Many have asked how the parish got its name, how it was built and who have led hierarchy thereof. Was there a decree that declared the church a Parish? No one among the community really knows.
In early 1600, the church of Sampaloc was only a small visita, a part of the town of Sta. Ana and a suburb of Intramuros. Realizing the favorable climate and the strategic position of the place, the provincial of the Franciscan Order, Fr. Blas de la Madre de Dios. In the year 1613 found here a church and a convent and transferred the residence of the Spanish friars from San Francisco del Monte to Sampaloc.
One of the fifteen members of the Franciscan Order who arrived in Manila on June 24 1577, “The church of Sampaloc was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Loreto has been brought here by the Spanish friars when they came to the Philippines from Europe. Our Lady is depicted standing on a miniature Basilica of Loreto where the original house of the Holy Family is enshrined.
“Loreto is a town in Central Italy. It is noted as a Pilgrimage resort, famous for the Sta. Casa. Threatened with destruction by the Turks in 1291, the Sta. Casa was believed to have been carried from Nazarene by the Ministry of Angels and deposited on a hill in Tersatto in Dalmatia; the alleged apparitions of Our Lady and her miraculous cures Sanctified the place.
From the chronicles of Fr. Felix Huerta in his book “Estado Geografico, Topografico, Estadistico, Historico, Religioso, de la Santa y Aposolica Provincia de San Gregorio Magno” written in 1865, the first church – the Church of Our Lady of Loreto was built with a convent on the site in 1613 through the collaboration of Fr. Blas de la Madre de Dios, then Provincial Father of the Franciscans housed at San Francisco del Monte in Quezon City, and the husband and wife team of the Master of Camp, Don Pedro de Chavez and Dona Ana de Vera. The childless couple donated portion of their vast estate and financed the construction of both structures of which the convent was used as an alternate seminary for the young Franciscan Seminarians who later gave glory and splendor to the whole community. On the same year the church was spiritually estranged from the Parish of Santa Ana de Sapa, or today, known as the Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Santa Ana, Manila. And since then, the new parish had been known as “Parroquia de Sampaloc”.
Enshrined on its main altar on May 1, 1613 was a majestic unique image of the Nuestra Señora de Loreto o de los Milagros, a three and half feet high ivory image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child on her left breast and standing on a cloud on top of the miniature facsimile of the chapel where the Holy House of the Mother of God has been preserved for more than eight centuries now in Loreto, Italy.
The supervision of the church and the convent was left to the discretion of the Provincial Father of the Franciscans until 1616 when Fr. Agustin de Tordesillas was formally appointed as its parish priest. He was one among the first fifteen Franciscans who arrived in Manila on June 27, 1578. A year after, he was replaced by Fr. Francisco de Santa Maria who served the parish until 1621.
And on the same year, through the order of the visiting Commissary of the Franciscans, the seminarians were transferred back to their old sanctuary in San Francisco del Monte.
Our Lady of Loreto church has withstood three major destructions. In 1639, the Chinese who made an uprising against Spanish governor set the church and convent on fire.
Thus, Fr. Andres de Puertollano had it rebuilt. In 1666, Fr. Francisco de Sta. Catalina had the church reconstructed and enlarged due to its bad condition. The earthquake of July 1880 caused the destruction of the church and the convent. Fr. Pedro Flores initiated the repairs of the church, but it was not until 1888 that the construction was completed under Fr. Ramon Caviedes.
During the midnight of February 11 1945 the church of Sampaloc and that VOT were again destroyed by fire. Only the convent, housing the priests and the sextons were saved, thus, it became the temporary chapel the Blessed Sacrament and the Image of Our Lady of Loreto stayed.
In the year 1616, the Church of Sampaloc was made a parish under the Franciscan Friars led by Fr. Ramon Caviedes, the last Franciscan Parish Priest, Fr. Ortiz founded the first Parochial School of Our Lady of Loreto.
In 1918, Fr. Jose Dimla succeeded him and in 1924 expanded the school then known as Sampaloc Parochial School. In May on the same year, Fr. Prudencio Aguinaldo took over as the next parish priest who handed over the management of the School to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. In a span of six years, the enrollment rose to full capacity occupying the whole convent, thus, another building was built to house the priest and sextons.
In July 1933, Fr. Aguinaldo was succeeded by Fr. Jose Pamintuan. During his term, the Sampaloc Parochial School was formerly Our Lady of Loreto Academy, now located at Legarda Street. Unfortunately, On October 5 1945, Fr. Pamintuan was fatally hit by an Army Truck while crossing M. Earnshaw Street. His untimely death put a stop to his wish to rebuild the church whuch was destroyed by fire. He was succeeded by Fr. Augusto Ignarcio who put up a semi-permanent church in 1948. They were already a few parish organizations then, which includes the Our Lady of Loreto Association.
On September 5 1955, Rev. Fr. Jesus Tison took over the Pastorship from Fr. Ignarcio. Fr. Tison brought up the construction of the new parish church building. On December 17 1956, the construction of the ‘Dream Church’ began with the demolition of the church built in 1948. The untiring efforts of the parish priest together with the devotees and parishioners of Our Lady of Loreto completed the new church building. It was formally inaugurated on November 22 1958. Under Msgr. Tison, the parish premises underwent several renovations, beautification and construction including the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, the bronze monument of Our Lady of Loreto.
