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Fr. Luis Candelaria, RIP

Fr. Luis Candelaria is known to many who have studied in both Ateneo Grade School and High School. He passed away last Friday and will be buried today, Monday.

Father Cande, as he was known to many, was 95 years old, 72 years a Jesuit, 64 years a priest.  By the standards of St. Ignatius he had lived a full life.

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I was at table with him two nights ago, and he seemed to have his usual good appetite, which always amazed me, and he gave no indication that he was about to go. In fact we remarked at table that he would soon hit his century mark.

He was again the usual object of kidding from the younger brethren and, as usual, he just smiled them away. I often said that God had blessed the Jesuit Residence Community with a lovable old man who did not mind being kidded by and giving joy to the younger and irreverent men around him.

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He was hospitalized about a month ago and some of us thought that he would not come out of the hospital to resume his accustomed seat in the dining room. But he did, and his appetite remained robust. I liked watching him carefully deboning ordinary dried fish and enjoying it in vinegar with rice. For all his sophisticated education, his gustatory system remained Filipino.

Last Saturday morning, Fr. Lito Mangulabnan, his next-door neighbor, went to his room to give him a banana. He took it. That was to be his last banana. When Father Lito reached his office in Rockwell, he received a phone call which told him that Father Cande had passed away. He said a prayer and he was thankful for having had the opportunity to elicit a smile from him with an ordinary banana.

If I were to sum up in a word Father Cande’s professional career in the Society of Jesus, I would say that he was an educator. He was both teacher and administrator. As a high school teacher in his youth, he mercilessly drilled high school students in Latin and English grammar.

In their older years, boys usually recall with pride their torturers in high school. Later as administrator, Father Cande served stints as headmaster of Ateneo Grade School, principal of Ateneo High School, and rector of Ateneo de Naga.

Even when he no longer held an administration office, he still continued to teach educational administration. Up until last semester, he was still teaching educational management at the Education Department of Ateneo Graduate School. He would religiously go to his education classes, but we his ringside kibitzers would accuse  him of going to class only to watch the coeds give their demonstration. He was a very normal human being.

By last year he had considerably slowed down, but he continued to enjoy the visits and company of his innumerable friends. In the last few weeks he stayed pretty much in his room with only occasional excursions to the dining room. But I did not suspect that he was about to go. Thus yesterday, on my way to lunch, I was surprised to see the notice on the bulletin board that he had passed away at about 11 that morning. That is how momentous events in the community are announced, through the bulletin board. According to his caregiver describing the last hour of

Father Cande, he had just come out of the bathroom when he quietly settled in bed and folded his arms, never to get up again. I think that was the way he wanted to go—quietly. God gave him his wish.

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He will be laid to rest to join a long line of Jesuits in our cemetery in Novaliches. His buddy Horacio de la Costa surely greeted him with an abrazo. We thank God for the gift that Father Cande was to us.

On becoming a Jesuit. I take this occasion of the death of a Jesuit to say something to those who may be wondering how one becomes a Jesuit. It is not a bad life.

Of course, there are the usual academic requirements. In earlier days, most were accepted to start their formation as Jesuits right after high school. High school graduates then were generally more mature than their counterparts today.  Now the earliest starting age is usually after at least two years of college.

The first two years are spent in the Scared Heart Novitiate in Novaliches. These are years of initial spiritual formation and getting acquainted with the demands of the life of a Jesuit. (If you have some curiosity about this, contact the vocation director, Loyola House of Studies, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.)

These are followed by academic formation ranging from the usual bachelor’s courses all the way to graduate studies. After formation, the work may be spiritual and pastoral or academic or any one of the secular vocations. A Jesuit is usually a hyphenated priest. I, for instance, am a lawyer-priest, and there are others who have more strange callings. If it is God’s life for you, you will enjoy it. If not, you will find out soon enough.

How much does it cost to become a Jesuit?  Once you are accepted, you will not have to worry about that. We do have very generous friends who believe that what we do is worth doing and who will make sure that we will survive body and soul as long as possible. How about retirement or healthcare? We also have friends who take care of those. Look at the birds in the sky—they do not worry about what they are to eat.

The most important thing for one who is thinking of joining is the right intention: for the greater glory of God and not of self.

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