For six years, Filipino Jesuit Father Rene Tacastacas juggled his time as a student and a priest in the United States.
“The experience was very enriching,” Fr. Tacastacas said of the years he spent working on a doctorate degree in rural sociology and at the same time organizing Catholic communities in remote Missouri villages, where he became well-loved. In May, he received the Outstanding Graduate Student Service Award upon his graduation from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Tacastacas was parish priest of the remote town of Titay in the Philippines, but after being named vocation director, his Jesuit superiors sent him to the United States in 2005 to pursue further studies.
“I needed the know-how to pursue rural development, especially involving work with small farmers in the countryside,” said Tacastacas.
When he flew to Missouri in August 2005, his mission was clear: study hard so he could help in the Jesuits’ mission to assist Filipino farmers. Tacastacas specialized in food and agriculture.
In his first few weeks in the U.S., Tacastacas felt lonely, so he volunteered to substitute for any priest who was not available.
Soon, he was being sent to remote towns in Missouri, and he found his purest joys as a priest and as a student in the far-flung communities.
In these towns, he would visit the farms, where he gained first-hand experience in American farming that helped him put into shape his doctoral research’s focus on small vegetable farming.
“Getting to know the farmer-parishioners allowed me to view my studies as primarily directed towards helping small farmers back home,” he said.
“There was no disconnect between my priesthood and my being a student,” said Tacastacas.
Read more about Tacastacas’ time in Missouri at Inquirer News.