Young people in the digital age need more catechists like St. Pedro Calungsod to teach them about Christian faith.
This was the message of Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Emilio Bataclan in yesterday’s first in a series of three Masses or triduum before this Friday national thanksgiving Mass in honor of Calungsod, a Visayan teenage mission helper in the 17th century, whose canonization last month holds him up as a model of young sacrifice and holiness.
“Do the youth have faith?” Bataclan asked churchgoers at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Can they believe amid attending to their cellular phones, Facebook accounts and iPads?”
He said this need to know one’s faith becomes all the more important when only six percent of Catholic Filipino youths receive a solid religious education, a figure he quoted from Jesuit theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo.
The official image of Calungsod arrived yesterday noon in the Cebu City port where it was welcomed by drum beats and people waving their hands or carrying red and yellow flaglets.
Under a hot sun, hundreds of people gathered by the roadside to get a glimpse of the flower decked sculpture of Calungsod, which left a month ago for the Oct. 21 canonization rites in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Rome.
When Calungsod left Cebu last month, he was a beato. He came home a saint.
As the motorcade reached the 10-year-old St. Pedro Calungsod Shrine in D. Jakosalem Street in Cebu City, bells pealed and people, some of whom were waiting since the morning waved red flaglets.
After a prayer service in its home shrine, a halo of gold-plated metal was placed behind Calungsod’s head by Msgr. Ildebrando Leyson, the shrine’s rector and vice postulator of the cause for sainthood of Calungsod.
“A halo is a symbol of sanctity and holiness. It is the identity of the saints,” said Msgr. Marnell Mejia of the committee on processions.
The image will be transferred today to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and then to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City tomorrow for an overnight vigil prior to boarding a galleon for a fluvial procession that ends in the South Road Properties (SRP) in Cebu City for a 5 p.m. national thanksgiving Mass.
Msgr. Batcalan, in the first Triduum Mass in the Guadaulpe shrine, underscored the challenge of making faith relevant to the lives of the young in the age of distractions of the Internet and social media.
At least 68 percent of Filipinos are below 40 years old. Four out of every five youths are Catholic. But of these, a third don’t go to church every week.
Houses of worship appear to face stiff competition from the Internet in this texting and social networking capital of the world.
Last night before the Mass, a catehetical module called “The Creed,” was launched, something Batacalan said is useful for youths to share Christian values with their peers and students.
Bataclan said the goal of a catechist is to reach out and help young people prepare to meet Jesus Christ.
Calungsod was about 12 or 13 years old when he left the Visayas to join a Jesuit mission to the Ladrones Islands, which was later named the Marianas Islands and present day Guam.
The young catechist served as an assistant of Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores to evangelize the Chamorros in the islands. Both were killed in 1672 by angry natives.
Bataclan said the faithful in general need to learn how to meet Jesus Christ through his “cosmic Word” in creation, his “inspired Word” in the Bible and as “the Word made Flesh” in His person.
But it is catechists who possess a heart in love with Christ like St. Pedro Calungsod’s, not just intelligence and wit, who have the task of facilitating this learning.
He said the canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod early in the Catholic Year of Faith (November 2012 to November 2013) appears “planned by heaven” to inspire Filipino Catholics to deepen their faith.
“The Jesus Christ to whom St. Pedro Calungsod offered his life should also be the Jesus Christ to whom the faithful offer their lives,” he said.
The three-foot image of Calungsod was brought in a motorcade through downtown and uptown streets after it arrived at about 12 noon on a Star Craft 3 ferry boat from Getafe, Bohol province.
People waited on the streets to catch a glimpse of the image as it passed by on the same red panel truck used before a month ago. Some took photos with their cellphones and other gadgets.
Though the crowds were less in number than the throngs that spilled on the roads and flyovers for its sendoff last October for the Vatican rites, the homecoming was still fervent.
The image was hand-carried by Fr. Charles Jayme, official custodian.
Msgr. Cayetano Gelbolingo, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cebu, incensed the image before it was placed inside a glass case adorned with white orchids and red anthuriums.
The escorts were from the Community of Former Seminarians.
From Pier 1, the convoy passed by Cebu City Hall where employees were waiting to greet the image with yellow flower petals and yellow flaglets. The icon made its first stopover in the St. Pedro Calungsod Shrine for a prayer service.
By 4 p.m., the image was brought to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu.
In a press conference, Fr. Marvin Mejia, national chairman of the Duaw Nasud, said there are plans to bring the image for another series of pilgrimages in other parts of the country .
From Rome, the image was brought to 36 areas across the Philippines for the Duaw Nasud. Some localities asked to host its visit next time.
Volunteers of the Duaw Nasud recounted how the image was welcomed by people who said their lives were touched, and their bodies were healed through Calungsod’s intercession.
In Cebu City, Ricarda Catap, a 67-year-old catechist from Danao City, could not believe she could get close to the image when it arrived at Pier 1.
“Kahilakon ko. (I’m about to cry),” she said.
Catap said she has been asking Calungsod to intercede for her husband who has a cyst in his kidney. She remains hopeful that her sickly husband would be healed.
Aurora Ruiz Beltran, 76, from Camputhaw, Cebu City, was praying the rosary in her family’s multicab when the motorcade passed by.
She said she prayed for “harmony in the family and the whole world.”
Mildred Simolde of Mandaue City was among those who boarded the ferry boat with Calungsod’s image to Cebu City.
She was also on the same flight which brought the image to Rome before the Oct. 21 canonization.
“I’ve been with him (Calungsod) since we travelled to Rome. It’s from start to finish,” a joyful Simolde told Cebu Daily News.
She said she had back aches when she travelled to Rome but she left inspired by Calungsod.