No rumor in Father Delaney’s legacy

If sectors are asked to name one man in the lifespan of the UP Community whose work personally meant so much to one generation and which rippled to those who came later with utmost significance and relevance, the name Fr. John P. Delaney S.J. is certain to be cited many times over.

The scope of Father’s Delaney’s work, the inspiration he lent and the steadfast adherence he manifested to the faith all together provided the UP Community a unique and far-reaching legacy.

That his life at UP as first chaplain of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice and spiritual advisor of the UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) was lustrous, as it was also stormy, are important elements of that story, of that saga.

Dedicating a piece on Father Delaney in this yearbook is one way this year’s UPSCAn Golden Jubilarians choose to pay him tribute.

We begin this look back into his life with recollections from Narita M. Gonzalez, widow of much-loved and distinguished literary gem NVM Gonzalez, on the building of the dome-shaped UP Chapel.

When Father Delaney came to the growing Diliman community in 1949, the chapel he used after a thorough cleanup was a dilapidated sawali and bamboo stable for carabaos and horses, a structure formerly used by US Army soldiers.

The reference to Christ’s birth in a stable was thus made by the priest when he celebrated the first Christmas Mass at the newly-built UP Chapel in 1955 which, to this day, exists almost as it did sparklingly brand new.

For the souvenir program on the 50th anniversary of the circular church in December 20, 2005, Mrs. Gonzales wrote: “The concept of a church-in-the-round was exactly what Father Delaney wanted. The priest must be close to his parishioners as the Mass is celebrated. With the altar in the center of the church and the communion rail around it, a oneness between the celebrating priest and the communicants could be achieved.”

Closeness to the chapel and a good relationship with the priest are two simple but essential rules set by Father Delaney for students in pursuit of their education.

Father Delaney’s complete set of rules, which was listed in a1953 chapel newsletter named “Chapel Chismis” and  cited in 1999 by  Prof..Oscar Evangelist of the Department of History in the first lecture of the John P. Delaney Chair, is as follows:

“Select your course wisely.

Attend your classes intelligently.

Study conscientiously and systematically.

Try to get interested in your own subject so that

you’ll be studying to learn, not just to get grades

Try particularly to develop an enthusiastic interest

in at least one of your subjects

Elevate your taste in Art, Music, in reading.

Choose your companions with great care.

Recreate simply, inexpensively, wholesomely.

Budget your money carefully.

Don’t borrow.

Lay off the hard liquor.

Don’t waste your time and money in Manila.

Don’t go steady, fall in love, or get engaged too early.

Play the field for a few years and save yourself a lot of heartaches.

And finally,

Be faithful to frequent confessions, Mass and Communion.

Stay close to the chapel.

Make a friend of the Chaplain.”

The symbolic and practical accessibility of the priest through a circular church design was achieved by architect Leandro Locsin, then 26 years old and who would later be honored as National Artist.

The making of the church, which is now a National Historical Landmark, was a process of the outpouring of love and sacrifices. It is noteworthy that the work involved other young men who were to be accorded the honor as National Artist later in their lives. Napoleon Abueva was sculptor of the crucifix at the center of the chapel. Vicente Manansala painted the Stations of the Cross while Arturo Luz rendered the floor’s mosaic in marble entitled the River of Life.

Who was Father Delaney?

Excerpts from a compilation done by this year’s UPSCAn Golden Jubilarians from “Chapel Chismis,” edited by Susan Sulit and Gus de Leon, are presented below to share more about the priest.

John Patrick Delaney was born on March 6, 1906, in Liverpool, England, of Irish parents. Entering the Society of Jesus on February 2, 1922, at the tender age of 15, a month after graduation from Regis High School, New York City, he was ordained a priest in June, 1934, in Woodstock, Maryland.

He first came to the Philippines in 1928 as a Scholastic, for his regency. He was assigned to teach first year high school at the Ateneo, then in Intramuros. An extraordinarily successful and effective teacher, he also wrote two textbooks, “First Year English,” and the “The Ateneo Book of Short Stories,’ both of which were published by the Ateneo during his regency. These were reissued shortly after the World War II and used in Jesuit and other Catholic schools in the Philippines.

He had several other assignments and projects, which included: obtaining, in 1938, a doctorate in social philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome; directing the Vatican Radio for a year (1938-39), during which he brilliantly covered in marathon broadcasts the funeral of Pius XI and the election and subsequent coronation of Pius XII; setting up, in 1940, the Institute of Social Order (ISO) in New York and becoming its first director; and initiating, in March, 1943, the Family Retreat and nurturing the Family Renewal Association (FRA) as it spread throughout the eastern US.

Yet another change of assignment, and Father Delaney left the ISO, the FRA and the apostolate which had become dear to him, to return to the Philippines, in late 1945, to help rebuild the church after the war.

