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BIOGRAPHY ON BISHOP SAN EZEKIEL MORENO

Early Years

Saint Ezekiel was born on April 9, 1848 at Alfaro, La Rioja, Spain. He professed his solemn vows in Marcilla, Navarra on September 22, 1868.

On February 10, 1870, he arrived in Manila and lived in the convent and formation house of San Nicolas in Intramuros, popularly known as Recoletos, where he finished his theological formation. In Mid 1870 he sailed to Jaro, Iloilo, to receive minor orders from the Dominican bishop of the Visayan diocese.

From Manila to Mindoro and Palawan 1871 ton 1876

On June 2, 1871, Ezekiel was ordained as priest by Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez of Manila. The Augustinian Recollect provincial sent him to his first parochial assignment in Calapan, Mindoro. There he learned and perfected his Tagalog.

In February 1872, he was appointed chief missionary and military chaplain of a missionary expedition whose objective was to setup a military stronghold and penal colony at Puerto Princesa in Palawan. He laid the foundation of the towns of Aborlan and Inagawan. Malaria almost ended his life while in a missionary mission in Inagawan. Ezekiel traveled to Talisay in Negros Occidental to undergo hydrotherapeutic treatment of his anemia.

In March of 1873, he returned to the colonial capital to accept his new assignment as parish priest of Calapan. In 1876 despite his young age, the archbishop of Manila and the Recollect provincial, appointed the twenty-eight-year-old saint as vicar forane and vicar provincial of the vast Mindoro island.

Las Pinas 1876 to 1879

The holy missionary priest left for Las Pinas in June 1876. His pastoral zeal glowed all the more. Four calamities wreaked havoc on the townspeople during this time:

  1. the droughts of 1876 and 1878 with immeasurable damage to the rice fields. The dynamic curate of Las Pinas helped relieve the extreme poverty of some parishioners through almsgiving and donations. Almsgiving was scheduled every Friday. It was a very familiar scene to see beggars approach Father Ezekiel and seek assistance from him. They never left the rectory unaided.

  2. the smallpox outbreak that took the lives of 126 children – A true shepherd of his distressed flock, Father Moreno was always at their bedside. To grieving parents, he offered words of comfort. To the smallpox-stricken children, he brought divine consolation which could stem only from Extreme Unction now known as the Sacrament of the Sick.

  3. and finally, the great fire of 1879 that razed the poblacion to the ground. The townsfolk closely observed the paternal love and charity for the marginalized sectors of Las pinas society. At his own cost he distributed great sums of money to all fire victims. Part of the parish funds was allocated to donations of money, rice and clothes to meet the emergency needs of the fire victims.

During the diocesan hearing there were 4 witnesses who claimed that Ezekiel performed a miracle. The people were convinced that the raging flames did not go on because of a miracle worked out by Father Ezekiel. The fire was extinguished at the spot where the Father stood with one hand gripping the breviary (book of prayers) and the other clutching the habit and fanning off the flames.

Testimonies of Las Pineros on San Ezekiel Moreno to the diocesan tribunal during the fact-finding process in Manila in 1913-1914 for the beatification proceedings:

  1. Tomasa Camantigui, sixty-five year old middle-class lady who owned some lands, recalled in 1914 the general perception of the parishioners that their curate was a holy and righteous person. “taglay nya ang lahat ng kabanalang asal… tapat ang kanyang loob at inaakay ang lahat sa landas ng kabanalan.” “Pinagbabantayan nya ang mga may sakit.”

  2. Mrs Isidora Guevara Hernandez, or Aling Dora, a poor vendor. “Minamahal siya ng lahat dahil sa kanyang kabanalan at inaakala na taong banal.” “inuugali niya na magbibigay ng limos sa mga may sakit na kanyang dinalaw. At kung wala siyang mabibigay, kahit ang kanyang habito ibinibigay.”

  3. Simon Cristobal Villareal, 63, clerk of LasPinas parish, worked closely with Father Moreno for 3 years. “I know for a fact that he was esteemed by the residents of this town as virtuous and holy.” Simon Villareal likewise noted that his parish priest never felt the slightest repugnance or fear of contagion when he approached his bedridden children afflicted with smallpox. “He made himself available at all times to his distressed flock for the administration of the last rites to the sick and dying. The tireless pastor of souls helped the sick people in need even with portions of his own meal.”

  4. Mrs Felipa Cristobal Villareal, 49, a relative of the parish clerk, declared “Ang lahat ng mga tao sa amin nagsasabi nyan : na siya ay taong banal at santo”

  5. Teodorico Cristobal Reyes, 65, former salt-maker, “Lumalalo ang kabanalan nya.”

In June 1879, news of his transfer to Santo Tomas, Batangas, was met with sorrow by the townpeople.  The town leaders wrote a petition not to remove Ezekiel from Las Pinas, forty-one signed petition, and 250 parishioners journeyed to Recoletos to personally handover petition to Father Arrue. It was perhaps the first people power ever seen in the walled city, right in the corridors of power. Given the delicate political situation following the execution of Gom-Bur-Za, the whole episode provided a moral boost to the Augustinian Recollect Apostolate. It was indeed a sincere manifestation of affection for a hardworking and exemplary friar by a grateful people.

