SPARTANBURG—Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate St. Pedro Calungsod, a young man who gave his life for his faith and became only the second Filipino saint.
A day of thanksgiving was held Nov. 3 at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg. Participants from North and South Carolina attended the day-long event, which included a Mass of Thanksgiving, a rosary procession, traditional Filipino foods, music and dances.
They also watched a video about the saint’s life and reflected on his story. St. Pedro was born in the Cebu region of the Philippines and, as a teenager, became a lay catechist who traveled to the Mariana Islands with Jesuit priests in 1668. He was dedicated to Blessed Diego Luis de San Velores, one of the priests who led the missionary efforts on the islands. Some of the Chamorro natives became angry at the missionaries and attacked. St. Pedro stayed with Father Diego even though he had a chance to escape. He was hit in the chest by a spear and died on April 2, 1672, at the age of 18.
Pope Benedict XVI officially canonized the youth on Oct. 21, calling his life an example of devotion and courageous witness to God. He followed in the footsteps of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who was made the first Filipino saint by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
During Mass, Adorno Father Liam M. Panganiban’s homily focused on the message of selfless love and sacrifice that the teen’s story offers.
“St. Pedro died for his love for God and his concern for the soul of others,” he said. “Through his life, we come to understand we are blessed when we suffer for the cause of righteousness. St. Pedro and Father Diego chose not to defend themselves when attacked because they wanted to prove they were missionaries of peace. They knew it was better to suffer doing good.”
“Dying to oneself for the good of others offers a spiritual reward for the one who sacrifices,” he continued. “This dying doesn’t mean we have to shed blood. We can offer selfless and sacrificial love. No matter what kind of vocation you choose to live, we are called to die and bear fruit. If we do, we will be where our beloved saint is … with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Some teens spoke to the crowd about how they hoped St. Pedro will help them grow in their faith.
“He was willing to live the hard life of a missionary, and to stay by Father Diego’s side even though it would mean death,” said John Marco Joven of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville. “He gave up everything to follow God’s call. Because of him, I hope to stand by and defend my faith in the face of struggles.”
Kristine Ytem, 13, also from Simpsonville, said the saint is a special role model for her because he was so young. “It’s amazing that someone that age could change the lives of others,” she said. “Because of him, I want to be more confident in expressing my love for the Catholic faith.”
“This is one of the greatest things that could happen for our community,” said Art Fausto, a member of St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Simpsonville, and one of the main organizers of the event.
“This celebration is a big day for us considering he is only the second Filipino saint to be canonized,” he said. “I hope the young people will learn from St. Pedro’s faith in God and his martyrdom. His example is something the youth can emulate.”