MANILA, Philippines — They loved Father James Reuter for his dedication as a great communicator of the Gospel, his beautiful musical plays and inspiring stage dramas, and mostly for genuinely loving the Philippines and serving its people.
Catholic Church members, especially those who had the opportunity to work with the beloved American Jesuit in his 46 years of service with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), had good memories of him as they mourned his passing on Monday
“An American by birth, a Filipino by heart, he was a communicator par excellence,” said Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, the CBCP media director.
“Aside from pioneering his own brand of stage drama and literature, he will be remembered for initiating the rural mimeo press during martial law and for facilitating the establishment of radio stations in many dioceses throughout the country,” added Quitorio.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes described him as a “very pious and exemplary” Jesuit priest whom he always saw wearing his Jesuit habit.
“He was a great communicator of the Good News of Jesus using modern media and even musicals, plays and movies,” said Bastes.
As a young seminarian, Bastes was one of the many who admired Reuter’s work, always taking the time to watch the college musicals that he directed, including “The Sound of Music,” “Show Boat” and “South Pacific,” among others.
Bastes also remembered watching, as a high school freshman in the seminary, “The Mikado,” the first production of the Ateneo Glee Club, which Reuter also founded.
“We Filipinos will surely miss Father Reuter [but] he will continue to direct plays and musicals in heaven,” said the bishop.
Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo also remembered Reuter’s plays, which he said always gave joy to many seminarians. “We had watched many of his Shakespearean dramas … He was an actor-director, a preacher and retreat master. May he rest in peace,” said Lagdameo.
Fr. Francis Lucas, Reuter’s successor as executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media, said the revered priest was a “big loss” to the Catholic media but the commission would continue to emulate his example and dedication.
“He is the icon of Catholic media and he dedicated himself all throughout using communication and the media for strengthening the faith, the principles and doctrines of the Church,” said Lucas, who replaced Reuter when the latter retired in 2009 after 46 years in the commission.
“Father Reuter’s passing will surely leave an indelible mark on many media people like myself,” said Bernard Canaberal, the head of the Family Rosary Crusade, a multimedia-based ministry in the Philippines established by Reuter.
The Family Rosary Crusade was founded by Rev. Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, in the United States as a worldwide campaign and eventually became a Roman Catholic movement promoting the recitation of Holy Rosary among families.
“We will never have one again like him. A rara avis of his time. His influence not only spanned that of the Church but the political scene as well,” said Canaberal in a text message.
He also noted that the passing of Reuter, a Marian priest, was so timely, occurring on the eve of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
The US Embassy in Manila fondly remembered Reuter on Twitter, posting a June 2011 photo of the priest with US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr.
“The US Embassy joins the nation in celebrating the life of Fr. James B. Reuter, SJ, and all of his contributions,” the embassy said.
Malacañang paid tribute to Reuter in a statement on Monday, calling him a “friend, mentor, confessor and adviser to generations of Filipinos” and whose love for the Philippines and Filipinos was “legendary.”
“From the time he first came to this country before World War II as a young Jesuit novice, to his passing after a lingering illness today, Fr. James B. Reuter found happiness and fulfillment in his priestly vocation in the Philippines. His impact was most deeply felt in the sphere of communications, whether in the promotion of the Family Rosary Crusade, or the formation of JesCom in the Philippines. Along the way he was a friend, mentor, confessor, adviser to generations of Filipinos, both in public and private life, and in the media, arts and journalism,” the Palace statement said on Monday.
“His love of the Philippines and Filipinos was legendary, so much so [that] it earned him a stature and affection beyond the measure of the many awards, both national and sectoral, that he received throughout his long life. We join the Society of Jesus in the Philippines, the generations of alumni of the Ateneo de Manila University, and men and women of media, arts and letters, who mourn the loss of this man of faith, good cheer and eloquence,” it said.