StoTomas, Batangas (1879 to October 1880)

bw2.jpgSaint Ezekiel, obeyed his superior’s wishes and moved to his new ministry at Santo Tomas. Father Moreno’s stay lasted for sixteen months. Father Moreno consistently focused his deep pastoral concern on his ill parishioners. This personal apostolate of the sick grew to be one of the most remarkable commitments of his life as curate, missionary, religious superior, and bishop.

Tomas Caraligui, fiscal and sacristan mayor of the parish, in his deposition with the diocesan tribunal, also testified Father Moreno’s unselfish dedication to his flock. “ He always sought the well-being of the people. Every Friday he helped the poor sector of his community that went to the rectory. He was diligent in conducting regular visits to the sick. The ill people in the farm preferred him, they called for Father Ezekiel to hear their confessions because they said they were cured by his visits.”
 
In 1880 he was called back to Manila for the post of general preacher of the Order. The Batangas townsfolk also wrote a letter to Manila requesting the suspension of his transfer.

Santa Cruz, Manila (1880 to September 1882)

After three months in Intramuros as official preacher, he was sent to Santa Cruz in Manila as curate in February 1881. A prominent parishioner, Supreme Court Associate Justice Florentino D. Torres (1844-1927) declared in 1914 during the diocesan tribunal : “I am familiar with his zeal for the salvation of souls. My personal impression of Father Ezekiel was of a priest  remarkable in his virtues. He was a perfect parish priest.”

In September 1882, Father Moreno was named superior of the priory of Imus in Cavite and administrator of their community farms there. His brother Father Eustaquio Moreno would continue his pastorate till 1890 in Sta Cruz Manila. Two more recollect curates followed his brother Father Mamerto Lizasoain and Father Candido Puerta.

Imus, cavite 1882-1885

In 1882-1885, Saint Ezekiel administered the Recollect haciendas of Bacoor, Hacienda De San Nicolas and Imus, Hacienda de San Juan Baustista in Cavite. During the cholera plague, he took charge of the barrios of Mambog and Salinas in Bacoor were 3,200 perished in bacterial epidemic. Of this figure, only three people died without receiving the last sacraments only because their relatives had not called for the priest on time.

Spain and Colombia

Saint Ezekiel election in 1885 as superior of the novitiate in Monteagudo, Navarra paved the way for his return to Spain. He trained future missionaries for Asia and America.

Three years later, in 1888, he crossed the Atlantic and headed for Colombia as superior of the mission to restore the Recollect Order that was on the verge of extinction in that South American country. He resided in Bogota until 1894 when he was consecrated Apostolic Vicar of Casanare. In 1896 he was transferred to the diocese of Pasto in southern Colombia. There he defended his flock against the doctrinal errors of the time and zealously promoted the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Cancer of the palate and death at Monteagudo, Spain

In mid 1905, Bishop Moreno was diagnosed to have cancer in the palate. He was operated on but without success in Madrid in February and March 1906. Resigned to his fate, on May 31 1906 he journeyed back to Monteagudo to spend his remaining days on earth under the protection of his patroness, Our Lady of the Way. Bishop Moreno died on August 19, 1906. In 1915 and in 1975 his mortal remains were exhumed and found incorrupt.

The two miraculous healings which paved the way for his canonization,  1. Carmela Jurado of Pasto who was healed of cancer of the palate in 1947; 2.Maria Jesus Nanez Diaz of Buesaco, Colombia who had breast cancer was cured in 1986. In the Philippines, we have news of a miraculous healing of Lilia Sirios of Escalante, Negros Occidental, who had cancer in the throat in 1979. These cures constitute clear evidence of Saint Ezekiel’s special preference for terminally-ill people with unwavering faith and confidence in Almighty God.

Ezekiel spent most of his life dedicated to the apostolate in the Philippines and Colombia, offering his own life to the propagation of the Gospel and its true value, showing what true love for the sheep means, dedicating his whole life to them until his last illness.

Beatification and Canonization

Pope Paul VI beatified him at Saint Peter’s Square in 1975.  The Holy Father proclaimed him as a fitting model for all bishops. In his homily, he termed Saint Ezekiel “A living example of holiness for bishops.”

On 11 October 1992, eve of the Fifth Centennial of the Evangelization of America, Pope John Paul II canonized him in his historic city of Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic. Saint Ezekiel is truly a worth intercessor before God and an authentic contemporary model for us all. Pope John Paul II himself described the new Saint as one “who not only listened intently to the saving message of Jesus of Nazareth and put it into daily practice but who so lived according the example of the Lord’s life and conduct and so expressed his manner of living that Mother Church does not hesitate through her public celebrations to present him to the entire living faith and genuine Christian life.”


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