05312024.Web.Banner Fr Mars P Tan SJ

From afar, you see Fr Leo, and you know the kind of priest he was from the way he dressed, unassuming and ordinary.

Up close, when you get to converse with him, you begin to realize he was even gentler and kinder.

It was hard not to notice the simplicity and kindness of Fr Leo.

You may not notice him among his brother Jesuits when we come together with our different personalities, loud, funny, and overly confident. In a matter of minutes, Fr Leo would be lost in the crowd and noise and recede to the background as a silent interested spectator.

But his quiet, unassuming ways would stick with you and stay there as your lasting impression of him. That is Fr Leo.

Indeed, for nine years that we were together at Loyola House, he consistently carried himself just like that, a simple quiet Jesuit, in good times and bad times.

However, there was another side of Fr Leo that somehow showed his identity as a Jesuit, his reflectiveness and his heart's bigness, especially for the poor and the needy.

His priestly life was characterized mainly through personal and pastoral ways when he was principal and chaplain at the XU Grade school. It was not surprising that he had many good friends there, and he maintained friendships with them even after he left for Manila.

I remember when I asked Fr Leo to consider moving to the Wellness Center in AdMU for good, he looked worried and somewhat appealed to me, "but the grade school community is here and I think I am still needed here". I politely asked him to discern it because of his failing health.

Finally, he volunteered to go to Manila and stay there for the remaining years of his life. I know he was not very happy then because his heart was in grade school for his friends; he was helping in different ways. Sometimes he would ask money from the house to buy medicines for the needy, as the funds he had, he claimed, were already depleted.

One incident I heard about that showed Fr Leo's bigness of heart was when he recovered a friend's lifeless body that perished during Typhoon Sendong. Mud covered the entire body and had to be cleaned. So Fr Leo put the body inside his car, brought it to the grade school, and washed it thoroughly alone.

Fr Leo was also known for his reflectiveness. In fact, he was a regular columnist of a local newspaper, and even when he was already in Ateneo de Manila, he continued to send me and other friends his pieces of reflection on the Gospel and other important Church feasts. At Jesuit community meetings, he was usually quiet but when he shared his ideas and thoughts, you know they came from deep thinking and reflection.

Today is the Feast Day of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, our Patron Saint whose feast day is tomorrow. St Monica was famous for her prayerfulness and patience. We believe that her persistent prayer was a real instrument in the conversion of her son, St Augustine. In the Gospel, we are also reminded of what prayer and enduring patience could do to prepare well ourselves to meet the Lord and be with Him forever.  

Fr Leo, in a way, exhibited similar traits of prayerfulness and patience. His fondness to write and share his reflection with others was his beautiful way of sharing the fruits of his prayer with his friends. His gentle and mild manner was a trait mostly seen in people with great patience with others in their learning and formation especially with children in grade school.

We thank the Lord for giving us Fr Leo for 27 years here at XU as a true friend and companion in the mission. XU and especially the Grade school would surely miss him, his fatherly and brotherly care for us.

May Fr Leo rest in the eternal peace of God.