MANILA, Philippines - TV host Kuya Kim Atienza missed Fr James Reuter's last breath by 5 minutes. He was late after getting stuck in traffic.
"If you're late, iiwanan ka. Iniwanan din niya ako noong namatay siya, eh (If you're late, he will leave you behind. He left me again when he passed away)," Atienza told Rappler, recalling how he learned his work ethic from Reuter's example.
Atienza considered Reuter - a radio, television and theater figure - his mentor from high school through college to his first taste of mass media.
"Father, congratulations! You've lived a very full life. I hope to see you again someday. Thank you very much, I owe everything I am to your training. I love you," Atienza said, joining other personalities and church officials who paid tribute to Reuter.
Atienza was one of the so-called "Reuter Babies," performers trained by Reuter. According to Atienza, he was with Reuter in various local and world tours including the performance of the "Reuter babies" for the pope during the canonization of San Lorenzo Ruiz in 1987.
Meanwhile, TV host and comedian Gabe Mercado, another "Reuter baby," grieved the death of his mentor on Twitter.
Very affected by the death of Fr. Reuter. He was a mentor in my grade school and high school years and a close friend of the family.— Gabe Mercado (@gabemercado) December 31, 2012
Between the summer of grade 6 and 7 he called me to his office and told me to take care of my grades or he wouldn't cast me in his plays.— Gabe Mercado (@gabemercado) December 31, 2012
And he was the reason why I was in EDSA in 1986.— Gabe Mercado (@gabemercado) December 31, 2012
Plus he was the first to trust me with comedy roles.— Gabe Mercado (@gabemercado) December 31, 2012
According to Cherry Aquino , Reuter's closes associate, the “Reuter Babies” prayed the Holy Rosary every 3 and 6pm hoping the 96-year old Jesuit priest would still recover.
Communicator par excellence
Leaders of the Catholic Church were also saddened by Reuter's demise.
Former Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said among Reuter’s unforgettable talents was being a stage director.
“As a young priest, I presented some of Fr. Reuter’s one-act plays to the joy of seminarian-actors,” Lagdameo said.
“He was an actor-director, a preacher and retreat master,” he said.
“I am very sorry to hear of his death. He was a very pious and exemplary Jesuit priest who was always wearing his sotana, the habit of Jesuits,” Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon recalled.
“He was a great communicator of the Good News of Jesus, using modern media, even musicals, plays and movies,” Bastes added.
CBCP Media Office director Msgr Pedro Quitorio considered Reuter as a “communicator par excellence.”
Quitorio also recognized Reuter’s role in using media during the Martial Law years.
“He will be remembered for initiating the Rural Mimeo Press during the Martial Law and, later, in facilitating the establishment of radio stations in many dioceses throughout the country,” Quitorio he said.
On Twitter, fellow Jesuit educator Fr Joel Tabora bade farewell to Reuter whom he described as "a giant of a Jesuit."
Thanks, Fr. Jim Reuter, for all you have done for education and for mass media in the Philippines! @catholicedph— Joel Tabora, SJ (@Joeltaborasj) December 31, 2012
Reuter died at the Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Parañaque City, and will be interred at Arlington Memorial.
Reuter was born May 21, 1916, in the United States. He is best known as a pioneer in Philippine media post-World War II, and was instrumental in the formation of the Family Rosary Crusade, as well as JesCom, the communication arm of the Philippine Jesuits.
He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism in 1989, and was given the Outstanding Service Award by Pope John Paul II in 1981. - Rappler.com