Fil-Am bishop joins Calungsod musical
LOS ANGELES—First, he made history as the first Filipino to become bishop in the United States. Now, he scores another first—this time as the first Catholic bishop in America to perform in a theater musical.
Oscar Solis and members of the Filipino Priests of Los Angeles—also the first group of priests to perform on stage—have joined the cast of “Fides Ecclesiae (Faith of the Church),” a musical about the lives of Pedro Calungsod, a newly canonized Filipino saint, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint.
“Bishop Solis is the first member of the (US) Conference of Catholic Bishops to sing on stage,” said Fr. Robert Victoria, who wrote the script.
“Fides Ecclesiae” is also the first Filipino production, as well as the first musical about the Catholic faith, to be staged at the Pantages Theater, a famous Los Angeles landmark known as the go-to venue for blockbuster Broadway entertainment.
Victoria said the musical was not only historic but had also been marked by so many “miracles,” which were attributed to Saints Calungsod and Kateri—the two youngest among the seven saints canonized by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican last October.
He cited the stories of a lupus-stricken cast member who experienced a miraculous recovery and the mother of a production crew member who was healed of cancer.
“The fact that we were able to get people from different nationalities—Filipinos, Chamorros, Chinese and Americans—to come together and volunteer their time, talent and resources and make this happen is also a miracle,” Victoria said.
Many of those who watched the show’s first run at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center last December have sent testimonials about experiencing a deepening of faith—an impact the Filipino Priests of Los Angeles had hoped to achieve when they conceptualized the musical.
“Our main purpose is to evangelize,” Victoria said. “We hope that the lives of two simple, young saints inspire people, especially the youth.”
St. Calungsod was 17 years old when he was persecuted and eventually murdered while serving and evangelizing the Chamorro natives in Guam in 1672. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000 and became the second Filipino saint when he was canonized on Oct. 21 last year.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who lived 300 years ago in present-day New York, was orphaned at age 4 after her parents and brother succumbed to smallpox.
Ostracized by her tribe and ridiculed for her beliefs as a Catholic convert, she held on to her faith. Her devotion to Christianity and sacrifices were so inspirational that her legacy survived for generations after she died at the young age of 24.
“These two saints showed great love for God and for the salvation of souls,” Victoria said. “They are the new models of faith for the young generation of our time.”
Ruben Cuatrona Jr., a 17-year-old high school senior with powerful pipes, plays the role of St. Calungsod. Alexandra Ramos, a coloratura soprano, plays St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
Fr. Victoria said the musical also sought to promote vocations for the priesthood and religious life and raise funds for St. John Seminary, which had trained hundreds of priests for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other dioceses across Southern California.
The musical is produced by The Filipino Priests of Los Angeles, Lay Volunteers of LA and the Chamorro Group of LA.
“This musical has brought us together to help propagate the faith,” said the show’s director, Vic Perez. “All of us who volunteered to be part of the production crew and the cast feel that this play is really blessed by God.”
The musical will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. For more information, go to faithofthechurch.com.