José Roel Lungay Jr.
(born March 11, 1960 in Manila, Rizal, Philippines), also known as Father
Roel, or more widely as Fro, is a Filipino priest from Tagbilaran City,
Bohol, Philippines. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 7, 1984 at
the Immaculate Conception Parish, Catigbian, Bohol, Philippines and is
currently the pastor of St. Genevieve Church in Slidell, Louisiana, U.S..
Father Roel has also made a mark in the field of music as a songwriter,
arranger and record producer.
José Roel Lungay, fondly called Father Roel or Fro, was born
to José Racho Lungay of Balilihan, Bohol and Amelia Fernandez Galicia of San
Jose, Mindoro Occidental. His father, a product of FEATI University in
Manila, was a long-time public servant having served as Area Equipment
Engineer of Region 7 of the Department of Public Highways (DPH) until his
retirement, while his mother, a St. Paul College alum, was a devoted
homemaker tending all 10 of her children. Father Roel, born in Manila, was
raised in Tagbilaran City, Bohol. He attended kindergarten (1964–1966) in
Marulas, Bulacan and Sampaloc, Manila. For his elementary education, his
Grades 1 and 2 (1966–1968) were at Catigbian Elementary School Annex,
Catigbian, Bohol. His Grades 3 to 6 (1968–1972) were at Cogon Elementary
School, Tagbilaran City, graduating from elementary at Cogon Elementary
School. He attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Tagbilaran City
for both his secondary school (1972–1976) and college (1976–1980) where he
earned a Bachelor's degree in Arts major in classical philosophy, minor in
English. He also took up a few subjects in architecture at the University of
Bohol before deciding to go back to the seminary. For his post-graduate
studies, he proceeded to the Saint Augustine Major Seminary (SASMA) and the
Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City where he earned his degree in
While still a student at the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City, between
the years 1981 to 1985, Roel became involved with works among the
underprivileged. As a seminarian he always chose for his apostolates an
opportunity to be with the poor or the so-called grassroots people. For four
years he worked in different areas like Ternate; Bagong Bayan, Dasmarinas (a
Resettlement area); Malagasang, Imus; Andrea, Bacoor and Rosario, Cavite.
Both as a seminarian and as a priest he took part in organizing, between
1984–1986, the first People Power in the Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon
After finishing his third year in theology studies he was ordained, at age
23, a deacon for the Diocese of Tagbilaran on February 28, 1983 at the St.
Joseph Cathedral, Tagbilaran City. He went back to the seminary the
following year and was ordained to the priesthood, on December 7, 1984, at
the Immaculate Conception Church in Catigbian, Bohol by then bishop of
Tagbilaran, Most Rev. Onesimo Gordoncillo, D.D., currently the Archbishop of
Capiz. He became the first priest ordained in that town. Shortly after
ordination he went back to the seminary again to finish his studies until
his graduation on March 1985. He received his first pastoral assignment when
his bishop, now Archbishop of Capiz, Most. Rev. Onesino Gordoncillo, D.D.,
sent him to the Diocese of Cabanatuan which was in need of priestly help. He
was assigned as assistant priest of St. Nicholas de Tolentino Cathedral in
Cabanatuan City for one full year.
Back when the Diocese of Tagbilaran was being split into two ecclesiastical
Dioceses in 1986, Father Roel came home to Bohol for reassignment. Since the
Bishop of Tagbilaran at that time was already being named the
Archbishop-elect of the Archdiocese of Capiz, he deferred assigning Father
Roel to a new station and told him instead to wait until the next bishop to
arrive. The Diocese finally split that year and two new bishops were named
for both the old Diocese of Tagbilaran and the new Diocese of Talibon: Most
Rev. Felix Zafra, D.D. for Tagbilaran and Most Rev. Cristian Noel, D.D. for
Talibon. It was during this time that Fr. Roel opted instead to visit with
his family in San Francisco for which he was granted permission by then
Diocesan Administrator, Msgr Pelagio Dompor, J.C.D. with the approval of the
Priests Consultors of the Diocese.
