Family, friends mark 21st death anniv of Jesuit martyr

MANILA, Philippines – "Do I deserve to be the mother of Richie?"

Exactly 21 years after her son Richie Fernando died, 78-year-old Visitacion Fernando said she sometimes finds herself still asking this question.

Fernando was killed on October 17, 1996, after he tried to stop his student, Sarom, from releasing a grenade in a school for the handicapped in Cambodia. Shielding Sarom and other students from an explosion, Fernando was the one who died. 

Mrs Fernando's son, the 26-year-old Jesuit seminarian, is now on the road to sainthood

Fernando's family and friends marked his 21st death anniversary on Tuesday, October 17, by celebrating a 6:00 am Mass and having breakfast at the Fernandos' residence a few steps away from church.

Fernando's eldest brother, Raymond Fernando, said their family is "happy" that the Jesuit seminarian could be declared the first Filipino saint born in the 20th century.

Fernando's religious order, the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits, recently decided to work on having him declared a "blessed" and eventually a saint. This was after Pope Francis opened a new path to sainthood, called "offer of life," which observers said could apply in the young Filipino's case.

Happy but low key

The Fernandos, however, prefer to be "low key" about the push for Fernando's sainthood.

Raymond Fernando, 53, said their family "would like to" see his brother declared a saint within their lifetime, but "it really depends on God's plan." 

The Mass on Tuesday was presided over by Jesuit priest Father Chris Dumadag, novice director at the Jesuits' Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City.

The Mass was held at Mary the Queen Parish in Novaliches, where the stained glass retablo behind the altar shows an image of Fernando.

LOOK WHO'S THERE. The image of Richie Fernando, his arms raised, is included in the stained glass retablo (lower right portion) at Mary the Queen Parish in Novaliches, Quezon City, a few steps away from the Fernandos' residence. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

LOOK WHO'S THERE. The image of Richie Fernando, his arms raised, is included in the stained glass retablo (lower right portion) at Mary the Queen Parish in Novaliches, Quezon City, a few steps away from the Fernandos' residence.

Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

Fernando was one year ahead of Dumadag at the Jesuit novitiate.

"You know, Richie was one of the freest persons I've ever met in my life. He was always available to everyone, so that his very own life is but a means, a real authentic instrument for the Spirit of our Lord to work, through him to others," Dumadag said in his homily on Tuesday. 

The priest added: "When one has no fear, one is interiorly free. It does not matter whether you die at a ripe old age, or at an innocently young age. What matters most is that one gives one's life for others, especially if that other is Jesus our Lord." – Rappler.com