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Church move for sainthood of Filipino teen hailed

13-year-old Niña Ruiz-Abad was known for her strong devotion to the Eucharist and Virgin Mary before her death in 1993
Catholic Church in the Philippines is pushing for sainthood of 13-year-old Niña Ruiz-Abad who died in 1993 for her piety and strong devotion to the Eucharist and Mother Mary

Catholic Church in the Philippines is pushing for sainthood of 13-year-old Niña Ruiz-Abad who died in 1993 for her piety and strong devotion to the Eucharist and Mother Mary. (Photo: CBCP)

Published: August 26, 2023 04:12 AM GMT
Updated: August 26, 2023 04:36 AM GMT

Filipino Catholics have welcomed a church move for sainthood of a 13-year-old girl three decades after her death from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an incurable heart disease.

The Diocese of Laoag in northern Philippines has recently issued an edict inviting testimonies from people to proceed with the cause of canonization of Niña Ruiz-Abad for her piety and devotion to Mary.

The edict was in response to a petition from the “God First Association,” which called for the opening of Abad’s cause for sainthood, CBCP News of the national bishops’ conference reported on Aug. 21.

Abad spent half of her life in Laoag before her death in 1993 and was buried there.

Laoag Bishop Renato Mayugba who issued the edict on Aug. 16 said that the diocese has already received testimonies from Abad’s classmates and teachers. 

“I gained interest in Niña’s life when I heard testimony about her holiness not only from his relatives and friends but also from her former parish priests. I also read a book about her entitled GOD FIRST,” Laoag Bishop Renato Mayugba told UCA News.

Mayugba said it is time for the Catholic-majority country to have a modern-day saint who is not a clergyman nor a member of a religious congregation. 

“When we think of sainthood, we think that it is only for priests, bishops, or sisters… but no, Niña taught us that holiness is a calling for all, especially to the youth. We are called to be saints,” Mayugba said.

The process of sainthood normally begins where the candidate dies but Mayugba said he requested for the authority from the Diocese of Novaliches in Quezon City to conduct the investigation. Abad died in Quezon City. 

Local Catholics as well as her former teachers and classmates have welcomed the push for her sainthood.

“I still remember when she was in her elementary grade here in Laoag. She always told me ‘God first.’ Before every examination or recitation, she would always pray. Before anything that she does, she will always pray first,” teacher Eliza Samson, told UCA News.

Samson remembered she carried a folder full of novenas and religious icons in class.

“She distributed them [religious icons] to her teachers and classmates. She would give rosaries and stickers of gospel verses to her classmates… proof of her deep devotion to God and to Mama Mary,” Samson added.

Abad’s lawyer-parents moved to Manila from Ilocos province in 1993 where she died in the same year. She was diagnosed with the heart disease at the age of 10. 

“We all knew she was suffering from a disease, but she never showed it. She lived a life of prayer and peace,” Belen Sulit, her teacher at Holy Spirit School in Quezon City, told UCA News. 

Sulit said Abad was a bright yet humble student. 

“I was her Filipino teacher. She got good perfect grades in my exams and recitations. She was well-loved by many, especially her classmates. She was intelligent but very unassuming,” Sulit added.

Her classmates also recalled how she encouraged them to pray in the chapel and attend Masses.

“She was sick, but she was always friendly to us. Because of her, everyone was reminded to pray before class, even before playing at the field we were reminded – God first,” said Bianca Manlapaz, a former classmate. 

Her friend Maria Lagud also recalled her prayerfulness. 

“If she’s not in the classroom or playing field, she’s inside the chapel. She used to wear a rosary around her neck. She was not ashamed for people to see it. It was a testament to her relationship with the Blessed Mother,” Lagud told UCA news.

In an earlier statement, CBCP said that the Diocese of Laoag will present the gathered information to the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

After a successful verification, the Vatican will issue the “Decree of Validity” in order to authorize the writing of a “Positio” or the official report to the dicastery.

Catholic Church follows a three-tier sainthood process. A candidate is first declared “Servant of God” marking the official beginning of the canonization procedures.

Then the candidate is declared “Venerable,” “Blessed” and then “Saint” by the pope.

If not a martyr, two miracles through the intercession of the candidate are required for sainthood.

The Philippines has produced two saints -- St. Lorenzo Ruiz and St. Pedro Calungsod, who were canonized in 1987 and 2012 respectively.

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