Fr. Roel, SPOT and Seminarians during Jubilaeum 2000 Concert
in Tagbilaran City (8/00)Father Roel began writing lyric and poetry in
college while attending the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary. It was when
he started playing the guitar more seriously that he slowly translated his
lyrical works into full-pledged songs and it has been a long journey from
After spending a year of sabbatical from the seminary in 1980 and working
with evicted squatters at San Jose Resettlement Area in Carmona, Cavite,
Father Roel entered the St. Augustine Major Seminary (SASMA) in 1981. There,
he started writing liturgical settings of the Mass both in English and in
Tagalog. He was one of the first composers to write a musical setting for
the new Tagalog Missal, Bagong Misal, which was approved in 1982 but
initially faced a considerable amount of opposition in its early years,
especially in the Manila area. However, his new setting continued to be
taught and sung at SASMA and in some Dioceses where SASMA seminarians came
from. In 1983, the Archdiocesan Commission on Liturgical Music (ACLM),
Archdiocese of Manila  published some of his songs in its third hymnal
publication, Hosanna III, approved by Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Jaime
Sin. Fr. Roel was also voted by the seminarians as music director of SASMA
in 1982 during which he initiated the publication of the seminary's hymnal,
SASMASSONGS (MISASMA). In 1984, along with Fr. William Abas who was the
lyricist, he wrote the music and arrangement to Handog-Paglilingkod (Service
Offering) which became the official theme song of SASMA that very year.
Some of his works were included in the Diocesan hymnal of the Diocese
Cabanatuan, while serving there as an assistant priest of the Cathedral.
He was also inserted as a member of the Diocese's singing group of young
priests that included Fr. Monet Mangahas from U.S.T. Central Seminary, Fr.
Rene Mangahas from San Jose Seminary (Ateneo) and Fr. Edwin Beley, also of
San Jose Seminary, who played bass in the first studio recording of the
Philippines Jesuits, the Himig Heswita.
Fr. Roel's rendition of TQ Solis Jr.'s One Heart, One Mind during the gala
night of Jubilaeum 2000 at DWCT GymIn the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Father
Roel helped the formation of the Singing Priests of Louisiana together with
three other Paring Bol-anons: Fr. Jaime Apolinares, Fr. Danilo Digal and Fr.
Joel Cantones, as counterpart to the pioneering Singing Priests of San
Francisco. The group debuted in 1988 during the 3rd Paring Bol-anon, USA
Reunion with a concert in Brooklyn, New York, followed by a performance at
the United Nations Auditorium in 1988. As the group's accompanist and
arranger, Father Roel engaged himself to more vocal arrangements for the
group, which eventually landed them a spot in New Orleans' WWL-TV Channel
4's Christmas Around The World program back in 1989. The group also
performed at various Filipino Community functions as well as traveled to
neighboring states of Texas and Mississippi doing Christmas carols and
helped raise funds for the needs of the Diocese and the seminary in the
Philippines. The Singing Priests of Louisiana finally disbanded in August
1990 after a performance at the IHMS Silver Jubilee Celebration in
Tagbilaran City. Father Roel's last recorded performance was on August 2000
during which he sang the popular Dan Schutte composition, Here I Am, Lord,
with the Singing Priests of Tagbilaran and IHMS Neo-Jeduthun Chorus, and TQ
Solis' original composition, One Heart, One Mind, in a two-night concert
dubbed as Jubilaeum 2000, celebrating the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Seminary's 50th Foundation anniversary.
As an avid songwriter, Father Roel had also participated in some songwriting
contests over the years. Besides writing the winning song for 1984 SASMA
Theme, he also won first place in the 1995 NFCMWA Christian Music
Songwriting Contest in Jacksonville, Florida with the song Dear Jesus and an
honorable mention in the Trailblazer Category of the 1995 Airplay
International Country Songwriting Contest, Nashville, Tennessee with his
song, Sailboat. From 1992 to 1996 Father Roel has also produced and released
four compilations of original songs written by him, Mass of St. Rita (1994),
Dear Jesus (1994), Music Revisited, Vol. 1 (1995) and one he did with other
Paring Bol-anon or PBs like Frs. TQ Solis, Jr. Elpidio Biliran, Jr. and
Arnold Zamora, One Heart, One Mind (1996).
Since becoming pastor of St. Genevieve Church in Slidell in 1991, Father
Roel has focused most of his time on pastoral duties. He helped in the
establishment of the new Gospel Choir in the parish and the transition of a
children's choir to a youth choir.
