By Mr. Dante Chua
Archdiocesan Celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), Declaration of Sta. Cruz Church as an Archdiocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament, and Installation of Fr. Rudsend Paragas, SSS, as First Rector of the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Archbishop of Manila, His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, erected Santa Cruz Parish Church in Manila as Archdiocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament on June 3, 2018. This good news was announced during the Holy Mass of the Archdiocesan celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. The date was chosen by the Cardinal himself.
It was the late Rufino Cardinal Santos (1908-1973) who invited the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers to establish a mission center at Santa Cruz Parish, and when the latter took over the administration of the parish in 1957, an intense Eucharistic evangelization began. The church became vibrant with liturgical celebrations and animation, most especially the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Penance, and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Thus, Cardinal Santos called Santa Cruz Church a shrine of the Blessed Sacrament.
After a thorough research, the Parish Pastoral Council did not find a document officially designating Santa Cruz Parish Church a shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. Consequently, the Parish Pastoral Council, on January 5, 2000, wrote to the then parish priest, Fr. Francisco Mendoza, SSS, to seek official recognition of this parish church as National Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament.
With the full support of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation, the parish community of Santa Cruz was prepared spiritually, and the church went through major renovation and construction. Thanks to the former parish priests for their support, namely, Fr. Felix Elverio, SSS, and Fr. Joseph Matitu, SSS, currently the Provincial Superior of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in the Philippines and its attached missions overseas.
After eighteen years of monthly holy hours, signature campaign and collection of testimonies from the faithful, under the parish pastoral stewardship of the present parish priest, Fr. Rudsend Paragas, SSS, the petition was finally granted by the Archbishop of Manila. Fr. Genaro Diwa, head of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, and his staff contributed a lot of help in tremendous ways to realize the dream of the parishioners and devotees. Fr. Miguel Garcia, SSS, JCL, was requested to write the Statutes of the Shrine.
A Triduum Mass followed by solemn Vespers were celebrated as spiritual preparation of the parish community for the great event. The celebration started on May 31, 2018, the Memorial of the Visitation of Mary, with Fr. Rudsend Paragas, SSS, presiding over Holy Mass and Fr Reynaldo Capili, the Vicar Provincial of POLA, celebrating the solemn Vespers. On June 1st, Fr. Felix Elverio, SSS, celebrated the Holy Mass and Fr. Alde Bureros, SSS, presided over the Vespers. The last day of the triduum had the Eucharist celebrated by Fr. Joseph Matitu, SSS, and the Vespers by Fr. Marlon Reyes, SSS.
The big day came on June 3, 2018, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The program started with a talk by His Excellency Most Reverend Sofronio Bancud, SSS, of the Diocese of Cabanatuan followed by the Holy Eucharist celebrated by His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. Present at the celebration were Bishop Bancud and Bishop Bernardino Cortez of the Prelature of Infanta.
The decree of erection of Santa Cruz Parish church as Archdiocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament and the appointment of Fr. Rudsend as Rector was read by the archdiocesan chancellor, Fr. Reginald R. Malicdem.
In his homily, Cardinal Tagle invited the faithful to recognize the responsibilities of the faithful to keep alive the spirit of being a Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament.
A beautiful archdiocesan procession of Corpus Christi immediately followed the Mass. The Blessed Sacrament was received at the Manila Cathedral by the rector, Fr. Reginald Malicdem, who also presided over the benediction.
The laity of Santa Cruz with their parish priest and parish vicars, together with the Blessed Sacrament local community and Province, worked hard towards the erection of this Shrine focused on educating the faithful on the Holy Eucharist, the center and summit of Christian life.