By Andrew Hansen
Growing up in Laoang, a small city located in the northern part of Samar Province in the Philippines, Father Manny Cuizon had no idea what was in store for his life. Little did he know growing up that not only would he become a priest, but his journey would stretch to the other side of the world to Central Illinois of all places and lead him to becoming a citizen of the United States.
“I came to America in March of 2012, the Feast of St. Joseph the husband of Mary,” Father Manny recalls. “To make the long story short, it was the help and support of Father Jeff Holtman, OSF, who was then the pastor of Holy Family Parish (Granite City) and St. Mary and St. Mark Parish (Madison) in the southern part of this diocese (Father Holtman is now pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in Alton). He introduced me to Bishop Thomas John Paprocki about my intention to serve in the diocese. I am thankful that Bishop Paprocki gave me a chance to serve in the diocese up to now.”
Since 2013, Father Manny has served in several parishes in our diocese, currently as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Springfield. The process of him becoming a U.S. citizen he says took him nearly six years. On August 30, Father Manny took part in the Naturalization Ceremony on the campus of the University of Illinois Springfield, and declared his allegiance to the United States of America, officially becoming a U.S. citizen.
When asked what it’s like being a U.S. citizen, his response is simply that is makes him “happy.”
“I can’t believe that America is now my new home country,” Father Manny said. “I am feeling grateful to God and to the kindness and generosity of the people who helped me to begin this my new life in this land of freedom and the home of the brave. What I love most about America is the diverse and vibrant culture, values, and tradition of immigrant communities that make this nation great and stronger.”