Colleague cites Fr. Reuter’s ‘edifying presence’

Evelyn Macairan, Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The “edifying presence” of the late Fr. James Reuter SJ will always be remembered, said Jesuit Provincial Superior Fr. Jose Cecilio Magadia in the funeral Mass yesterday for his well-loved confrere.

Magadia said Reuter, 96, touched the lives of countless people especially students and those he trained in theater and basketball. They call themselves “Reuter babies” in honor of their late mentor and friend.

“Edification refers to someone who builds life, who builds people, who makes people believe they can do things. Who makes people think once more that... they can do well, they sing well, act well,” Magadia said in a message before the end of a concelebrated Mass for the late Jesuit officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle at the Church of Gesu at the Ateneo de Manila University. His remains were later brought to the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches for burial.

Former Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, who delivered the homily, said Reuter was just as vigorous in sports and physical activity as in fulfilling his apostolate.

Nebres said that he first met Reuter in 1956 at the Sacred Heart Novitiate where he saw him swimming several laps in the 25-meter pool. Some two years later, he visited Culion Leprosarium in Palawan and again saw Reuter, swimming from one island to another in shark-infested waters. A boat was following him to make sure he was safe.

Some 30 years later, Fr. Reuter continued to possess the same energy. He would be seen jogging regularly around the Sta. Ana Race Track between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

“Underlying his energy and drive was always faith. A faith that was at once very keen and simple in its unwavering assurance that God will always be there and would always take care,” Nebres said.

“He was a moderator of drama... he taught rhetoric, Latin, and religion... he was a basketball coach... he was the glee club director,” Nebres said.

“But in all of these activities, Father Jim’s desire was to bring people to God, and bring God to the people,” said Nebres.

He also quoted from a column article of Reuter in The STAR published four years ago.

“Whenever I hear confessions, I know that the one who is confessing is reaching out to God. The priest is only the bridge... But it is consoling to know that you can be a bridge between a soul and God... Every day I pray to be worthy of the good people whom God sends to me,” Nebres quoted Reuter as saying in his column.

“Goodbye, Father Jim. We hope that you’ll be there to cheer us when our time comes,” said Nebres.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said that Reuter was “among the great people who has been very instrumental in the CBCP and the (drama) productions shown in Iloilo.”

CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes said the Jesuit priest “was a holy man and he was always faithful to the Church’s teachings.”

“He was called to be a great communicator. He helped a lot in the development of media in the Philippines and that is why he is called an ‘icon’ because at that time, there was no Internet, no modern technology but in his own way he promoted the communication and the truth,” Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said.

Among those who attended the funeral Mass were Aetas from Subic, Zambales who benefited from the Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission Inc. founded and chaired by Reuter.

“He gave us encouragement for our total human development programs of the poor and the most marginalized especially several tribes in the Philippines,” said foundation president Sister Eva Fidela Maamo.


Tears, songs of praise

Mourners fought back tears as the brown casket containing Reuter’s remains was lowered to his final resting place.

Minutes later, members of the Ateneo Glee Club broke the silence with songs of praise.

Sister Sarah Manapol, who was with Reuter in his final moments on New Year’s Eve, said even in death he was a source of strength.

“I feel numb. I haven’t cried yet,” Manapol said. “I think he is strengthening me.”

“He loved everyone. He was kind. I never heard him say any uncharitable word,” she said.

Manapol said she sang to him two songs before he died.

“I sang to him ‘My Shepherd is the Lord’ and ‘Mary’s Child Forever,” said Manapol. “Mary’s child forever... forever Mary’s child... I know he was listening. And then after the last note, he stopped breathing,” she said.

“He died peacefully,” she said, adding that Reuter’s lips were moving gently as she was singing the Marian song to him.

Manapol said she had a vision of Reuter two days after the Jesuit’s death.

“I was having brunch on Jan. 2 and when I looked up the sky I saw him running up a silver ladder,” she said, adding that she saw a vision of her parents, Reuter’s parents, a girl, and a boy calling the priest.

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