Vegas Fil-Am Catholic priest on LGBTs: 'Who am I to judge?'
LAS VEGAS – Few people know their lifelong vocation before reaching even young adulthood, but Manny Guico knew he wanted to be a priest when he was a young 3rd grader growing up in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.
So the story goes: One day, a Dutch missionary came to visit his town. Guico, an altar boy at his church at the time, watched in awe as the nuns served their foreign visitor the choicest portions of the feast, including the meatiest part of the roasted chicken. It was a stark contrast to the “skinny neck and wings” on his and his fellow sacristy helpers’ own plates.
“I thought to myself, ‘I want that man’s job! I want the best part of the chicken!’” recalled Guico. He seemed nonplussed as the room suddenly became quiet, and the reporter interviewing him stopped writing on her notepad, looking uncomfortable and slightly incredulous at her subject’s revelation.
“What?” he asked. “You want me to say I heard a voice or something like that? No, it wasn’t until I attended seminary…yes, then…”
The story and response are classic Father Manny: deflection from himself, mixed with a deadpan delivery.
The 67-year-old priest is widely known among his parishioners for stern homilies augmented with portions of unmistakably “pun-ny” Filipino-style humor.
And, in Las Vegas, Father Manny has endless material.
“Sometimes you’re distracted at church,” he once preached. “You’re looking here, you’re thinking about this or that. But when you’re at the casinos, sitting at the slot machines, there! That’s where you’re focused on your rosary or your anting-anting (amulet), praying that you’ll win. But, you won’t and you never will!”
Ministering a flock in Sin City undoubtedly has its challenges, says Father Manny, but he feels it is where he’s “most needed.”
US Air Force chaplain
On November 28, Father Manny celebrated the 44th anniversary of his ordination. He was ordained by Pope Paul VI, the first pope to visit the Philippines.
Since then, Father Manny has traveled all over the world as a US Air Force chaplain, including war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from his military service in 2002 but continues to preside over various churches throughout Las Vegas Valley. After Typhoon Yolanda, Father Manny went to the devastated areas in the Philippines, bringing supplies and aid from the Filipino American community in Las Vegas.
“The Filipino community here is always quick to respond to something like that,” he remarked. “We are very generous.”
Helping the poor, the sick and "the hungry" are a priority for Father Manny, who says he also admires Pope Francis for "going back to the basic message of Jesus."
“At the end, that’s what the Lord will ask of us,” he says. “That’s what we need to ask of ourselves: What have you done to help your fellow man?”
But, like the pontiff, he says he too gets pushback for including everyone in the divine embrace, especially gays and lesbians.
After one particular homily on the subject, Father Manny said he got “reported” but still refuses to “tone down” his message. “I cannot. Who am I to judge? Only God judges. He has the final say,” he said.
Even after 44 years of service, Father Manny shows no signs of "retirement" and that’s just fine with his parishioners, especially the growing Filipino American groups in the Catholic community here who consider him their advisor.
“Father Manny is very involved in our activities, especially our Simbang Gabi,” said Nadia Jurani of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Filipino Group at Christ the King.
“We respect and support him. We agree with everything he says. Except for when he gets mad at people who leave the service right after the eucharist. Some of these people have to go to work and they don’t want to be late!"
“It’s because of his military training, I think,” laughs Jurani. – Rappler.com
This story was republished with permission from Philippine News, a content partner of Rappler