[Rewind #AwaNgDiyosPH] Venerable Aloysius Schwartz: The ‘Filipino’ who intercedes for the poor

 

 

For Easter, The Filipino Connection releases articles from its special edition on the apostolic visit of Pope Francis last January 15-19, 2015.

 

MANILA—He was not Filipino by birth, but by heart.

Shortly after the apostolic visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines, the Supreme Pontiff surprised the Philippine Church when he declared Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz, an American, “venerable”.

The declaration of venerable is by virtue of a Jan. 23 promulgation of decrees by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (CCS), approved by Pope Francis with the recommendation of CCS Prefect Angelo Cardinal Amato, S.D.B. Schwartz was one of 30 servants of God declared venerable.

An American missionary from Washington D.C., Schwartz (Sept. 18, 1930) is born of American parents Louis Schwartz and Cedelia Bourasa. He first became a missionary in South Korea.

It was in Korea where Schwartz founded two congregations: the Sisters of Mary of Banneux in 1964 (with the suffix acronym S.M.) and the Brothers of Charity in 1981 (B.C.). The congregations were responsible for forming Boystowns and Girlstowns to educate orphans.

For his work, Schwartz won the Ramon Magsaysay Award (or the Asian Nobel prize) for international understanding in 1981. Upon the invitation of the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, Schwartz (fondly called as “Father Al”) went to the Philippines to set up a chapter of the Sisters of Mary in the country.

Newly-declared Venerable Aloysius Schwartz

Newly-declared Venerable Aloysius Schwartz

Schwartz started to build a tubercular hospital for poor patients at the Quezon Institute, also in 1981. After a year, they established a boarding school for girls in Sta. Mesa, Manila where children were given their basic necessities. But upon seeing the need for help, Schwartz decided to expand his charity programs in the Philippines on 1985.

The goodness of Schwartz did not end there: his congregation also expanded in Cebu province in 1990 and finally opened its Boystown in Silang, Cavite in 1991. In 2005, the Girlstown in Sta. Mesa then was moved to Adlas, Silang Cavite.

According to Augustinian friar Samson Silloriquez, O.A.R., the postulator for the sainthood cause of Schwartz, the venerable’s dreams for poor people led him to endorse Schwartz to sainthood.

“I did not know anything of him nor of his works for the poor. But while studying his life, seeing the realization of his dreams to give a bright future for the poor children and the following of the Sisters of Mary and Brothers of Christ given Schwartz’s charism, I got more convinced that someday he would be declared a saint,” Silloriquez told The Filipino Connection.

Since he became a priest, Schwartz goal was already to be of service to poor people. “But he did not only work in favor of the poor: He lived the life of a poor man with all its implications. He lived what he talked about,” Silloriquez said.

Citing the positio Silloriquez and the SM and BC chapters in the Philippines had submitted to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 2012, Schwartz was said to be a beggar throughout his life. “He was able to intercede for the rich to help the poor, for the powerful to assist the helpless, and for the poor to help those who are poorer than themselves,” Silloriquez said.

Even though he was busy with his charity programs, his priestly functions were not forgotten; he celebrated the holy mass, heard confessions, spiritual conferences and prayed the rosary daily.

But in 1989, Schwartz was inflicted with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), the still-incurable disease that was made prominent by a global ice bucket challenge in 2014. Nevertheless, Schwartz continued his regular works of charity.

On March 16, 1992, Schwartz died at the seventh floor of Manila Girlstown in Sta. Mesa and his remains where buried in Boystown in Cavite.

Even though Schwartz died already, the congregation he founded continues to do the mission he started. Aside from the Philippines and South Korea, the Sisters of Mary have already expanded their mission in Honduras three years ago and also received invitations to do missions in other countries.

Now that the American missionary of the Philippines was already declared “venerable,” Silloriquez together with the devotees of Schwartz are in high hopes that one day, he will be declared a saint

“We have to continue promoting his (Schwartz’s) fame of sanctity so that people may continue asking for his intercession. With this, we hope that a favor may be received great enough to be considered a miracle,” Silloriquez said.

Experts on hagiography, or the writing of the lives of saints, consider a candidate for sainthood as “pride” of a country’s church by citing the country where the candidate had been born and had died.

 

 

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