THE sainthood on Oct. 21 of the young lay missionary Blessed Pedro Calungsod is “a moment of great pride” and a boost to the declining Catholic Church, according to a Jesuit priest.
In a symposium on lay spirituality at the University of Sto. Tomas on Friday, Fr. Catalino Arevalo cited a 2000 study that said the Philippines would no longer be a Catholic country in 40 years at the rate it has been losing members.
He added that only 6 percent of young Filipinos have been receiving “significant religious instruction,” according to a commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that examined the youth evangelization.
“They are not turning away, they are simply not being reached,” Arevalo said, adding that Calungsod, being a patron of the laity, was symbolic of what the Catholics needed to do to revive the faith.
Incidentally, Oct. 11 this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, a global convention that led to the renewal of the Church and its role in the modern world, and the 20th anniversary of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
Pope Benedict XVI declared Oct. 11, 2012, to Nov. 24, 2013, the Year of Faith to promote reflection on the Vatican II documents and the catechism.
These events helped fast-track the sainthood of Calungsod, surpassing the popular Mother Teresa and Blessed John Paul II among the more than 400 in line for canonization, retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said in the symposium.
Vidal had pushed for Calungsod’s sainthood upon learning in 1985 from Archbishop Felixberto Flores of Guam that the Philippines had a candidate. Calungsod was the sacristan of Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, who was beatified that year.
The archbishop sought the help of Jesuit Fr. Juan Ledesma to write a thesis on Calungsod, which he submitted in 1996 to the Vatican as a requirement of beatification. After four years, Calungsod was declared blessed.
Vidal added that he was not surprised when he heard of Calungsod’s canonization since someone from the Vatican told him last year that the young missionary was suited to the Pope’s Year of Faith and new evangelization.
Calungsod was a Visayan teenager who volunteered in the missionary expedition of San Vitores in 1668 to Ladrones Islands, renamed Marianas after Queen Maria Ana of Spain, now known as Guam. Calungsod endured physical labor in building churches and taking care of the group’s supplies. He was the constant companion of San Vitores, carrying the Mass kit, organizing baptismals and teaching the Catholic doctrines through songs.
The two missionaries were killed after baptizing a chieftain’s baby in Tumhon, Guam, on April 2, 1672. A Chinese who was not happy with the missionaries’ growing influence convinced the natives that the water used for baptizing was poisonous.
Parañaque Bishop Jesse Eugenio Mercado, chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity, also talked about the theme “Building up the Body of Christ and Strengthening our Faith through New Ways of Evangelization.”
“We have one same message, but because of the rapid changes in our society, it is important for us to adapt. The way we are going to present Jesus will vary according to the situation we are in,” Mercado told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“To revive the faith, we should let the youth participate and express in their own ways their belief in Jesus. It can be through social media, rock concerts, hip-hop dancing or theater plays, but without betraying the message of Jesus Christ,” he said./INQUIRER