After a solid 20 years of administration of the parish, he retired as parish priest and was succeeded by Fr. Marcelino Montemayor on September 30 1975. Two months after his assumptions, renovations, clearing and face-lifting of the parish took place. A year after, the construction of the multi-purpose Catholic Center began. Upon its completion, the Multi-Purpose Catholic Center was blessed by His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin. It was named the Loreto Parish Catholic Center where following activities were held: Catholic Youth Movement seminars, Recollections, Retreats, Parish Organization meetings, free medical and dental assistance, convention exhibits of religious arts and images, Cursillos in Christianity movements, Life to the Spirits Seminar and many others. It was later named ‘House of Prayers’. Under his term, the construction of the Adoration Chapel was materialized.
Fourteen years later, Msgr. Arsenio Bautista took over the administration of the parish in May 1989. He then revived the Our Lady of Loreto Parochial School. He also opened the Cursillo movement under the term the ‘Kapatiran Kay Kristo’ (KKK) and he initiated the Dawn Rosary Procession at 4:0am and celebration of the mass indifferent barangays.
Msgr. Bautista was succeeded by Msgr. Augusto Laban. He endeavored the construction of the Parish Rectory, the beautification of the church patio and improvements of the church posts, the walls and flooring. The parish donated ten million (P10 000 000.00) pesos to the Pius XII dormitory, organized the Couples for Christ and Our Lady of Loreto Lay Ecclesial Team for the AFC, ‘Be Not Afraid Family Fours’ on video.
On June 15 2001, Ret. Rev. Msgr. Ceferino Sanchez assumed as parish priest. He set his priority in remodeling, even rebuilding and giving the parish a face-lift. In a span of five months, the following projects has been accomplished: repainting of the church roofing, installation of iron grills and window panels of the fourth floor rectory, additional lightings of the church and improvements of the sound system, provide separate room for devotion, repainting of the church chandeliers, construction of additional crypts for the ashes and bones of the dead, re-arrangement of vendor stalls in front of the church to provide churchgoers with proper parking areas, improvement and air-conditioning of two mortuary chapels with quarters for the family of the deceased, remodeling, polishing and crystallization of marble floors and walls, renovation of the church sanctuary, paint-finish marble of the 16-column with Corinthian pre-cast inside the church, renovation of louver windows for the proper ventilation and lighting of the church, construction of six new entrance canopies, installation of a new automatic electric bell, air-conditioning of the third floor social hall of the parish rectory, repair of the church ceiling, repainting of the both interior and exterior of the church and the creation of a concrete mural at the entrance of the church.
Upon the retirement of Msgr. Sanchez, Rev. Msgr. Emmanuel Sunga was appointed as the parish priest on January 17 2011. Upon his installation in office, his priority is not only the face-lift of the church but likewise to organize a Parish Finance Council, Pastoral Council and Basic Ecclesial Communities in adherence to the Code of the Canon Law. Upon his creation of the Finance Council, he immediately launched the ‘Adopt-a-Pipe’ program for the rehabilitation of the parish old and dilapidated pipe organ. With a few pipe organ parts left to be rehabilitated, Msgr. Sunga forged an agreement with the Diega Cera Organbuilders represented by Cealwin Tagle to completely reconstruct the pipe organ to make it good as new. True to his word, Tagle (not the Cardinal) and his team immediately followed strict reconstruction procedures, purchased new pipes from Europe and replace all the damage parts of the old pipe organ.
The organ wood joining techniques were employed, damaged parts were reconstructed and as much as possible, the same types of wood were used. After one year and a half of agony, perseverance and commitment, the historic pipe organ of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto now stands tall and mighty on its choir loft.
Among his other projects are: repainting of the church, provision of monitors for the parishioners, lighting of the church, construction and air-conditioning of the confessionals, construction of a vigil room at the second floor and improvement of the fourth floor rectory. Not only did Msgr. Sunga improved the physical arrangement of the parish but he likewise continued strengthening the mandated organizations of the parish, meetings with their heads and treasurers within the Parish Finance Council at least once a monthregarding their existing projects. Through the movement of the Parish Renewal Experience (PREX), he formulated ways and means to strengthen their faith and knowledge about Our Lady through his Mariologyevery second Saturday. He organized the Liturgical Environment Ministry and established Basic Ecclesial Communities in several barangays to make the church united and closer to its parishioners.
To complement his evangelical works, Msgr. Sunga petitioned the Vatican for plenary indulgence to the Christian faithful who devoutly visit the church during its entire 400th year celebration. Consequently, a decree was issued by His Holiness, Pope Francis, granting the said petition.
(From Atty. Teresita Navarro Santos’ 400th Anniversary Souvenir Program, 2013)
Parish priests of Our Lady of Loreto Parish:
- No records found, follow-up later 1616-1918
- Ortiz, OFM (?-1918)
- Jose Dimla (1918-1924)
- Prudencio Aguinaldo (1924-1933)
- Jose Pamintuan (1933-1945)
- Augusto Ignarcio (1945-1955)
- Jesus Tison (1955-1975)
- Marcelino Montemayor (1975-1989)
- Arsenio Bautista (1989-?)
- Augusto Laban (?-2001)
- Ceferino Sanchez (2001-2011)
- Emmanuel Sunga (2011-present)