Battalions of holy Filipino bishops, priests, seminarians
It’s Divine Providence that the first Filipino canonized saints were laymen: Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod. It’s Divine Providence because it teaches us that the road to sanctity is doing ordinary duties extraordinarily well.
It’s Divine Providence because it tells us that you don’t need to be an ordained clergy in order to merit an official halo from the Vatican and that it’s not a prerequisite to be a world-famous pontiff like John Paul II, a founder like Monsignor Josemaria Escriva, or a legendary nun like Mother Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint.
Very few are officially canonized and beatified after a long, expensive, and tedious processes. Nonetheless, the Filipino Christians who lived and died closest to God’s heart are innumerable and their deeds untold.
Bishops Camomot, Versoza, Obviar, Labayen, OCD, and Padilla, CICM
Cebuanos think of Teofilo Camomot of Carcar (1914-1988) when they speak of someone who at first desired to be a farmer nearest to Mother Nature, but later surrendered himself to God in the Holy Priesthood and lived in Franciscan-like poverty.
Camomot served as auxiliary bishop to Cardinal Vidal of Cebu, who one day noticed that the former was not wearing his pectoral cross. It turned out that in his aspiration to share what little he possessed with the poor, the auxiliary bishop pawned his pectoral cross and gave the proceeds to them. Cebuanos today are not surprised that his body remained incorrupt after being buried in 1988 with a scent of sanctity.
Who can forget Alfredo Versoza (1877-1950) who, as Archbishop of Lipa, offered his fatherly service and commitment for 34 solid years and gave all? Almost at the same time, Bishop of Lucena Alfredo Obviar (1889-1978) established the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (MCST).
Definitely affected by the ugly faces of poverty and human misery, they refused to observe ONLY. People remember them because they provided hope for the hopeless members of humankind, offering some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.
Infanta Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, OCD, put his mind and soul, organizational skills and wisdom in the service of the poor. He struggled for social justice, particularly during the sinister years of Martial Law, lived and died with and for the marginalized and the oppressed, which makes one think that when you slice his heart into two, there’s nothing in there except the welfare of les miserables and los pobres!
Humble and simple Filipino Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, CICM, was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the first prelate of Mongolia. He literally started from scratch when he ministered to the world’s youngest Catholic Church in 1992, exhibiting good examples that possess ten times the force and impact of rhetoric and grandiloquence.
Father Gallardo, CMF; Brother Fernando, SJ; and Seminarian Novero
I wonder what driving force moved our bishops and priests to accomplish the mandate set by our dear Lord in the most difficult and demanding situations. Pastoral charity comes to mind; that is, the shepherd’s genuine love for the sheep coupled with humility. The good shepherd is ready any moment to lay down his life for his flock.
Consider Father Rhoel Gallardo (1965-2000), a Claretian missionary who offered his steady hand and caring heart to the people of Basilan. In exchange, he was tortured and shot three times at close range by Islamic separatists in Mindanao.
Richard Michael Fernando (1970-1996) was a young Jesuit missionary who was recognized for his act brave of saving children in Cambodia. He too was killed.
Seminarian Gumersindo Novero, from Cavite, was studying Latin in preparation for Major Seminary when, aware of dangers to his life, he volunteered to help the Vincentian Fathers in their Mandaluyong House, assisting Brother Martinez in the chores, and serving as an acolyte in the daily Mass. Immediately before Liberation, Japanese executed him with other priests on February 8, 1945.
Nowadays, we seldom hear our bishops and priests being recognized as men who do remarkable things. Nowadays, the deluge of tributes to Filipino bishops and priests has ceased and what we regularly hear is a government calling our ordained shepherds “hypocrites.”
Let us not forget that there are saints in our midst, ordained clergy who serve without counting the costs, who offer their dear lives like the Good Shepherd, and go unnoticed. I tell you, throughout 500 years, PH has been blessed with countless battalions of holy bishops, priests, and seminarians stationed in every nook and corner of the globe too many to mention.
José Mario Bautista Maximiano (email@example.com) is the author of Pope Francis, the Catholic Bishop, and the Priest (2015 Catholic Mass Media Awards “Best Book in Theology”).
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