New teen saint a reminder of laity’s role in Pacific evangelization
Blessed Calungsod, among the seven people to be declared saints by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 21, came to the Mariana Islands in 1668 and was one of a group of lay catechists who assisted the Jesuit missionaries in their Pacific mission.
“The importance of San Pedro is, at 18 years he became a saint, which means he is an example for youth,” said Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Agana. The archbishop was among a contingent of clergy and laypeople traveling from Guam to Rome for the canonization.
A Filipino native from the Visayas Islands, Calungsod was in his early teens when he arrived in Guam with Jesuit Father Diego Luis de San Vitores.
“We think that there were about 30 or 35 laypeople altogether,” said Jesuit Father Francis X. Hezel, priest in residence at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica and author of several publications on the Jesuit missions in the Pacific. “These people were handpicked. They had a personal association with the Jesuits that they were coming to serve.”
In those days, it was common for young people who were not studying for the priesthood to travel with the missionaries as they contemplated entering consecrated life, he said.
“Most of these people are nameless,” said Father Hezel. “Pedro is known because he had the good fortune to be with San Vitores at his death, but he represents another 20 or 25 nameless catechists, most of them Filipinos, who were killed during that turbulent time.”
On April 2, 1672, Calungsod was martyred alongside Father San Vitores after the Jesuit baptized the infant daughter of Chamorro Chief Mata’pang. While Father San Vitores baptized the girl in her mother’s presence, it was without the consent of the chief. After learning of the baptism, Mata’pang enlisted the assistance of Chamorro warrior Hirao, and together they attacked and killed Father San Vitores and Calungsod. Their deaths occurred on the Saturday before Passion Sunday. [More]