Thursday, November 29, 2007
Fr. John Delaney, SJ: One of Dad's Greatest Inspirations
Long before I even considered a vocation to the Society of Jesus, Dad spoke of him, with great fondness and affection. "Fr. Delaney was one of the most holy, inspiring people I've ever met. I'll never forget him and all he did to strengthen my faith in God." To this day, the mention of Fr. John Delaney's name brings on heart-felt encomiums, from Jesuits and laypeople alike, who were deeply touched by this extraordinarily charismatic Jesuit.
In the backyard of the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Novaliches (where I spent the last 30 days on retreat)is a cemetery where lie the remains of dozens of deceased Jesuits. One morning, early in the retreat, I walked the short distance from the retreat house to the cemetery and began reading the names engraved on the wall of burial niches. While I noticed that most of the more recently deceased are Filipino Jesuits, many of the longer deceased Jesuits had German and Irish surnames. As I mentioned in my previous posting above, the Society of Jesus in the Philippines began in the early part of the last century with the efforts of Jesuit missionaries from the New York Province.
And when I came across the name "John Delaney, SJ," I thought to myself, this must be the Jesuit whom Dad talks about so fondly from his days as an undergraduate student at the University of the Philippines. I felt a lump in my throat as I reached out to touch the letters of his name, the years of his birth (1906), his entrance into the Society of Jesus, and his death (1956). I looked around the small cemetery and tried to imagine the literally thousands of mourners who came to the funeral. And I realized that Dad himself was here, back in January 1956, just finishing his sophomore year at the University of the Philippines, honored to serve as pall bearer, and to lay this great man to his eternal rest.
I don't yet know too much about Fr. Delaney's work here in the Philippines, except that Dad knew him as a campus minister at the University. According to Dad (and affirmed by a number of Jesuits whom I've consulted here), Fr. Delaney was a highly gifted preacher and retreat director, winning the admiration and loyalty of countless students and faculty at the University of the Philippines. To this day, dozens of Fr. Delaney's devotees meet here in Manila to remember and celebrate his memory. Theologically, he was a very forward-thinking Jesuit, as exemplified by his modern design of the UP chapel, which was built soon after his death and still stands in the university campus as a legacy to his years of devoted service and clear vision of faith. He was also apparently a prolific writer, specializing in spirituality.
I only wish I could have personally met Fr. John Delaney, SJ (he died young, at the age of 50), and I only hope that I might be half the Jesuit that he was to so many. It was a wonderful consolation during my retreat to know that Dad was once here in Novaliches, at the grave of his mentor and friend, where 50 years later, I found myself offering many a Hail Mary in his memory.
Fr. Delaney --may he continue to rest in Christ's peace!