Fr. Danny Huang, S.J. on the Death of Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J. (1917-2009)

I woke up this morning to the sad news of yet another senior Jesuit of legendary stature passing away. Fr. Miguel Bernad died today in Cagayan de Oro at the age of 91.

I had the privilege of living with Fr. Mike when I was regent in Xavier University, from 1983 to 85. I know he had his flaws, as we all do; but he was always kind to me, and always, very thoughtfully, sent me his annual Christmas card and new issues of Kinaadman, the journal he had founded at Xavier U.

In his honor, I share this speech I gave in December 2007, at Xavier University, on the occasion of the conferment on Fr. Bernad of an honorary doctorate.

I hope you will not mind if I speak somewhat personally. I am proud to say that I was a student of Fr. Bernad. Twenty five years ago, when I was a Jesuit junior, I asked for and was granted permission to enroll in a Shakespeare course Fr. Bernad was teaching at the Ateneo de Manila. This was the first time I got to know Fr. Bernad “up close and personal,” as they say. He was a marvelous teacher, leading us to depth of insight, and helping us appreciate the greatness of Shakespeare’s poetry by his own dramatic readings of excerpts from the plays. Dr. Edna Manlapaz used to ask me, “How was last night’s performance?” –referring to those famous dramatic readings of Fr. Bernad! I also came to realize that Fr. Bernad is a man of excellent judgment, because, at the end of the semester, he gave me an “A”!

From that time on, Fr. Bernad has continued to influence me. Let me just mention three points of influence. First, as a scholastic, I tried to read any book of Fr. Bernad that I came across, first of all because of the beauty of his writing. Whether reading The Lights of Broadway and other Essays, or Tradition and Discontinuity, I found myself in constant admiration of what I can best describe as Fr. Bernad’s “chaste prose”. This was writing that was deceptively simple, even spare, without a single superfluous word, but utterly clear and always elegant, graceful, persuasive.

Second, in 1988, during my first year as a priest and on my first assignment as assistant parish priest in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, I read Fr. Bernad’s slim volume entited Rizal and Spain. That book’s discussion of Rizal’s life and activities in Dapitan during his time of exile there helped “save my life” that first difficult year of priesthood. I was a Manila boy, and had never been assigned to as rural, as lonely and culturally unfamiliar a place as Ipil. Reading Fr. Bernad’s descriptions of how Rizal redeemed his time of exile in Dapitan with many and varied projects in the service of the people of Mindanao inspired and challenged me to overcome my self-absorption and to aspire to imitate the spirit, if not the achievement, of Rizal.

Finally, in 2001, when I was Rector of San Jose Seminary as the seminary was preparing to celebrate its 400th year of existence, I invited Fr. Bernad to give a lecture on the history of San Jose. His lecture was a model of impeccable historical research. But in the space of an hour or so, Fr. Bernad also captured the color and drama of 400 years. He opened our imaginations, expanded our vision, helped us glimpse past identity and future possibility. For many of us, Fr. Bernad’s lecture was the highlight of our quadricentennial celebration.

I have taxed your patience with my personal testimony of Fr. Bernad’s influence in my life as a way of making more concrete my sense of the fittingness of this historic honor being bestowed on him. When Fr. Samson first broached the idea at the Board meeting of the Ateneo de Davao, and when his initial idea was enthusiastically received and amplified by the Presidents of the Ateneo de Zamboanga and Xavier University, I also gave my full support. At that time, it seemed to me a most appropriate way of honoring an eminent Jesuit scholar.

Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, S. J. died on15 March, around midday in Maria Reyna Hospital, Cagayan de Oro City. He started feeling unwell in late morning, and was brought to the hospital with low blood pressure. The heart was just too weak and he went home to the Lord at about 1:00 p.m. Fr. Bernad, 91, entered the Society 7 June 1932 and was ordained a priest 24 March 1946. Requiescat in pace.

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Xavier University
Cagayan de Oro City
Mass will be celebrated each evening at 8:00 p.m.

