DID you know that some saints had walked on the soil of Negros Occidental? One of them is Pope St. John Paul II. Another stayed a little longer on the island. I am referring to an Augustinian Recollect Missionary St. Ezekiel Moreno. He had stayed in Talisay, Negros Occidental, to avail of the hydrotherapy method of his brother Fr. Fernando Cuenca, OAR.

Augustinian Recollect historian Professor Emmanuel Romanillos gives us the biography of St. Ezekiel Moreno. St. Ezekiel was a Spaniard born in La Rioja, Spain, on April 9, 1848. He and his brother became religious in the Order of Augustinian Recollects. Technically, he is the first OAR religious who became a saint. His journey as a religious missionary commenced at the Philippine Mission station from 1870 – 1885. He was then recalled to Monteagudo, Navarra, Spain, as Prior from 1885 to 1888. He was elected as Prior Provincial of the Province of Candelaria in Colombia from 1889 – 1893. He was then made by the Holy See as Apostolic Vicar of Casanare, Colombia, from 1894 to 1896. He was then made Bishop of Pasto, Colombia, in 1896. He served as its bishop until 1906. He joined our creator on August 19, 1906, at Monteagudo, Navarra, Spain.

Prof. Romanillos further wrote that the familia Moreno in Alfaro, la Rioja were known for their industry, honesty, and piety. At the age of 16, he entered the novitiate to learn how to be an Augustinian Recollect religious. During his formation, his companions called him "the good one," Prof. Romanillos added. His formation in Spain was interrupted by the Revolution of 1868. The Saint with companions were sent to the Philippines in 1869. He continued his formation in the Philippines and was ordained on June 2, 1871. After his solemn profession of vows and his priestly ordination, he started his missionary adventure in the Philippines.

St. Ezekiel started his work with his brother, Fray Eustaquio, in Calapan, Mindoro. This is the place where he learned his Tagalog. After seven months, he was assigned as Chaplain of the expedition to Palawan. In Palawan, St. Ezekiel and his companion worked hard for evangelization and eventually took the hearts of the locals. However, his work was cut short when he contracted malaria, forcing him to seek medical attention in Manila. But there, it was discovered that he also suffered from anemia. Because of the illness, he sought the help of his confrere in Talisay, Fr. Fernando Cuenca, for Hydrotherapy. From 1873-1876, he returned to his first love, Mindoro, and was named Parish Priest of Calapan and Superior of the missionaries in Mindoro. In 1876, he was transferred to Las Pinas, where the townspeople suffered terrible drought, a smallpox epidemic, and fire of enormous proportions. Romanillos noted that many witnesses attest to his charity and availability to the neediest in such dramatic situations. His parishioners fought to retain him. But, the Saint was transferred to Santo Tomas, Batangas, then to Santa Cruz, Manila. He was appointed in 1882 as an administrator of the hacienda in Imus, Cavite.

St. Ezekiel was “santulon" for the Filipinos. He is a saintly man whom people loved and felt loved by him. He attended to the sick with extraordinary tenderness. He encouraged the children and helped the poor. His saintly deeds for the Filipinos ended with his transfer to Spain in 1885.

The Catholic and the Order of Augustinian Recollects celebrate the feast of St. Ezekiel on August 19.

St. Ezekiel Moreno, pray for us.