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Nueva Cáceres

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(NOVA CACERES)

Diocese created in 1595 by Clement VIII ; it is one of the four suffragan sees of the Archdiocese of Manila, Philippine Islands. It comprises the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, and Tayabas in the southern part of Luzon, the islands Ticao, Masbate, Burias, and Cantanduanes, also numerous smaller islands off the coast of Southern Luzon. It includes a territory of 13,632 square miles, and has a population of nearly 600,000. The cathedral and episcopal residence are situated in the town of Nueva Cáceres, the capital of Camarines Sur. The territory now included in the diocese was first visited by Augustinian Friars, who had accompanied the famous Legaspi- Urdaneta expedition of 1565. When the missionaries began their labors, they found the natives given over to gross idolatries and superstitions (adoration of the sun, moon and stars, ancestral worship), and to the propitiation of a multitude of deities by strange sacrifices ; nor did they seem to have any idea of a supreme being. So fruitful, however, was the apostolic zeal of the missionaries that, within a few years, many thousands of converts were made in Albay, in Camarines Sur, and in Masbate. Assisted by heroic Catholic laymen, they gathered the natives into villages or reductions, where they instructed them in the truths of religion and taught them the advantages of a settled civilized life. The Augustinians had begun the spiritual conquest of the diocese, but, being few in number, they were unable to attend to so extensive a territory. In 1578 the Franciscans were called to assist them. The arrival of the latter gave a new impulse to the work of evangelization. Missions and reductions were multiplied in Albay, in Camarines Sur, and in Masbate; and new foundations were made in the Province of Tayabas. The ranks of the missionaries were strengthened from time to time by workers from Spain and Mexico; as early as 1595 the Church had made so much progress in these parts that Clement VIII created the Diocese of Nueva Cáceres, taking the name from the town of Nueva Cáceres founded in Camarines Sur in 1579 by Francisco de Sande second Governor-General of the Philippine Islands. The first bishop was Francisco de Ortega, an Augustinian friar who had labored for several years in the Province of Manila. He took possession of his diocese in 1600. The present bishop (Rt. Rev. John B. McGinley, con. 1910) is his twenty-seventh successor.

From the beginning until 1890, the greater number of parishes and missions were cared for by the Franciscans and the Augustinians. Although the latter had resigned during the first years in favor of the Franciscans, they returned to the diocese some years later and converted to the faith the whole of Camarines Norte. Each parish had as its parish priest a friar, assisted, according to the importance and population of the district, by one or more native secular priests. Only in later years were the latter placed in full charge of important parishes. As late as 1897, out of a total of 90 parishes, 43 were in charge of friars. The bishops were also generally chosen from the various religious orders, though on several occasions members of the secular clergy held the see, the most noted being (1723) the saintly Bishop de Molina, a native of Iloilo, whose name is still held in veneration. The Lazarists came in 1870, under Bishop Gainza, and were placed in charge of the diocesan seminary then in process of construction. The same prelate introduced the Sisters of Charity and placed them in charge of the academy and normal school which he had founded. In 1886 the Capuchins arrived and were given several missions. In 1898, on account of the revolution against Spanish rule and the feeling against the friars, most of these religious were withdrawn from their parishes and missions, and secular clergy placed in charge. The present (1908) statistics of the diocese are as follows: 168 priests, of whom 25 are regulars; the religious who are not priests number 12 (sisters 9, brothers 3); 122 parishes with resident priests ; without resident priests, 6; parochial schools 180, with 46,000 children in attendance (24,000 boys and 22,000 girls); one hospital ; one academy for girls, with 200 in attendance; a diocesan seminary, preparatory and theological, with 60 students; a college for secular students attached to the seminary, with 500 students. The total population of the diocese is nearly 600,000, of which number less than 1000 are non-Catholic.

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