In My Father's House

Poems, Prayers, Inspirations, Photos and Musings about life, love and what it means to be a child of the Father

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fr. Johhny's 100th Birthday

Last Thursday I attended Fr. Johnny Ledesma's 100th birthday. There were more than a hundred people who attended this genial priest's party which was held (through the kindness of the Archbishop of Manila, His Eminence Gaudencio Rosales) at Villa San Miguel, the Bishop's residence. Friends and colleagues, students and mentees attented this once in a lifetime occasion. (I mean, how many times can you really attend someone's 1ooth birthday?).

But there were no relatives who came to Fr. Johnny's party. Not that he outlived them all. No. He hadn't any. You see, Fr. Johnny was an orphan. His father was a U.S. soldier who went back to the states and left him and his mother. When he was five, his mother died and he was sent to the Hospicio de San Jose, an orphanage in Manila. A Spanish family would have adopted him but God seemed to have brighter things instore for him. On the day he was adopted, he cried relentlessly prompting the family to send him back to the hospice. They were probably thinking that something was not right with the child.

And they were true. Fr. Johnny turned too good to be just an adopted child. He would later on excel in his studies. He attended first the diocesan San Carlos Seminary but was transferred to Colegio de San Jose, a seminary run by the Jesuits. His formators saw his keen intelligence and holiness that they consented that he entered the Society of Jesus. After several years he was ordained and sent to Rome for further studies. It was in the Eternal City where he would spend several thousands of hours researching about Diego de San Vitores, a Jesuit Missionary in the Marianas and his Filipino lay companion/catechist Pedro Calungsod. It was his learned research that paved the way for the beatification of these two martyrs in Guam.

But what endeared Fr. Johnny to seminarians, nuns, priests and lay people alike was not his intelligence but his kindness and compassion for people. He helped countless seminarians to finish studying and through his writing and publishing of prayer booklets was able to finance their needs while they were in the seminary. Fr. Johnny understands too the turmoil and anguish of a sinful heart that it was reported that when someone approaches him for confession he will invariably say "Very good!," signifying perhaps "You are a true son of God. You made the right choice of going back to Him. "

Whenever I see people like him, I look at myself and ask: WILL I EVER BE LIKE THAT? But I know that God has also something big instore for me. I may not be a very holy or very intelligent person but I know He will be faithful to His promises to me. This I hold in my heart.

Happy Birthday Fr. Johnny!!! (Eh, shall I say more birthdays to come!)


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