Opinion & Analysis
Filipinos need saints amid challenges4:26 PM, January 31, 2018
Philippines:Church has at least three role models the new generation can draw inspiration from.
Filipino Catholics join a religious procession in the central Philippine province of Cebu where Bishop Teofilo Camomot served as prelate until his death in 1988. The late bishop has been named by the Vatican a candidate for sainthood. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
For having lived their lives simply, for attending to the spiritual and material needs of their flock, for faithfully following the teachings of the church, three Filipino bishops may soon be recognized as saints.
Two Filipino laymen have already become saints for offering their lives to the faith. There have been accounts of their heroism, of their refusal to give up their faith despite their impending death. But it was in the 1600s.
Saints Lorenzo Ruiz (canonized by St. Pope John Paul II on Oct. 18, 1987) and Pedro Calungsod (canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 21, 2012) were in the company of missionaries when they suffered persecution and became martyrs.
Meanwhile, Bishops Alfredo Verzosa of Vigan, Alfredo Obviar of Lipa, and Teofilo Camomot of Cebu were ordinary churchmen who performed their responsibilities extraordinarily.
Bishop Verzosa lived his life in the midst of a hostile environment in parts of the island of Luzon where the nationalist Philippine Independent Church posed a challenge to Catholics.
The bishop built schools, seminaries, catechetical centers, and convents for religious women, and showed his dedication in spreading the Gospel through education.
Bishop Obviar, who was ordained a priest in 1919, also showed a gift for organizing catechists. He founded the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese in 1958 in the city of Lucena.
The congregation has now at least 250 members in 24 dioceses in the Philippines and abroad.
Archbishop Camomot of Cebu, in the central Philippines, wanted to be a farmer until he responded to the call of becoming a priest. He is best remembered for embracing poverty as a religious practice. There was an account of how he pawned his pectoral cross to help a family in need.
When his remains were exhumed early in January and later interred in the grounds of the Daughters of St. Teresa, a congregation he founded, thousands of people attended the funeral Mass.
The people of Cebu still remember the late prelate for his charity, for extending help to the needy, and for bringing the sacraments to the poor in far-flung communities.
The three bishops are worthy of admiration and emulation. They lived by what they preached and set examples of how everybody — bishops, priests and the laity — should live as Christians.
They lived their three-fold mission as bishops, that of sanctification, teaching and pastoral governance. They were shepherds and role models of their ecclesial provinces. They are symbols of communion. They brought to life the spirit of unity in Christian communities.
People whose hearts and lives the three "Servants of God" touched with their faith, dedication and humility will never forget and will always consider them saints.
Being proclaimed a saint is the church's way of recognizing a person who has reached the highest virtue of charity.
While it is an honor for the Filipino people to have more "intercessors," it is a challenge to imitate their lives, how they lived in the midst of the challenges of the evolving Philippine society.
Remembering their examples should be timely as the Philippine church marks 2018 as the "Year of the Clergy" and as the 500th anniversary in 2021 of the arrival of Christianity in the country nears.
In a country where strongmen rule, movie stars, sports icons and media personalities hold public office, the causes of the three "Servants of God" are a welcome development.
With almost 31 percent of the country’s 104 million population belonging to the so-called millennial generation in search of role models, there is a need for new "heroes" of the faith.
Melo Acuna has worked as a broadcast journalist for the past three decades. He has spent time with faith-based groups in various dioceses in the Philippines through his work as reporter, and later as station manager of church-run radio Veritas 846.
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