Will there be a 2nd Cebuano saint?

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

WILL Cebu have a second saint? The hope is there will be, soon. This time, the would-be saint’s roots are clearly Cebuano (unlike San Pedro Calungsod whose actual place of origin has been blurred by the mists of time, though definitely he belonged to the Cebu archdiocese).

He was born in Carcar, Cebu, on March 3, 1914 to Luis Aleson Camomot and Angela Bastida Camomot and baptized Teofilo the following day by Fr. Jose Abad.

The name Teofilo means “lover of God,” and he certainly proved his name true by the way he lived. He was ordained priest on Dec. 14,1941 by Archbishop Gabriel Reyes and was first assigned to the parish of San Fernando, with his older brother, Fr. Diosdado, who was his mentor and who was really the one who encouraged him to enter the seminary. H became a bishop on May 29,1955, serving in Jaro under Arch. Jose Ma. Cuenco. His next assignment was as co-adjutor Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, with Archbishop James. T.G. Hayes at the same time that he was given the designation of “Titular Archbishop of Marcianopolis, a titular see in Lower Maesia, along the Danube. In the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese, he became the parish priest of the Sta. Rita de Cascia parish in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental. Two years after a kidney operation which left him weak for some time, he resigned from his post in Cagayan de Oro on June 17,1970. He then became parish priest of Pardo and eventually settled in Carcar.


But it is not just his rise in the hierarchy of the church that showed he was “Lover of God.” His generosity was legendary. He would give whatever he had to anyone asking for his help, to the point of giving his ring and pectoral cross which would find their way to a pawnshop. It came to the point that once, when Ricardo Cardinal Vidal saw him without both, the good cardinal guessed he had given these away again and so he gave Msgr. Camomot an Episcopal ring and pectoral cross with the injunction that these should not be given away. When Msgr. Camomot, fondly called Padre Lolong by his flock, had to travel to Rome, it would be by sea, traveling fourth class (because, he said, there is no fifth class). And one time, when friends saw him Rome-bound with hole-y socks and tattered shirt, they gave him new socks and shirts but these, too, were given away to someone at the pier.

He was like that: he’d even give the pants he wore under his cassock to one with tattered pants, even if the person did not ask for it. Despite his rank in the church, he never accumulated wealth as what would be given him he would also give away. He was offered a car but preferred to travel on a motorcycle or a service jeep for the reason that, if he had a car, how could he ask for donations to help the poor?

According to Fr. Fulton Varga who served as his secretary, Msgr. Camomot also had the gift of bilocation. Once they were on their way to the city and a woman met them on their way out, asking for Padre Lolong to give the anointment to the sick for her father and he told her he would do so after they came back.

When they came back the woman met them to thank Msgr. Camomot because her father got well after his visit, to the surprise of Fr. Varga who knew Msgr. Camomot was with him all day. According to Fr. Varga, Msgr. Camomot would also levitate. They were together for a retreat and he would prepare the mat for Msgr. Camomot’s meditation at dawn and then would try to go back to sleep. But their room would glow and he could see Msgr. Camomot float in the air, suspended there for about 15 minutes, before he would float down again.

Msgr. Camomot was a sought-after confessor, even by his brother priests, to the extent that, when some of them lay dying, they would still look for him. Sometimes, Fr. Varga recalls, he would be asked by Msgr. Camomot to add a name to the list in the Mass memorial for the dead. In the afternoon, they would get a telegram usually from Cagayan, that that person died. Asked how he knew that the person had died, Msgr. Camomot simply said that the person came to him for confession that morning.

Msgr. Camomot was a member, actually a prior at one time, of the Carmelite Tertiaries, which is why the Carmelite coat of arms is also on his coat of arms as bishop. When, on Nov. 25,1959, four former nuns wanted to form their own congregation, in Balingasag, they asked for his patronage which he readily gave. The group would help in catechetical work and in helping the poor. This became the Carmelite Tertiaries of the Blessed Eucharist, which, on Oct. 15,1965, became canonically erected as the Daughters of St. Teresa (DST), a congregation with its mother house in Carcar and which, today, can be found in various places in the Philippines.

According to Fr. Varga, Msgr.Camomot wanted to die ”a quick and painful death…quick so that no one would have to suffer and painful so that with the pain, the sins we committed here on earth would be quickly paid for.” It was a wish Msgr. Camomot got: he died in a vehicular accident on Sept. 27,1988.

After his death, people would flock to his grave (his uncorrupted body has been transferred to the chapel of DST mother house.). Many “miracles” of healing have been attributed to him. So before his retirement as archbishop of Cebu, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal organized the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cause of the Beatification of Archbishop Teofilo B. Camomot, a commission that recently finished its work; the group’s documentation is now on its way to Rome. It is to be hoped that Msgr. Camomot will soon be beatified and eventually canonized as the second Cebu Saint: Padre Lolong, please pray for us! And dear reader, please pray for his beatification and canonization. (Data source: God is in the Heart: The Life and Pastoral Ministry of Archbishop Teofilo B. Camomot by Angela Blardony Ureta, a.OCarm)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 09, 2014.


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