On Beato Pedro’s lineage
by Malou Guanzon Apalisok
Were it not for the fact that the Lenten season bordered the novena masses leading to the feast of Beato Pedro Calungsod , Cebuanos would have celebrated his feast day last Saturday in fun and party-like activities fit for a soon-to-be-saint.
Around the city, I saw streamers bearing “Pit Calungsod ” hanging in walls and foreground of business establishments, as if to remind people that Beato Pedro ’s forthcoming canonization is worthy of a grand celebration approximating Sinulog revelry. But merriment is just out of place because the feast of the young martyr happens as the faithful struggles to exercise some forms of penance and mortification in observance of Lent.
At the fiesta Mass held at the Calungsod shrine last Saturday, the main presider, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes, talked about the controversy hounding Beato Pedro’s origins. As we know, there are claims that he was Ilonggo, Bol-anon, Leyteño, even Surigaonon but not a descendant of the Calungsods in Ginatilan, Cebu.
Bishop Cortes found it interesting that before the decree of Beato Pedro ’s canonization came out, there were no counter claims about his being a Cebuano. Thus, while the issue is valid, it should also be viewed in another plane. The controversy really stems from an all too human proclivity, the desire to be identified with those who are admired and occupying lofty positions, according to Bishop Cortes.
Beato Pedro ’s exact origins would be difficult or even impossible to prove with incontrovertible facts, but there are certain essentials worth noting.
Beato Pedro worked for the Jesuits as a sacristan and handyman, indicating that he belonged to a poor family. His parents must have left him under the care of the religious to cover his basic needs at the same time insure that he will get Catholic education. I know of many poor families who adapt this way to assure their sons’ future. There are many priests who entered the religious life following this path.
Back to Pedro Calungsod , the young lad was virtually faceless and nameless when he accompanied the Jesuit missionaries, in particular, Fr. Diego de San Vitores in the land of the Chamorros in Guam in 1672.
They were both killed in the hands of villagers who were resentful of Catholic religion. The work of the Society of Jesus in spearheading the beatification of Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores eventually triggered efforts in the Archdiocese of Cebu to also look into the life of his sacristan who was killed while trying to protect his priest-guardian from attackers.
In remembrance of his martyrdom, then Pope John Paul II beatified Pedro in October 2000. On 3 April 2004, then Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal declared Blessed Calungsod as model and patron of the youth in the archdiocese of Cebu.
Some 200 Archdiocesan catechists attended their patron’s fiesta mass at the Calungsod shrine last Saturday wearing their sea green uniform.
They came from the north and south districts to give honor to one of their own.
I didn’t know that catechists have become a major pillar in the work of the Church until I spoke to some of them last Saturday. Mrs. Josie Versales is the coordinator of 27 catechists serving the National shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City.
A catechist for the last 12 years, she said they do not only teach Christian values to young people in public elementary and high schools, but also to adults and out of school youth.
The parish priest also leans on catechists to educate parents before their child’s baptismal and confirmation.
Summer is a time to do outreach work and in Mandaue City’s main parish, the work requires as many as 40 religious teachers.
According to Josie, the parish is fortunate to have many active members who volunteer to serve as catechists during the summer break.
Mrs. Mina Chan who is 68 years old has been a catechist at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Minglanilla for more than three decades. She goes to the nearest public elementary school once weekly to teach religious lessons for one hour.
Some younger teachers work ten hours a week and for that they receive from the parish P120 a month for transportation allowance and light snacks.
I was stunned by the information because in an urban setting, that amount would hardly be enough in one day for fare and snacks. But Mrs. Chan said that they don’t mind not receiving anything for the work they do for the Church.
Josie said they don’t receive regular allowances but the parish team leader supports them in their needs for supplies and transportation.
Are the catechists affected over Beato Pedro ’s true ethnic origin?
Not ever, according to Josie. The catechist’s work can last a lifetime work and there is plenty to be done. In his homily Bishop Cortes said that Blessed Pedro’s life and martyrdom exemplifies his love for the Church.
He hopes that his canonization in October this year would prompt the faithful to support the work of the catechists, whether through logistical aid, prayers and volunteer work in the catechetical ministry.