José María Cuenco

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José María Cuenco (May 19, 1885 – October 8, 1972) was the first Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Jaro.

Archbishop Cuenco was born in Carmen, Cebu, Philippines on May 19, 1885, the eldest child of Mariano Albao Cuenco and Remedios Diosomito. His father, a journalist and Clerk of Court, died in 1909. His mother largely raised Jose’s 15 sisters and brothers, among them, Mariano Jesús and Miguel, who became a senator and congressman respectively. The Cuenco family were involved with printing and publishing as newspaper publishers and owners of Imprenta Rosario, one of Cebu’s early printshops.

Given the best education of his time in the University of San Carlos in Cebu, in Manila, and at Georgetown University in the United States, where he earned a doctorate in law, Cuenco decided to forsake a career in law to enter the priesthood. He was ordained a priest on June 11, 1914.

It was as a churchman that he had a distinguished career. He was vicar general of the Cebu Diocese in 1925 and the founding parish priest of the city’s Santo Rosario parish in 1933. He became auxiliary bishop of Jaro in 1945. Six years after, he became Archbishop of Jaro.

Active and highly visible in evangelization work, Cuenco was the founder-editor of the Cebu Catholic newspaper El Boletin Catolico (1915-1930), continuing the work of his own father who was publisher-editor of the pioneering Catholic newspaper in Cebu, Ang Camatuoran (1902-1911). He authored and published close to a dozen books, mostly narratives of his travels and experiences, including Archbishop Cuenco: Autobiography (Iloilo: La Editorial, 1972), which came out shortly before he died in Jaro on October 8, 1972.