Bernardo M. Villegas
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Imitating San Pedro Calungsod Today

           Last October 21, 2012, exactly ten days after the start of the Year of the Faith that will last till November 24, 2013, Pedro Calungsod was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.  In a brief description by Msgr. Ildebrando Jesus Alino Leyson, the Postulator who worked on the process of beatification and canonization of the second Filipino Saint, we obtain the following information:  "Pedro Calungsod was a teenage native of the Visayas region of the Philippines.  Very little is known about him.  We do not even know where exactly in the Visayas he came from or who his parents were.  He was just one of the boy catechists who went with some Spanish Jesuit missionaries from the Philippines, headed by Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores S.J., to the Ladrones Islands in the western North Pacific Ocean in 1668 to evangelize the Chamorros.  In that century, the Jesuits in the Philippines used to train and employ young boys as competent catechists and versatile assistants in their missions.  The Ladrones at that time was part of the old Diocese of Cebu.  Pedro worked with Fr. Diego in those islands from June 15, 1668 until April 2, 1672 when they were both killed by two natives on account of the Christian Faith."

          The information given by Msgr. Leyson is sufficient for me to suggest ways in which the largest segment of the Philippine population, i.e. those between 15 and 30 years of age, can imitate the new Filipino Saint.  I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that no one of our young Filipinos today will die as a martyr.  I can attest, however, that high school and university students as well as young professionals below 30--both male and female--can do much to imitate San Pedro Calungsod in his role as a catechist.  Today, there is much ignorance about the Christian faith among the Filipino youth, especially those who constitute the vast majority of Filipino students who never went to Catholic schools.  Sad to say, even some of those who went to Catholic schools still suffered from the doctrinal confusion sowed by some false teachers who misinterpreted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.  There is an urgent need for a new evangelization, using the words of Pope Benedict XVI.

          What I would like to see is a revival of the apostolic zeal of the high school and university students of the 1950s and 1960s when Student Catholic Action was predominantly catechetical  in nature.  Literally thousands of young people were trained in their respective Catholic schools or in Catechetical Institutes (such as the one I attended as a high school and college student at the Sta. Isabel College on Taft Avenue).  After being sufficiently trained in both content and pedagogical methods, they were fielded to thousands of public schools, both elementary and secondary, to teach Catechism, in much the same way that Pedro Calungsod was trained by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century to teach the Chamorros.  Social action of the Catholic youth should be refocused on the most important dimension of the integral human development of the underprivileged youth:  their doctrinal and spiritual enlightenment.  There are already hundreds of non-sectarian NGOs that can address the material needs of the poor.  There is a great need to devote a lot of human resources of the youth to feeding young minds with the saving doctrine of Christ.  I think we have sufficiently exorcised Catholic action of the ghost of "Sister Stella," thanks to the crystal clear interpretation of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council of the late Blessed John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. There are enough level-headed Catholic lay leaders who realize that it is wrong to reduce the Christian apostolate to exclusively social work.

          To Student Catholic Action, we can add the very large human resources of university graduates in their twenties who are still unmarried and have time in their hands during weekends to help in the task of evangelization.  In my frequent dealings with this generation of young professionals, I get the feedback that target marrying age for most of them is in the thirties.  Meanwhile, they are getting valuable working experience and pursuing graduate studies in one field or another.  They can be mobilized in their respective parishes or by organizations like Singles for Christ, the Regnum Christi, Focolare, the Catechumenates, and the Legion of Mary, among others, to do a wonderful work of evangelization, not only in public schools but also in depressed districts in the urban and rural areas.  There is room for both children and adults in these catechetical programs.  The youth in Central Visayas and Mindanao who are Cebuano speaking can identify even more with San Pedro Calungsod who must have spoken the Cebuano language of his times.

          Today, the catechetical institutes in the various dioceses as well as Catholic schools have literally a gold mine of resources to utilize in training the Pedro Calungsods of the twenty first century. There is the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its original form as promulgated by Pope John Paul II.  Then there is the very useful adaptation to local circumstances done by the Philippine Bishops who published the Catechism of the Catholic Church for Filipinos. In addition, there is an array of popular manuals that help to implement the advice contained in the Roman Catechism:  "Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct."  My favorites are "The Faith Explained" by Leo Trese; "The Faith Explained Today" by Joe Babendreier:  "Question Time" by John Flader: and "Rediscovering Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly.  These books are available in the bookstores of the Don Bosco priests or in Totus Book Store on Connecticut Avenue in Greenhills, Ortigas (second floor above the Amici Restaurant).  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.