20,000 flock to Toledo’s Calungsod parish but priest won’t cut hair yetCebu Daily News
The rainy morning didn’t stop devotees from packing the Pedro Calungsod Parish Church in barangay Cantabaco, Toledo City, where four masses were celebrated on their patron’s day of canonization.
Many brought their own chairs or stood outside with umbrellas as the 1,500-capacity church was full.
Toledo city police estimated 20,000 to 25,000 came througout the day.
Even the roads leading to the hilltop church were crammed with vehicles because the church compound couldn’t park any more cars, said SPOt Socrates Aparicio.
A group of graduating law students from Negros Oriental State University arrived after six hours of travel.
“We heard about the miracles that Calungsod made possible for those who believe and come to him. We are here to pray that we can pass the bar exam next year,” said Ritchie Diamano.
A family from Bacayan, Cebu city came for the healing Mass at 12 noon. Ailene Arcilla brought her son Winzel. She said Calungsod answered her prayers 12 years ago when her sickly baby was healed.
A group of teachers from Cebu and Mandaue cities brought their own food.
“We all agreed to take part in the celebration because this is a once in a lifetime experience,” said Leo Daculan.
In his homily, Fr. Russel Sungcad, the long-haired parish priest of the first Calungsod parish in Cebu, said that God answers all our prayers but only grants something when it is intended for one’s good and will develop one’s faith. He said Calungsod’s sainthood is an example of answered prayer.
Out of thousands of martyrs who died for the faith, only seven have been elevated into sainthood, he said, “because it is already their time.”
Calungsod’s canonization means “it is time for our country to have a new saint to further boost our faith,” Sungcad said in Cebuano.
After every Mass, devotees shouted “Viva San Pedro Calungsod!” and raise their hands in celebration.
Calungod’s statue by the altar drew devotees who touched their palms to the glass case. Some wiped their handkerchief on the surface, then touched parts of their body.
In midafternoon, the live TV broadcast of the Vatican rites were was shown inside the church in two 40-inch flat screen TV sets loaned by Asturias town mayor Allan Adlawan.
While most people watched the screen, Sungcad continued with his prayers for those unable to attend the 12 noon “healing Mass”.
The modest concrete church, built in 2003, occupies a one-hectare lot donated by Architect Servillano Mapeso and his wife Josephine.
Donations are being received to finish adding a convent and belfry.
The large crowd overwhelmed the parish priest.
“I was used to celebrating Mass with less than 20 people. I am glad that Calungsod brought in many devotees,” said Sungcad.
Sungcad said he hopes donations will be enough to finish the church by December next year.
During his homily, he revealed that he wore his hair long and vowed not to cut it until the church construction is finished.
Sungcad’s curly hair hangs about five inches below his shoulders. The diocesan priest started growing it when he was assigned in barangay Cantabaco last 2004.
With more visitors in the barangay, vendors are gaining business.
Stalls lined outside the church sell souvenirs with Calungsod’s face on T-shirts, fans, statues, prayer booklets, and other items.
Now that Calungsod is officially a saint, Sungcad said they would ask the Archdiocese of Cebu to change the date of their annual fiesta from March 5 to October 21.
The church will also be renamed San Pedro Calungsod Parish Church. /Carine Asutilla, Correspondent