MANILA, Dec. 7, 2015 – Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle officially accepted on Monday, Dec. 7, the Feast of St. Ambrose, the petition to open an investigation on the sanctity and heroic virtues of Fr. George J. Willmann, S.J., who is credited for strengthening the Knights of Columbus (KC) in the Philippines, among other Catholic lay organizations.
At least 1,000 of the naturalized Filipino Jesuit priest’s spiritual children from all over the country, including no less than former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., became part of Philippine Church history as they witnessed at the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica the solemn opening of the archdiocesan process they hope would lead to beatification and canonization.
In line with this, Tagle appointed Msgr. Pedro C. Quitorio, III of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Media Office as postulator for the cause of the country’s newest “Servant of God.”
He also approved the appointments of Msgr. Geronimo S. Reyes, Fr. Wilmer R. Rosal, and Fr. Ricardo P. del Rosario as episcopal delegate, vice postulator, and promoter of justice, respectively, as well as of a host of other experts, both cleric and lay, who vow to work together to give Filipinos another saint.
The prelate went on to swear in all those involved in the cause for Willmann’s beatification and canonization, reminding them of the “great responsibility” they have assumed and the “importance and seriousness” of the task at hand.
PH’s Fr. McGivney
Dubbed “Fr. McGivney of the Philippines” due to his dedication to expand KC locally, Willmann worked for the radical transformation of faith into action.
Born on June 29, 1897 to very devout Catholic parents in Brooklyn, New York, the American Jesuit was granted Philippine citizenship by President Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 740.
In 1938, he first served as chaplain of KC Manila Council 1000, then returned in 1954 to become the Order’s first Philippine Deputy until his death in 1977.
In total, the priest spent 44 fruitful and productive years in the Philippines serving the poor, the sick, the orphans, the oppressed, the lonely, and the desolate, especially the young ones.
Besides what is formally known as the Knights of Columbus Fraternal Association of the Philippines, Inc. (KCFAPI), which he founded in 1958, Willmann established other organizations, as follows:
- Catholic Youth Organization (1938)
- Establishment of the Catholic Press, “Filipinas” and the “Cross” Magazines (1946)
- Columbian Squires in the Philippines (1950)
- Daughters of Isabella in the Philippines (1951), reorganized as Daughters of Mary Immaculate (1977)
- Columbian Farmers Aid Association (1951), reorganized as Knights of Columbus Community Service , Inc (1962)
- Knights of Columbus Fraternal Association of the Philippines, Inc. (KCFAPI) (1958)
- Knights of Columbus Philippines Foundation Inc (1971)
(Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)