Church officials mourn demise of Fr. Reuter

MANILA, Dec. 31, 2012—Catholic Church officials expressed deep sadness over the death of Jesuit priest Fr. James Reuter.

“I am very sorry to hear of his death. He was a very pious and exemplary Jesuit priest who was always wearing his sotana, the habit of Jesuits,” said Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon.

“He was a great communicator of the Good News of Jesus, using modern media, even musicals, plays and movies,” the bishop said.

Though an American, Bastes said, Reuter loved the Philippines and considered himself a Filipino.

“We Pinoys will surely miss Fr. James Reuter. He will continue to direct plays and musicals in heaven,” added Bastes.

For his part, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said: “We lost a very upright person, a real servant of God, a faithful and truthful media person. We will miss him who is surely with God.”

The most familiar face and voice on radio, television and stage over the past decades  “signed off” Monday at Our Lady of Peace Hospital, a hospital he built to serve the poor in the area, in Paranaque City. He was 96.

Rural Mimeo Press

CBCP Media Office director Msgr. Pedro Quitorio described Reuter as a “communicator par excellence.”

Quitorio also recalled Reuter’s role in utilizing the media even during Martial Law.

“He will be remembered for initiating the Rural Mimeo Press during the Martial Law and, later, in facilitating the establishment of radio stations in many dioceses throughout the country,” he said.

Reuter served the longest — 39 years — as executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media (ECSCMM).  During his tenure until he retired in 2009, Reuter received awards and recognition for his work in the promotion of the Catholic Church utilizing mass media.

He also chaired the National Office of Mass Media for decades.

His close associate Cherry Aquino said Reuter had a stroke on December 27.

Renowned playwright, educator, media man

Former CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said among Reuter’s unforgettable talents was being a stage director.

“As a young priest, I presented some of Fr. Reuter’s one-act plays to the joy of seminarian-actors,” Lagdameo said.

“He was an actor-director, a preacher and retreat master,” he said.

Asked of his condition on Dec. 29, Aquino said Reuter had not responded verbally though his vital signs were still good.

She added the “Reuter Babies” were praying the Holy Rosary for his recovery every 3 and 6 p.m.

Fr. Francis Lucas, current ECSCMM executive secretary said Reuter was “kind and gentle” and “quite dedicated to his work.”

“The only time we can rest is when we die,” Lucas recalled Reuter’s work ethic.

The late missionary also fought for the truth, especially on matters about faith, Lucas added.

A rich life of service

Reuter came to the country in 1938 as a missionary— a 22-year old Jesuit scholastic. As a Jesuit in formation, he took up his philosophical studies in Novaliches and Baguio.

He then taught at the Ateneo de Manila on Padre Faura just before World War II. When the war broke out, the Japanese army interned him.

But while jailed at the Ateneo on Padre Faura, and later in the prison camp in Los Baños, with other Jesuits he wrote songs and produced plays during the course of war.

After the war, the priest went to the US to finish his theological studies at Georgetown University and was ordained a Jesuit priest at Woodstock, Maryland in 1946. He also spent another year at Fordham University in New York to study radio and television.

It was in 1948 when he went back to the Philippines as a teacher in high school and college at the Ateneo de Naga. He was basketball coach, drama and glee club director, retreat master, confidant, and friend to his students and to those who knew him.

In 2006, he was granted honorary Filipino citizenship by the Philippine Congress in recognition of his lifetime service to the people.

He was instrumental in organizing UNDA/ASIA (the international Catholic association for radio and TV in Asia). He is also one of the founders of the Philippine Federation of Catholic Broadcasters, a union of 41 Catholic radio stations stretching from Laoag to Tawi-Tawi.

For almost seven decades of priestly ministry, he already received over 20 prestigious awards citing his invaluable services to the Church and to the country in various fields especially in education, mass media, literature and performing arts.

In 1981, during the papal visit to the Philippines, Pope John Paul II gave him a special award for his “outstanding service to the Catholic Church in the field of mass media.”

In 1989, he was the Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

Reuter, like the crowning glory of his life, was also honored with the rare and highly coveted Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award, a papal award given to individuals in recognition of his/her outstanding and exemplary service to the Catholic Church and the Holy See. (Melo M. Acuna/CBCPNews)

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