MANILA, Dec. 5, 2015 – The Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) is set to open formally the diocesan process of the cause of Fr. George J. Willmann, S.J., founder of the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines, on Monday, Dec. 7, 9 a.m., in a Mass to be presided over by Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle at the Manila Cathedral, Intramuros.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., who also chairs the National Executive Committee on the Cause of Fr. Willmann, notes in a letter that the “historic and momentous occasion” will mark an important milestone for the cause to raise the naturalized Filipino Jesuit to the honor of the Altar.
Road to sainthood
According to “Sanctorum Mater,” or the Instruction for the Conducting Diocesan and Eparchial Inquiries in the Causes of Saints, the diocesan process is the first step before a deceased Catholic who is proven to have lived a life of holiness and heroic virtue is considered for beatification and eventual canonization.
This allows the bishop, in whose diocese the candidate for sainthood lived and died—in this case, Tagle and RCAM, respectively—to evaluate the documentation collected and presented by his or her postulator, and ensure that the reputation of holiness or martyrdom and of intercessory power exist.
Others members of the clergy expected to grace the forthcoming event are Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, Imus Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista, and Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, III of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Media Office and postulator of the Willmann’s cause.
Dubbed the “Fr. McGivney of the Philippines” due to his dedication to expand K of C 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 later granted Philippine citizenship by President Ferdinand Marcos through Presidential Decree No. 740.
In 1938, he first served as chaplain of K of C Manila Council 1000, then returned in 1954 to become the Order’s first Philippine Deputy until his death in 1977.
All in all, 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 went on to establish 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)
- Columban Farmers Aid Association (1951), reorganized as Knights of Columbus Community Service , Inc (1962)
- Knights of Columbus Philippines Foundation Inc (1971)
(Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)