Cebuanos prepare for Calungsod canonizationBy Ador Vincent Mayol
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CEBU CITY—She never asked for it, but 74-year-old Chari Gerinea was given money anyway by a friend so she could purchase a round-trip plane ticket to Rome in time for the Oct. 21 canonization of Pedro Calungsod.
“It’s a provision from the Lord. It’s unbelievable. I don’t have enough budget. [But] God arranges everything,” she told the Inquirer.
Gerinea, a mother of three and resident of Barangay Guizo in Cebu’s Mandaue City, got her visa on July 31. All she needed was to pay 110 euros or about P5,700 for her daily accommodation in a Franciscan convent in Rome.
She said she didn’t want to miss the formal elevation to sainthood of Calungsod whom she credited for several answered prayers.
“My purpose of going to Rome is to give praise and thanksgiving to God for recognizing Pedro to become a saint. My desire is really for Pedro to intercede to the Lord that I will be given his youth so that I can continue to serve the Lord,” said Gerinea, an executive committee member at Blessed Pedro Shrine in Cebu City.
Over 1,000 people from Cebu are expected to go to Rome to attend the canonization rites of Calungsod.
The Cebu Archdiocese is setting strict ground rules to ensure that pilgrims who apply for visas will return to the country.
“We are very careful. We have to make them realize that this is a pilgrimage. You have to return. This is not a shopping spree,” said Msgr. Achilles Dakay, media liaison officer of the archdiocese.
Visa applicants must submit financial statements and other documents to show their capacity to travel abroad and return, as well as a certification from their parish priest to vouch that they are Catholics.
“The priests should be held responsible for their return,” Dakay said.
Applicants must undergo a catechism lecture on the the life of Calungsod.
A mere teenager, Calungsod was among the first to serve on a mission organized by Fr. Diego de San Vitores to the Ladrones Islands in the Western Pacific, Marianas, on June 16, 1668.
Trained by the Jesuits, Calungsod mastered catechism and learned how to read, write and deliver discourses in Visayan, Spanish and Chamorro.
On April 2, 1672, he and Father Diego were speared with a cutlass by two villagers in Tumhon, Guam, for catechizing and baptizing the natives.
Calungsod will become the second Filipino saint after Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila.
“We take this as a once-in-a-lifetime event. We don’t know when another saint will be canonized. We would like this to be an occasion for us to really savor the blessing of a saint. It’s just like saying, money becomes secondary,” Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said.
The archdiocese has set a budget of P60 million for the canonization expenses in Rome, as well as the national thanksgiving celebration in Cebu City. As of Aug. 7, at least P29 million had been raised.
Part of the funds will be used to print booklets about the life of Calungsod.
Cebu’s 147 parishes and 376-strong diocesan priests are also encouraged to raise donations for the activity.
In May, the archdiocese launched an ambitious drive to raise P20 million. Unveiled was a commemorative artwork created by renowned Cebuano industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue.
For a P25,000 donation, the donor will receive a figure of a man formed out of bent pieces of thin black iron wire inside a wooden frame. Behind the figure is a map of Cebu and scenes of martyrdom stitched onto paper.
The donation comes with a chance to win a raffle prize of two BMW cars and an SUV.
More than the external preparations, Archbishop Palma said the faithful should be spiritually ready for the canonization of Calungsod.
“I hope this will become an occasion for us to believe that we are precious in the eyes of the Lord; that we can all become saints. My prayer is that in the course of the preparations, we all become more Christian, more holy, more devoted as Catholics, and more aware of our mission. And I think, that’s at the heart of all this preparation,” Palma said.
On July 14, a 100-day countdown to the canonization rites was launched by the archdiocese.
Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal agreed that the Cebuanos must be spiritually ready for the event. “We must not only busy ourselves with the preparations, but the preparations must purify us as well, draw as closer to each other. The 100 days, therefore, must be a time of grace for all of us,” he said.
Vidal, the lead postulator for the sainthood cause, challenged the people to follow Calungsod’s fidelity to the Lord amid persecutions and death.
“The account of Pedro’s mission and martyrdom can be written in a paragraph or two. But its significance can fill up many volumes. What Pedro did was an act of solidarity in faith,” he said.
He pointed out that a lay person can be a saint also “if you will be faithful and true to what you are doing now. He (Calungsod) is a layman like you. A sakristan. He was faithful to his assignment. Holiness is still possible even among the young.”
On Aug. 7, Vidal led the ceremonial groundbreaking for the templete or a little temple that will house the national thanksgiving Mass on Nov. 30 at South Road Properties in Cebu City.
SM Prime Holdings Inc. pledged to develop 1,200 square meters of reclaimed land where Church officials expect some one million people to gather for the liturgical celebration. “[We are willing to shell out] as much as it would take to prepare the site appropriately for the occasion,” said Marissa Fernan, company vice president.
Three days before the national thanksgiving on Nov. 30, an image of Calungsod would be brought to Cebu, said Rev. Fr. Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
This is the same image that will be brought to Rome for the canonization rites. It will be brought back to the Philippines and will visit the four 1,772 ecclesiastical provinces, which include Nueva Segovia, Vigan, Manila, Nueva Caceres (Naga), and Cebu.
From its arrival in Manila, Mejia said the image would be flown to Vigan, Bicol, Samar, northen Mindanao, Negros, Iloilo and Bohol.
“This will be chance for Pedro to be introduced as a Filipino saint. Hopefully, this will be a grand way to promote his devotion, not just for the region but for the whole of the Philipines. I hope he will be owned by everyone as a Filipino saint,” Mejia said.