FILIPINO Knights of Columbus are calling on the faithful to help advance the cause for sainthood of their Jesuit founder.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, chaplain of the Knights’ Luzon jurisdiction, said the lay fraternal order was in search of miracles that would confirm the sainthood of Fr. George Willmann, S.J., a naturalized Filipino priest, who expanded the membership of the Knights in the country after World War II.

“In the prayer leaflets we are giving away, it’s written: ‘In the event or in case you have received a favor through the intercession of Fr. Willmann, please report to us,’” Ongtioco said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, at least one miracle is required for beatification and at least two miracles to be declared a saint.

“There are two kinds of requirement for beatification. Martyrs like St. Pedro Calungsod and St. Lorenzo Ruiz, do not need a miracle [to be beatified], because the act of offering yourself for the faith itself is a miracle,” Ongtioco said.

Father of Filipino Knights

Dubbed as the “Father of the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines,” Fr. Willmann arrived from the United States in 1922 and taught at Ateneo de Manila.

He established the Catholic Youth Organization, a recreational group focused on the holistic development of young Catholics, in 1938.

Fr. Willmann became a prisoner of war during the Japanese occupation and was sent to a concentration camp in Los Baños, Laguna. With the help of the Americans, he was freed in 1945.

The fraternal order of the Knights of Columbus, founded in the US as the Catholic alternative to freemasonry, was brought to Philippine soil as early as 1905, and was strengthened when Fr. Willmann took over the leadership after World War II.

As a result of Fr. Willmann’s labors, the Philippines became second only to the US in terms of membership. There are some 300,000 Filipino knights.

On July 1, 1975, he was granted Filipino citizenship by President Ferdinand Marcos under Presidential Decree No. 740. He was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Pope Paul VI in 1977 for his contributions to the Church.

Helper of the poor

The cause for Fr. Willmann’s sainthood is being pushed by several Church groups mainly for his services to the poor.

Bishop Ongtioco described Fr. Willmann as “very down-to-earth and helper of the poor.”

“Fr. Willmann had the intent to attend to the poor and the needy,” he said.

The Jesuit priest also established the Daughters of Mary Immaculate in 1951.

A National Executive Committee was established to strengthen the promotion of the cause for Fr. Willmann. The committee is headed by former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. and Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, director of the media office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. J.G.M. Agcaoili and L.M.P. Vicencio


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