Msgr. Rudy Villanueva, Cebu’s liturgical music icon, dies at 83

May 27, 2024 - 9:25 AM
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Msgr. Rodolfo “Rudy” Villanueva plays the keyboard during Mass for the National Retreat for Priests at the IC3 Pavillion in Cebu City on Nov. 9, 2024. (CBCP News)

The Archdiocese of Cebu’s liturgical music icon, Msgr. Rodolfo “Rudy” Villanueva, died before midnight on Thursday.

The priest, who was an award-winning literary writer under the pseudonym “Renato E. Madrid”, passed away at around 11:30 p.m. at the age of 83.

“During this time of mourning, we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and all those who had the honor of knowing him,” the archdiocese posted on social media.

Ordained priest in 1963, Villanueva was also an acclaimed fictionist and playwright.

He received literary distinctions such as the Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature particularly for his short collection, “Southern Harvest,” and the 2003 Umpil Gawad Alagad ni Balagtas.

He wrote novels that combine sociology and religion, such as “Devil Wings” and “Mass for the Death of an Enemy,” published in 1997 and 2000.

In 2021, the priest was nominated for the National Artist Award for literature and theater.

Villanueva also composed several collections of church music widely used in Visayas and Mindanao such as “Cancionero Cebuano”, “Twenty-Four Masses”, “Salterio Cebuano”, and the three-volume, “Festive Series”.

Through his music, the priest played an important role in the devotion to Cebuano saint Pedro Calungsod, composing devotional songs to him: Way Sukod man ang Pagmahal, By the Power of your Giving, and the Gozos of Saint Pedro Calungsod.

In June 2022, he was conferred with the Order of Rajah Humabon Award, the highest distinction by the city government of Cebu.

Aside from his notable contributions to literature and music, the archdiocese also regarded Villanueva as one of its “pillars of seminary formation”.