Serving the diocese are 43 diocesan priests (7 presently exercising their
ministry outside the ecclesiastical province), 7 Jesuits, 2 diocesan missionaries, and 87 religious sisters from 11 congregations.
Lay men and women now provide the bulk of those who are actually involved in the
day to day affairs of the diocese. The Alagads, those who have undergone intensive lay formation for liturgical and community leadership, the catechists, health
workers, youth leaders and other active lay leaders have long since been the backbone of evangelization work in the entire diocese.
Pastoral plans and activities are regularly presented, discussed, deliberated upon
and finalized during the regular annual general pastoral assembly. The Church in Malaybalay today is characterized by a strong collegial hierarchy and active lay
participation by the faithful, geared toward the formation of small ecclesial communities.