Legazpi in the province of Albay, was created a separate diocese on May 27, 1974. Up to the present it has remained a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres. Religion is a dominant aspect in the
cultural life of the people of Catanduanes, due mainly to its early Christianization.
The diocese covers the civil province of Catanduanes of which Virac is the capital, with a land area of 1511 square
kilometers and a population of 189,000 of which 98 per cent are Catholics. Its titular patron is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. St. Joseph is a secondary patron.
Catanduanes is an island off the
eastern coast of the province of Albay in the Bicol Region known as Region V. It had been a sub-province of Albay as far back as the Spanish era, and became a separate province by Act 687 of the Commonwealth of
the Philippines in 1946, just before the inauguration of the Philippine Republic.
The island province was explored as early as 1573 by Juan Salcedo who landed in Virac and was welcomed by Lumibao, one of the
Malayan settlers there who could have been a descendant of the Bornean datus who settled on the Island of Panay in the 13th century. One of its smaller islands is in fact also named Panay. Topographically
Catanduanes is an island mountain mass. The name of the province is said to have come from the Tando tree, which was used for shipbuilding during the Spanish regime. So Catandoan meant land of Tando.
But in the Spanish plural form, because the main island had small islands around, it became Catanduanes.
The island province is often battered by typhoons as it lies in the center of the country's "typhoon
belt." Economic development has been considerably hampered by this, specially because the island province is basically agricultural. Subsistence crops inlude rice and corn while abaca is raised
commercially. Completely surrounded by the Philippine Sea, and a little further off the Pacific Ocean, the province has excellent fishing grounds.
In 1990 the Diocese of Virac launched preparations for its
Evangelization-2000. A formation program leading to the formation of small Basic Ecclesial Communities has been designed. The entire diocesan pastoral thrust is now directed to the diocese's Decade of
The diocesan pastoral plan revolves around a vision that is "a Christ- centered Community, Witnessing to the Values of the Gospel by Living the Eucharist and the Word of God."
The pastoral programs are designed with emphasis on the personal and the social dimensions of evangelization, which involve human rights, peace, justice, development and liberation.
Top priority is given to
programs meant to improve the quality of life of the poor, the deprived and the needy. Livelihood programs have been set up to provide small capitalizations at low interests for poor farmers and fishermen.
Out-of-shool youth are given specialized training in rattan and wood crafting, as well as offset printing. Health and nutrition programs addressed to mothers have been instituted.
At the same time all programs
are also designed to bring about a total approach to evangelization. All programs reinforce one another in laying emphasis on Gospel values in the lives of the people.
Commissions that have been set up in the
diocese for pastoral work are the Commission on Worship, Commission on Christian Education, and the Commission on Service.
Summing it all up, the Diocesan Pastoral Plan of the Diocese of Virac aims to accomplish the
integration of catechesis, service and liturgy – essential ingredients needed in the growth of a people towards Christian maturity.
The diocese has 17 parishes, 11 of them town parishes and 6 of them barrio
parishes. It has a total of 48 priests, a high percentage in terms of parishes, compared with other dioceses. There are also 16 religious sisters working in the diocese.
Among the Catholic
institutions are a Catholic medical center, a pastoral center, a social action center, a catechetical center, a youth center, 1 orphanage and 6 retreat houses. It has a pre-college seminary, the Immaculate
Conception Pre-College Seminary.