MANILA, Philippines — He was one “great Filipino,” a brother and an inspiration.
The late American Jesuit priest, Fr. James Reuter, SJ, indeed touched many lives in his seven decades in the Philippines that his legacy — in communication, in activism, in the arts — may well live on as a legend.
Vice President Jejomar Binay recalled how Reuter, a Jesuit broadcast pioneer in the country, made use of his mastery of communication to reach out to Filipinos through an underground radio station during the martial law years.
“Father James Reuter harnessed the tools of media and communications in promoting the Catholic faith and in the defense of freedom and democracy, especially during the days of martial law and the glorious 1986 Edsa Revolution,” said Binay, a human rights lawyer during the fight against the dictatorship.
“In life, Father Reuter was a man of faith and a defender of the rights that we hold sacred. In death, he will be remembered as a great Filipino,” said the Vice President.
Long frail due to age, Reuter, 96, passed away on Monday due to lung and heart failure at the Our Lady of Peace hospital in Parañaque City, where he had been under the constant watch of private nurses for three years.
Reuter’s remains will be at the St. Paul University in Manila until Wednesday, and will be moved to the Church of the Gesu at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, where public viewing will be open until Friday.
Reuter will be laid to rest on Saturday at the Jesuit cemetery at the Sacred heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City. The funeral mass will be held at the Gesu at 8:30 a.m.
The New Jersey native, officially proclaimed by Congress as an honorary Filipino in 1996, had many times professed his love for the Philippines and its people, even saying at one time that “Filipinos brought God to me.”
Former Ateneo de Manila University president and prominent Jesuit priest, Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, said many of his fellow priests considered Reuter, a long-time Ateneo educator, as their big brother.
“For myself and Jesuits of my generation, Fr. Jim was an older brother we looked up to and admired for his deep faith, his love for the Church and the Philippines, for the Society of Jesus and the Ateneo,” Nebres said.
He said Reuter often shared this in his talks and writing.
“I am deeply grateful for the gift of having lived and worked with him as an older brother and friend,” said Nebres.
The activist priest, Fr. Robert Reyes, meanwhile took time off his “silence” break to honor Reuter, the “great communicator” he considered his mentor.
“Fr. James insisted that knowing how to use and relate with media is one thing. However, his life was both medium and message as he spoke both in word, action and silence about Jesus, the word made flesh,” said Reyes.
He sent the statement from the Juan de Plasencia Franciscan Novitiate in Liliw, Laguna, where he has been residing after deciding to take a break from public life in 2011.
Reyes, an activist priest often seen in media while advocating various causes, credited Reuter for helping him understand the culture of the press in the Philippines. He offered a prayer run for Reuter on Tuesday.
“It will be different now without the voice, the pen, the face of the priest in the white Jesuit cassock. Not really, for this communicator did not die in vain. He has taught hundreds to speak well and effectively about Jesus through the means of social communication. But more than skill and art, he passed on a spirituality,” said Reyes.