The Church of St. Clement came about as an offshoot of the mission work undertaken in Iloilo by Redemptorist priests belonging to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
They first came to Jaro on January 23, 1928 at the behest of Jaro Bishop Denis O’Dougherty, who later became the Cardinal of Philadelphia, and his predecessor Bishop James McCloskey.
Several years before their arrival, there had been discussions for a foundation in Jaro. Bishop O’Dougherty had known for sometime about the mission work of the Redemptorist fathers in Cebu and invited them to form a house in his diocese.
Bishop McCloskey, also aware of the Redemptorist apostolate that had already reached Oriental Negros, formalized the invitation. Negros was still part then of the Diocese and now Archdiocese of Jaro.
Parish records said McCloskey and the Vice Provincial Superior Rev. W. Byrne, simultaneously wrote to the Father General in Rome asking him to accept the Jaro foundation. The cable of acceptance arrived on October 17, 1927.
The Jaro Diocese offered all possible assistance to the Redemptorist priests: McCloskey secured them a house on Number 9, Calle E. Lopez in Jaro and even generously spent on its repair; the Padres Paules supplied altar wine and other items for their residence; the Superioress of St. Paul’s Hospital donated tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, and an alcohol stove.
The first missionaries to come to Jaro, appointed by Irish Provincial Superior Fr. John Fitzgerald, were Fathers Raymund Cleere (superior), Joe Wright, Patrick O’Connel, Joe O’Gorman, Brothers Jarlath and Charles.
Beginning January 23, 1928, the fathers occupied the house and offered mass on their first day. The altar they used was a gift from Bishop McCloskey, the very same one used in the first convent of the Carmelite sisters in the Philippines that was located in Molo.
Parochial missions were a long established thrust of the Redemptorist congregation. Its mission work from its home base in Cebu expanded to Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu, and even went as far as Mindanao.
The Redemptorist community in Jaro spent four months learning Ilonggo from a local teacher before embarking on their first mission in Dumangas in June 1928 upon the invitation of parish priest Fr. Vicente Militar.
Pleased with their work, he sent them to Lublub the following November and then to Pototan. Despite the heavy rains and the fact that it was rice planting season, many gathered to listen to the Redemptorist priests.
Within the apostolic community in Iloilo, in their early years, the priests helped out in the Jaro Cathedral upon the invitation of Msgr. Luis Capalla, heard confessions in Ilonggo, English, and Spanish. They also administered retreats to fellow priests, sisters, and students.
The congregation picked La Paz as the permanent site for its new foundation in the Diocese of Jaro. It decided to build its monastery in the area, signing the contract for construction on January 15, 1931. The finished structure under the advocation of St. Clement, picked because of his influence over students, was blessed by Bishop McCloskey.
The diocesan apostolate for the students of the Provincial High School and Normal College (now West Visayas State University) was continued by the Redemptorist fathers. They held regular masses for the people and later on established a Confraternity of the Holy Family as a weekly service for male students and adults in the area. The Confraternity survived for 30 years and had a weekly attendance of around 250.
With attendance growing steadily over the years, the Catholic Truth Hall was no longer an adequate venue and a decision was reached to build a permanent church.
St. Clement’s Church was inaugurated on February 23, 1941, with then Cebu Archbishop Gabriel Reyes delivering a special sermon for the occasion. The following day, a solemn mass was celebrated for benefactors, with a misa de requiem offered for those already deceased.
St. Clement’s College
Over a period of 10 years, the number of Redemptorist missions increased from 1930-1940. This was however interrupted by the advent of war in 1941.
The realities of war were brought home to the congregation in December 18 of that same year. Japanese forces began dropping bombs in Iloilo City, damaging the airfield and oil installations along the docks. They invaded Panay on April 6, 1942.
It was decided after the war to establish a Minor Seminary as a first step in the training of Filipino vocations. The superiors agreed to the proposal in October 1946 and construction of seminary was immediately started. Fr. John Ryan was Vice Provincial at the time.
The college was completed in time for school year 1949-1950 and Fr. Patrick Nulty became its first director. It became known for discipline, high academic standards, and basketball and has supplied the nucleus of the Philippine vice province/province.
Filipino priests who studied in the college included Msgr. Ramon Fruto, Bishop Ireneo Amantillo, Willie Jesena, Filomeno Suico, Emerardo Maningo, Gerry Loarca, Tommie Tancinco, and the late Fernando Yusingco, Luis Hechanova, and Rudy Romano.
A new development happened for the foundation in 1967, when it was established as the Perpetual Help Parish on Easter Sunday.
In his inauguration address during the occasion, first Jaro Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco said: “The more parishes in the diocese, the less chance of error among the people; the supreme law is the salvation of souls. This responsibility was brought home to me very clearly during the Second Vatican Council.”
Another apostolate of Perpetual Help Parish is the enclosed retreat movement. The first enclosed retreat was held in the convento on December 7, 1963. The new retreat house was completed in 1967.