Diocesan Priest Becomes U.S. Citizen to Follow the Source of His Vocation
GREENSBURG – Sept. 28, 2022 – Becoming a U.S. citizen was not something Father Ronald L. Maquiñana, Pastor of the partner parishes of St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Kittanning and St. Mary, Mother of God in Yatesboro, intended for himself.
Father Maquiñana, who was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Daet on the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines, was part of the International Priest Program in the Diocese of Greensburg. When that process began, he became aware of the critical need for more priests to serve the Diocese of Greensburg. He began to think about ways he could help.
When he began his assignment in the Diocese, he was alarmed by the news of retirements and shortages of clergy.
“As shared at a Clergy Convocation, there will only be 25 local priests left to administer the 70 parishes in the diocese. That was a big eye-opener for me,” Father Maquiñana remembered.
He said the news gave him a lot to consider. A year into the International Priests Program and assigned as a parochial vicar, Father Maquiñana expressed a desire to be released from his Bishop in the Philippines and to transfer to the Diocese of Greensburg, also known as incardination.
“My eyes were opened to the reality that some priests have multiple parish and diocesan assignments in the Diocese. That gave me more conviction to pursue my intention, not for personal interest but to help the Diocese,” Father Maquiñana said.
He noted that he was still young and could offer many years of priestly ministry to the Diocese. That is when he began the incardination process.
After three years of being a parochial vicar at two different parishes, Father Maquiñana was surprised with a new assignment as administrator of St. Mary, Mother of God Parish in Freeport, where he was later named Pastor. Shortly after, his application for incardination was accepted and he was incardinated by former Bishop Edward C. Malesic July 17, 2019.
“I was grateful for his benevolence and will be forever grateful that he was instrumental in my incardination to the Diocese of Greensburg,” Father Maquiñana said. “I believe that in all these events, the hand of God is present. He works in a mysterious way and sometimes brings surprises.”
Father Maquiñana had some concerns about his immigration status. He applied and was approved for a permanent resident visa, which would allow him to stay in the United States for 10 years. The visa could be renewed for another 10 years.
While he was happy with the visa status and his incardination, Father Maquiñana faced another challenge. His visa was only valid for travel in the United States. He would need to apply and be approved for a special visa to travel outside of the U.S. This issue caused him to consider U.S. citizenship.
In order to become a citizen, Father Maquiñana had to take classes and study while carrying out his duties as pastor of two parishes.
“I felt like I was back to school, learning history and culture of the United States, which was interesting because some of them I did not learn from my school back then in the Philippines,” Father Maquiñana said. “I need to be familiar with the Constitution, learn to sing the national anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. All were new to me.”
On July 21, 2022, Father Maquiñana took his Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony with Sister Mercy, who is a member of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate in Leechburg.
Father Maquiñana could have finished his service to the Diocese of Greensburg as part of the International Priests Program and then return to his home to be close to family and friends. He believes making this sacrifice is part of being a priest.
“You become a priest not only to the place of your comfort but even to places where you never expect at all. You just need to follow where God will send you,” he said.
Father Maquiñana is following the source of his vocation, Jesus, whose ministry he says is for all.