Father Amora, standing second from right, concelebrates Mass with Bishop O'Connell for a Simbang Gabi Mass in St. Dorothea Church, Eatontown, where he has been parochial vicar since 2012. File photo
Father Amora, standing second from right, concelebrates Mass with Bishop O'Connell for a Simbang Gabi Mass in St. Dorothea Church, Eatontown, where he has been parochial vicar since 2012. File photo

As Father Silvano “Ben” Amora prepares to retire after 43 years of active priestly ministry serving in the Philippines and in the Trenton Diocese, he happily reflects on what he considers to be one of his greatest accomplishments – “the ability to share my faith with others through teaching and preaching and my effort not to talk from the tip of the tongue, but from my heart.”

“What I say is really what I believe, founded by reason, not high-sounding words. I go to the basics,” said Father Amora, parochial vicar of St. Dorothea Parish, Eatontown, explaining that he tries to live what he believes and brings that to his relationships with parishioners, fellow priests and parish staff.

“Our faith has a social dimension,” he said. “When people understand the doctrines of Jesus Christ and the basic teachings of the Catholic Church, it creates love and commitment because … to know [him] is to love and to love is to commit oneself.”

Leading To Priesthood

Born in 1950 in Lawigan, Labason, in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, Father Amora attended a school in Lawigan for primary grades 1-4 (1956-1960); Labason Central Elementary School for elementary grades 5-6 (1960-1962), and Ferrer High School, during which he lived in the parish rectory as a working student until his March 1966 graduation.

After high school, Father Amora became a municipal temporary worker cutting lawns and maintaining the local road in the township; worked in a plywood factory; was part of a crew on a fishing boat, and became a gardener and rice farmer.

Deciding to become a priest, he moved back to the rectory in late 1967 as a sacristan, sexton, cook and housekeeper. He recalled assisting a missionary who visited the parish annually, accompanying him on visits to village chapels.

Father Amora’s province officially became a diocese (Diocese of Dipolog – the capital city of Zamboanga del Norte) in October 1967, an occasion that coincided with his aspiration to become a priest. In June 1968, the young Silvano attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines, where he studied philosophy. He then attended the Seminario Mayor de San Carlos, Cebu City, for theology, from 1973 to 1977. He was ordained a priest March 25, 1977, in St. Vincent Ferrer Parish, Labason, by Bishop Felix S. Zafra, D.D.

He noted that he was the first man to be ordained a priest from his parish, adding proudly that in the past 43 years, the number has climbed to 37 men “and still counting.”

Examples of Faith

After holding a number of positions in the Diocese of Dipolog, including pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish (1978-1983), and St. Francis Xavier Parish (1983-1987), he took a leave of absence, then returned to ministry in California.

He arrived to the Diocese of Trenton through the facility of a priest friend, and served in Visitation Parish, Brick, from 1987 to 1996. He was then named adjunct priest to St. Theresa Parish, Little Egg Harbor. His 1996-2002 tenure there included six months as a temporary administrator. Father Amora’s next assignment was an adjunct priest in St. Justin the Martyr Parish, Toms River, and then parochial vicar following his incardination into the Diocese in 2003. Five years later, he was appointed parochial vicar of St. Ann Parish, Keansburg, and transferred to St. Dorothea Parish in 2012.

In recent months, Father Amora said he has spent time during the coronavirus pandemic for prayerful reflection and to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He remains ever-faithful that “God is still in control,” noting that life before the pandemic was so busy that “many times, we couldn’t have quality time for reflection and see our inner selves.”

In retirement, Father Amora looks forward to returning to the Philippines and living near family.

Offering some advice to prospective priests based on his own years of service, he said, “Be available to people; listen and talk to them. Let them know you care. … Give them the best example of faith.”