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Manila pushes to beatify American Jesuit

MANILA (UCAN): The Manila archdiocese has officially opened the process for the beatification and canonisation of Father George Willman, a Jesuit from the United States of America (US), who is credited with building up the presence of the Knights of Columbus in The Philippines during the last century.

Luis Cardinal Tagle accepted the nomination for the beatification of Father Willman during a Mass celebrated on December 7 to mark the formal opening of the process.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, a strong advocate for his beatification, described the late Father Willman as a priest, a friend of the poor and a missionary to young people.

Father Willman was granted Philippine citizenship during the rule of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s.

“He spent all 40 years of his priesthood here in The Philippines,” Monsignor Quitorio said, adding, “It is only right Willman be recognised as a Filipino saint, if and when the time comes.”

He is currently one of eight Filipinos being considered for beatification and canonisation.

The Jesuit priest was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 29 June 1897. He is considered the Father of the Knights of Columbus in The Philippines.

Although the knights established their presence in 1905, Father Willman was credited with consolidating the organisation’s presence after he became the leader of the organisation at the end of World War II.

Father Willman arrived in The Philippines in 1922 as a seminarian. He taught at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila before returning to the US in 1925 to continue his theological studies.

He returned to The Philippines in 1936 and helped establish various organisations, including the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, which was established as the Daughters of Isabella in 1951, the Columbian Squires, the Catholic Youth Organisation, the Columbian Farmers Aid Organisation, the Fund of the Poor Seminarians and the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal service group in the country.

“The groups he set up have now grown and have hundreds of thousands of members nationwide, proof of his influence in the Filipino Church,” Monsignor Quitorio added.

Father Willman died of a heart attack in New York on 4 September 1977.

His remains were then brought back to The Philippines and interred at the Jesuit cemetery in Quezon City.


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