Lay assistant to San Vitores

Pedro Calungsod arrived in Guam 15 June 1668, along with Father Diego Luis de San Vitores and a group of Jesuit missionaries and lay assistants from the Philippines. Father San Vitores believed that young men, strong in their faith like Calungsod, would be helpful in influencing the youth in the Marianas. The Jesuit missionaries only chose those catechists and assistants who were outstanding models of Christian life to accompany them on their missions. Calungsod was in his late teens, possibly 17, when he came to the Marianas.

Calungsod was officially canonized in October 2012 as a Catholic saint by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome more than 300 years after Calungsod’s death. Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron of Guam attended the ceremony in Rome. Hundreds of people attended the Mass at the Shrine of Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores in Tumon, Guam. Eight priests and two deacons performed Mass while accompanied by a choir from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School. During Mass, church leaders encouraged those in attendance to hold Calungsod as an example and remember him as one of the forbears of Catholicism on the island.

Not much is known about Calungsod except that he came from the Visayas region of the Philippines. Four villages in the Visayas claim him as their native son: Ginatilan and Tuburan in Cebu, Loboc in Bohol and Leon in Iloilo. The Iloilo Calunsod family preserves an oral tradition that one of their ancestors joined Jesuit missionaries working on an island “near Hawaii.”

Calungsod’s surname, as written by missionaries and later historians, comes under several spelling variations, for example, Calonsor. Recent interest in Calungsod prompted research that revealed that the closest modern Filipino surname to Calonsor is Calungsod, a name found in the Visayas region today, although it is usually spelled Calunsod.

On 2 April 1672 when San Vitores was martyred, Calungsod was with the Jesuit priest. Though unarmed, Matapang and Hirao first attacked Calungsod, who dodged the first lances thrown at him. Calungsod could have thus run away to safety, but he refused to abandon Father San Vitores. One lance finally hit Calungsod in the chest. As he lay dying, Father San Vitores gave him absolution and then faced his own imminent death. Both bodies were thrown into the sea at Tomhom, today known as Tumon.

When San Vitores was beatified in October of 1985, Filipinos like Father Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of Cebu, first learned of the existence of the lay assistant-martyr from the Visayas region. In 1994, the Archdiocese of Cebu started the formal process for the beatification of Calungsod. In 1997, the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Causes of the Saints approved the results of the initial process. Work then began on the official biography (called a positio) to be submitted to the Vatican. Calungsod’s biography was finished in 1999 and approved by the Vatican. On 2 April 2000, the anniversary of the martyrdom, Calungsod was beatified by Pope John Paul II. He was canonized on 22 October 2012.

Interest in Calungsod was generated, especially in Cebu, because people believed the martyr was an inspiration to many other young Filipinos to dedicate their lives to the missionary and evangelistic works of the Church, just as Calungsod had done. A shrine to Calungsod was opened in the Archbishop’s residence in Cebu. The Archdiocese of Cebu gives an award named after Blessed Pedro to exceptional catechists in the area.

By Eric Forbes, OFM Cap.

For further reading

Archdiocese of Cebu. ”Archdiocese of Cebu in the last 400 years: A Brief History.” 6 February 2020.