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Beatification process opens for 1st Ilocano bishop

A cause for beatification and canonization has been opened for the late  Alfredo Florentin Verzosa (1877-1954), the first Ilocano bishop. The process of documenting his life and virtues was initiated at the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Paul in Vigan, Ilocos Sur on January 11, 2013 and will close in 2015. The records will then be brought to Rome for the next phase of the process, the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart of Lipa, Batangas  said in a statement.

As a young priest assigned to Nueva Segovia, Verzosa worked hard to protect, revive, and strengthen Catholicism in Ilocos Norte at a time when there was a dearth of priests due to the shift of most of the local clergy to the new church established by Padre Don Gregorio Aglipay.

Verzosa was appointed as a consultor in the Synod of Nueva Segovia and worked as secretary of the bishops during their pastoral visits.

In 1916, Pope Benedict XV named Verzosa, then 39, the second Bishop of Lipa, the first Ilocano and the fourth Filipino to be elevated to the bishopric. He opened many catechetical centers in far-flung barrios and seminaries, and together with Madre Laura Mendoza, founded the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart (MCSH) in 1923.

To celebrate his life, a musical play, titled “Ang Pasyon ni Obispo Alfredo Verzosa ng Nueva Segovia at Lipa,” was written by Palanca awardee Franck G. Rivera. It is produced by the Bishop Alfredo Florentin Verzosa Foundation, Inc. and directed by Joey G. Nombres.  The gala will be held on July 6, at SM Aura in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, with the members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines attending. 

Verzosa was born on December 9, 1877 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, to a landed family, known for their piety. He obtained his degree in theology from the University of Santo Tomas in 1904 and was ordained to the priesthood on December 26, 1904.

Teaching catechism was his top priority. He effectively initiated and led catechetical movements in the diocese of Lipa by putting up churches, convents, and schools, thus earning the name “The Great Builder.” He tapped the wealth of the Church for these projects, sometimes even using his personal money to provide the needs of the priests and help the poor communities.

Bishop Verzosa was appointed concurrent Apostolic Administrator of the then vacant Diocese of Nueva Segovia in 1926. As an administrator, he was particularly concerned about the wellbeing of the priests and so issued a pastoral letter on the clergy.  During his term, he negotiated for the separation of the vast province of Pangasinan into a diocese. He held this post until the arrival of Bishop Sancho in 1927.

After the Second World War, Lipa was left in ruins. Buildings, especially churches, were badly damaged, thousands of lives lost, families displaced. More than the physical devastation, the greatest challenge was the Filipinos’ spiritual salvation. Bishop Verzosa continued his commitment to rebuild the damaged edifices with funds from the Philippine War Damage Commission and from his own inheritance.  He built the Carmelite Monastery on the very spot where Japanese soldiers massacred thousands of Lipeños.

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