The Story of Fr. Larry
On August 25, 2016, our parish community celebrated a milestone — the 25th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of our parish priest, Fr. Larry. Below are interesting personal details about his life and journey as a religious priest:
Fr. Jose Fortunato “Larry” Javier Garces, OAR was ordained to the Priesthood on August 25, 1991 by then Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Gian Vincenzo Cardinal Moreni, DD. together with 7 other companions. Theirs is the road less travelled by men!
Fr. Larry was born in Pasig on October 20, 1965. His mother, a doctor by profession, was on duty when she suddenly had to give birth to him. As a result, she didn’t have to pay a single centavo when she delivered Fr. Larry into the world — he was born free! free of charge.
According to Fr. Larry, what inspired him to enter the seminary was a movie entitled: Two Missionaries, starring Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. It was a comedy about two convicts who escaped from prison and found themselves in a missionary station that was expecting the arrival of some missionaries. After pretending to be missionaries, they eventually ended up defending the station from invaders.
At a young age, Fr. Larry would write as his ambition in slum books: “to be a missionary, a priest, or a bishop” even if he didn’t understand what those words meant.
He entered the Palo Diocesan Seminary in 1979 and finished high school at the Sacred Heart Seminary in 1982.
Fr. Larry’s greatest influence in his vocation was his mother who never stopped praying for him. It was also through her that was he discovered by the Vocation Promoter of the Recollects.
He joined the Recollect Community of Baguio (Seminario Mayor-Recoletos) in June of 1982. They were 24 neophytes, 18 of which were freshmen. When they finished Philosophy, they were down to 13; all 13 entered the novitiate in 1986. Ten eventually became priests, though not ordained at the same time.
On August 25, 1991, seven of the 10 were ordained to the priesthood together, including Fr. Edcel Celiz who was a year ahead of the batch. It was quite tragic, though, that in January of the same year, just months before Fr. Larry’s ordination, his father passed away.
His first assignment was at the Seminario Mayor-Recoletos in Baguio. In hindsight, Fr. Larry reckoned that perhaps he was paying for his own misdeeds as a seminarian that is why he was assigned to the seminary. However, within months after his assignment, he already became the Prefect of Discipline.
In 1994, he was assigned to study in Rome; he chose to study Liturgy.
Upon his return in January of 1997, he was immediately assigned to the Recoletos School of Theology in Tandang Sora Quezon City where he himself finished theology and where he was ordained.
Meanwhile, he revived the publication of Recoletos Update, assisted in the design and renovation of the seminary chapel as well as the Parish Church. He was also appointed by the late Cardinal Sin as a member of the Archdiocesan Commission on Liturgy and Architecture.
He taught at St. Vincent Seminary and Theology, San Beda College Graduate School of Liturgy and at the Maryhill School of Theology; he also gave lectures at the Paul VI Institute of Liturgy.
In the year 2000, Fr. Larry was stricken with cancer, a disease that slowed him down significantly. While recuperating and undergoing further treatment (Chemotherapy and Radiation), he and three other cancer survivors founded a Cancer Support Group in UST, called Can-Share in 2002; this support group is still active until today and duly recognized by the UST Cancer Society.
By May of 2002, he was gradually relieved from his duties as Prefect of the Professed; he was temporarily appointed as assistant to Msgr. Chito Bernardo at the Ayala-Alabang Parish for 4 months until he was transferred to the San Sebastian Community in September.
After the Provincial Chapter of 2003, Fr. Larry was appointed Provincial Secretary of the Recollect Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno and joined the community of the Provincial House in May 2003.
While he was Provincial Secretary, he pursued his doctorate in Liturgy at the San Beda Graduate School of Liturgy; he was proudly the first doctor ever, in any field, to be produced by San Beda College. He accomplished this milestone in 2007.
Sadly, in 2006, his mother died – curiously of the same cancer that he had in 2000. It was noted that after his surgery, seeing the agony her son was going through, his mother was heard to have asked the Lord that the sickness of Fr. Larry be given to her instead, so that her son could still continue to fulfil his mission as a priest.
During his 2nd term as Provincial Secretary, he was delegated by the Provincial Prior to visit the OAR Missionary Fathers in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He spent eleven full days in the mission area, to a certain extent fulfilling his childhood dream of being a missionary. Though hasty and short, it was gratifying, considering that he was sickly and was not fit to be a “real Missionary”
After serving two terms as a Provincial Secretary, from 2003-2009, he was appointed Parish Priest of San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish in Quezon City from 2009-2012.
After his tenure as Parish Priest, he was assigned as Editor of the Recoletos official newsletter, The Observer, but remained with the community of the Provincial House.
In March 2013, he was called upon by the Prior Provincial to substitute for a deceased Diocesan Priest, upon the request of the Bishop of Cubao. He served as Parish Administrator of this parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, from 2013-2015.
In July 2015, through internal negotiations between the OAR Prior Provincial and the Bishop of Cubao, the OLMC Parish was assigned for administration to the OAR for three years, from 2015-2018, and so Fr. Larry was appointed as its first OAR Parish Priest.
It was a welcome coincidence that Fr. Larry was celebrating his silver anniversary while serving his assignment in this Parish. His parents are both gone and his siblings already have their own families. It would no longer be significant to hold the Thanksgiving celebration in his hometown in Tacloban. So Fr. Larry decided that our parish was the best place to celebrate his anniversary.
When asked what he would have been had he not become a priest, he answered: I would have been a businessman, operating a bar or a place of entertainment.
When asked if given another life, what career he would pursue, he said: I would still be a priest, but this time I will take care of my body so that I would be able to fulfil my dream of being a real missionary!