FATHER Evelio “Toto” Buenaflor Jr., a native of M’Lang, Cotabato, Philippines is a pastor at St. Andrew Church in Amelia, Louisiana. Last year, Buenaflor celebrated his 25th anniversary of priesthood.
Ordained in 1985, Buenaflor arrived to the United States in 2005 and first served as an associate pastor at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Thibodaux. After two years, he was appointed pastor to St. Andrew Church.
According to Bayou Catholic Bulletin, Buenaflor became interested in joining the priesthood early on in life. His parents were devout practicing catholics and had several friends who were priests. This allowed Buenaflor to be around a religious environment.
Buenaflor said when he was in the fourth grade he received a sign from God. When walking by the family altar, he recalled seeing two or three bright flashes over the crucifix. Given that during this time, his home did not have electricity, the bright flashes scared the young Buenaflor. He immediately ran over to his mother and when the two passed by the crucifix again, they saw two more flashes of light.
“She knew then which one of her sons God has chosen to become a priest. It was me, her firstborn,” he said to the Bayou Catholic.
Buenaflor dedicated his life to God from that moment on.
When asked what he might have done if he hadn’t chosen the priesthood, he said he wouldn’t know.
“I cannot think of anything,” he said. “Right now, if I were given the opportunity by God to choose what kind of life I would want, I can’t think of any other, I would still choose to become a priest. I have never thought of any other kind of life besides being a priest of God.”
He added the day of ordination was the high point of his life. He was “in ecstasy.”
Buenaflor what attracts him most about the priesthood is the ability to connect with so many different cultures and relay God’s message to them.
“My existence is for the people of God,” he said. “As I do that, I am more convinced that my purpose in life is to mirror God’s goodness to people. When He was in his bodily human form here on earth, he did it, but now he’s gone so he works in and through the people he has called. He uses my hand to touch people. He uses my heart to love people. He uses my voice to speak to people.”
Now in his 26th year serving God, Buenaflor said he has no regrets devoting his life to spreading God’s message.
“I know that I have faithfully done what is expected of me by the church and by God,” he said.