Missionary to America
Father Roel left the Philippines for the United States on
December 17, 1986 by way of Tokyo, Japan. He arrived in San Francisco on
December 18 and was met at the airport in San Francisco by another Paring
Bol-anon, Gabriel Mision, who then brought him to his aunt's house in South
San Francisco. He spent his first ever Christmas in America with his
mother's family and the few Paring Bol-anons who were in the Bay Area at the
time. Right after Christmas, upon invitation of another Filipino priest, he
headed for Denver, Colorado then to New Orleans, Louisiana were he
eventually made a new home and ventured on a new mission.
Father Roel spent his first 6 months in Louisiana as a guest priest at St.
Lawrence Church in Kramer or Bayou Boeuf to locals. It was there where he
immersed himself to a new culture, that of the French Cajuns. It was during
his stay in this area where he finally got a taste first-hand of what
Southern hospitality is about, foods he previously only heard in a song or
read from a travel book, such as Jambalaya, creole gumbo, crawfish boil,
alligator sauce piquante, turtle soup, soft-shell crabs, and places such as
Thibodaux and New Orleans.
In June 1987 Father Roel received his first official canonical assignment
from then Archbishop of New Orleans, Most Rev. Philip Hannan, D.D., as
Associate Pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Metairie under Msgr. A.
Charles Kenney. He served there from 1987 to 1990. During the tenure of
Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, he was also stationed at St. Rita Church,
Harahan, LA, from 1990 to 1994, under the Rev. Willie Meridier and, later
on, Msgr. Frank Giroir. Then from 1994 to 1998 he was assigned at St. Ann
Church and National Shrine in Metairie under two long-time pastors, Msgr.
Charles Duke and Msgr. Joseph Bourgeois, and finally at Our Lady of Prompt
Succor Church (1998–2001) in Chalmette under the Rev. Warren Cooper. After
excardinating from the Diocese of Tagbilaran in 2000, Father Roel officially
joined the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2001 when he was made a first time
pastor of St. Genevieve Church, Slidell, in eastern St. Tammany.
Post Katrina life and ministry
In mid-July 2005, Father Roel underwent surgery for his
thyroid at Northshore Hospital in Slidell. Having lost his voice as a result
of the surgery, he had to spend a five-week official leave of absence by the
Archdiocese to rest his barely heard voice and to recuperate. It was while
he was in the Philippines, on August 29, 2005, when the biggest natural
disaster to ever hit the United States - Hurricane Katrina - struck the
whole gulf south region that annihilated almost everything that stood by its
way. Suffice it to say, that Father Roel not only lost everything he owned
but also the very church he was given charge of and the rectory that he
lived in. St. Genevieve Church is gone and no more!
As an ecclesiastical parish St. Genevieve in Slidell is a close-knit faith
community on the northeastern part of Lake Ponchartrain just west of
Mississippi. It comprises some 1,500 to 2,000 Catholic households, a local
airport, the one and only mall in Slidell and other commercial entities.
Built in 1958, the church building had been a long-standing center of many
activities of the local people as well as newcomers to the area. It is
considered to be one of the most scenic of churches in and of New Orleans by
the mere fact that it stands right on the bank of Bayou Liberty, one of many
tributaries of Lake Ponchartrain, across an old marina. The surroundings,
too, is well-adorned with centuries-old oak trees and a vast marshlands and
waterways Louisiana is known for.
A week or two after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the people,
scattered all over the country during the evacuation, started to come home
slowly to pick up the pieces and commenced the road to recovery. On Sundays,
parishioners gathered on the church ground where Mass is celebrated with
priest helping from a nearby parish. For almost two months St. Genevieve,
without its pastor, Fr. Roel, was reminiscent of the old mission church that
it used to be, celebrating liturgy on the very spot where the old chapel was
in the early 1900 under the hot humid sky.
Father Roel came back home to St. Genevieve on Tuesday, November 1, the
Feast of All Saints. He celebrated his first post-Katrina Mass that weekend
which also happened to be the last Mass being celebrated outdoors as
parishioners readied themselves to move indoor, inside the dilapidated
Parish Hall, in preparation for the winter season. Father Roel reminded the
parishioners that even without the buildings they are still a church,
emphasizing that the people who gathered in the Lord's name is what truly
comprised a church.
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