Funeral Mass:
Wednesday, 18 March at 9:00 a.m.
Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Xavier University

Manresa Jesuit Cemetery
immediately after the Funeral Mass

Source: The Philippine Jesuits

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

9 Responses to Fr. Danny Huang, S.J. on the Death of Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J. (1917-2009)

  1. Nick Bernad says:

    Thank you Fr. Huang for sharing you experiences with
    Fr. Bernad. Although Fr. Bernad was my uncle but there
    are things that I don’t know about him until I heard
    it from his friends and specially students.

  2. Kaloy Bernad says:

    dear Fr. Huang
    i was at xavier during the conferment of Tito Nonon’s award(‘s?) by the 3 universities; i was really very proud to be Fr. Bernad’s nephew then as i am more so now! we laid him to rest this morning and i’m sure he is happy to be with the Lord!! thank you so much for sharing your kind words!!

  3. Wendy R. Garcia says:

    He did not know me personally but I have always admired the good priest because of his exemplary life as a Jesuit & his scholarly writings.

  4. outsigics says:

    Not many people know what is being shared here. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. meta says:

    I had the pleasure of taking a Shakespearean class under Fr. Bernad the summer of 1982. It was, indeed, one of the highlights of my academic life to sit in the class of this imposing yet unassuming Shakespearean giant who brought to life the works of Shakespeare in the manner ONLY HE could deliver. When we were in his class, he evoked in us — with his enthralling and thundering delivery — rich Rembrandt-like images of Shakespeare’s world, with its play of light and shadows, its vivid and captivating images, luring our minds to participate in the drama of ancient and medieval landscape, and stirring our senses and emotions to hear, touch, see the whirlwind of ancient events and to delve deeper into the characters of Shakespeare’s protagonists and the antagonists. Even now, as I think back at that summer in Xavier University, I can still see the figure of THAT GREAT MAN, Fr Bernad, who inspired us and made the study of Shakespeare’s works effortless and fun.

  6. this is a belated response to your post, Father…but sincere, nevertheless…

    My memories of Tito Nonon go way back when I was a grade schooler in the late 70s, until my early college years. Tito Nonon was my grandpa’s (Cesar M. Fortich) cousin and every weekend, he would visit Lolo Titang in our house in Corrales. He told many amazing stories as I would sometimes listen to the two of them talking. There were also times when I would be asked to make his “kape” – we brewed our own coffee at that time. And I remember Tito Nonon saying that our “kape” was the best one he has tasted.

    When I was in college, began reading his book and to this day, I still have my copy of “The Lights of Broadway and Other Essays.” I also read some of the Kinaadmans that he regularly sent to my mom, who was a writer. When I started writing for magazines in Manila, he was my critic and advisor. I learned a lot just listening to him.

    The last time I saw Tito Nonon was during my mom’s funeral back in 2006. I regret now that I was never able to give him my compilation of articles and short stories – something he had been asking from me for years.

    I cried when he was laid to rest at Manresa. I cried as Fr. Balchand talked about the Jesuit that many people have learned to love and treasure.

    I miss Tito Nonon. I wish I had spent more time with him. I could have learned more. Wherever he is now, though, I know that in his own way, he is happily looking down on us – just like what he used to do when he was still with us.

    Thank you, Fr. Huang, for sharing your beautiful memories of a wonderful and special person. God bless.

  7. Pingback: Your VOICES. | Remembering Fr. Miguel A. Bernad: The Teacher, Writer and Lover of Literature

  8. jun balansag says:

    May his soul rest in peace! He polished my English pronunciation, when I stayed at Haggerty Hall. I used to come to him and read out loud articles in Kinaadman, while he jotted them down with the page number, in small pieces of paper. Later, we hit two birds with one bullet: I learned how to read; and he got his index card finished.

  9. dlr7 says:

    I did not know him personally as when he was at ADMU he was at my aunts house for breakfast regularly as things turned out later on his nephew Chitoy b( Miguel Ignatius Bernad) became a good friend of mine back in 1987 we met climbing mount halcon in Mindoro then later on we climbed mt. Kitanlad in bukidnon

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