Pedro Calungsod arrived on Guam on June 15, 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.
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 April 2, 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 April 2, 2000, the anniversary of the martyrdom, Calungsod was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
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.
Prayer to Blessed Pedro Calungsod
Almighty God, by whose gift Blessed Pedro, the martyr, witnessed to the Gospel even to the shedding of his blood: grant, by his example and intercession, that we too may live for you, boldly and steadfastly confessing your name through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Pag-ampo alang kang Beato Pedro Calungsod (Cebuano)
Dios nga makagagahum sa tanan, gihatag mo kang Pedro, martir, ang pagsaksi sa Ebanghelyo hangtod sa pag-ula sa iyang dugo: itugot nga pinaagi sa iyang panig-ingnan ug pangaliya, kanunay kaming magmalig-on sa pagsangyaw sa Imong ngalan sa among kinabuhi. Kini among gipangayo pinaagi sa among Ginoo JesuCristo Imong Anak, nga buhi ug hari uban Kanimo, diha sa kahiusa sa Espirito Santo, Dios hangtud sa kahangturan. Amen.
(With ecclesiastical approval by RICARDO J. CARDINAL VIDAL)