It was in 1946, while he was with the Ateneo in Padre Faura as high school principal and Dean of Studies that Father Delaney was introduced to the UPSCA at a Mass-Communion-Breakfast meeting and, shortly after, became UPSCA’s spiritual adviser. His famous LCM (Love, Courtship and Marriage) annual lecture series also began that year.

Late in 1948, the UP under President Bienvenido Gonzalez decided to transfer its main campus from Padre Faura to Diliman. The students, faculty and employees and their families moved to Diliman in January, 1949. FatherDelaney followed his UPSCAns to Diliman, continuing as UPSCA’s spiritual adviser and becoming chaplain of the community…

Father Delaney initially arranged to celebrate Mass regularly on Wednesdays and Sunday mornings (and on First Fridays and First Saturdays) for the Diliman community, gradually upgrading to a daily Mass schedule, all the while commuting from Ateneo campus in Padre Faura and back with much difficulty until a volunteer car shuttle service was arranged. After more than a year of commuting, his Jesuit superiors decided to relieve him of teaching and administrative duties in Ateneo, so that he may devote more time to the work at UP.

Taking up residence in UP Diliman, in cramped quarters beside the sacristy at the back of the old Chapel, Father Delaney directed his energies towards the spiritual growth of UPSCA and of the UP Catholic community. He also kept his door and his heart open at practically all hours to those who sought his priestly counsel – and these were many. Then, as now, the community consisted of a number of “permanent” campus residents and a larger proportion of “transient” students. For over six years, he and his flock underwent “this beautiful experiment on community living,” a Delaney-style campus ministry that closely welded priest and people…

Father Delaney’s UP chaplaincy was not without problems. His uncompromising stand on certain matters – on lavish socials, on barbaric fraternity initiations, on religion as a total way of life, on UPSCA’s participation in campus politics – earned his some well-placed enemies who drew him into the center of a campus controversy, in 1955, which strained relationships. The UP Catholic community’s strong stand in support of Father Delaney divided the university community. Over time, the heat of the conflict died sidetracked, Father Delaney saw to the completion of the new Chapel on schedule.

Father Delaney’s latest assignment having been completed with the inauguration of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice and the formation of the spiritual core for the future parish, God called him on January 12, 1956, into His rest.

Here are more on Father Delaney from Professor Evangelista’s “Some Historical Notes on Father John. P. Delaney, S.J.”

On the meaning of the Mass — “To Father Delaney, to know the Mass is to live the Mass, and to live the Mass is to accept religion as God’s way of life. If this is so, religion is not something confined to a little compartment of life, not a sacristy affair. There can be no room or what he called ‘incomplete Catholics’.”

He wrote that the priest spoke of a Catholicism, that, in Father’s words, must be ”intellectually secure, solidly grounded on reason and history”, a Catholicism that must be “complete, all embracing, penetrating every department of their living”, and finally a Catholicism that “must be sacrificial, centered in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, flowing outward from the Holy Sacrifice,” to the end that “their own lives may be lives of sacrificial service to fellowmen, to country and to God.”

Professor Evangelista also wrote: “Appealing to students was his presentation of religion as an active, vibrant, down-to-earth religion for men and women. He was a dynamic speaker, humorous, entertaining, master showman, yet what sank in deeply was the point he was trying to put across. He was light-hearted in his approach to sensitive issues yet there was an intellectual grounding for his argument.”

On U.P. education – “Father Delaney considered religious growth as part of UP education. He challenged the entering freshman to also plan his religious growth as part of his university development, arguing that a UP education was incomplete without religious growth unless the student preferred “to be University scholar and a religious moron at the same time.”

“In orienting the freshmen, he emphasized three main points : UP was a non-sectarian university respecting the free choice of religion…; non-sectarianism did not mean anti-religiousness or indifference to religion; the UP community was a deeply religious community.”

On campus politics – “There was no doubt that to his detractors, Father Delaney was a meddler in UP affairs, if not a Charlatan. But he had won over a very supportive community who practiced the precepts that he had preached by words and deeds. It was this thought and his own conviction that he was doing the right thing that might explain the following statement that he gave on June 27, 1954, and again on August 1, 1955 in defense against the accusation that he was a ‘meddler’.”

“….Does Father Delaney meddle? Definitely yes! Since 1946 I have meddled and meddled intimately in UPSCA and the lives of the UPSCAns. Since 1949 I have meddled and intimately meddle in the life of the Community and its Families. I begin my meddling at about 4:30 every morning, and I continue to meddle, frequently until midnight; not because I have any innate aversion to early retiring, but because you keep bringing your lives to me for my meddling…I shall continue to meddle as long as you and I are one in the intimate oneness of priest and people – as we have been, happily been, since first our pathways crossed in this beautiful experiment in community living which is our Diliman. I know not what in Manila or in Davao or in Baguio or in any other corner of the country the color of my skin and the place of my origin would make of me, but not here, not in Diliman, surely, not in Diliman am I “foreigner.” If I were, then I would have to ask in honest bewilderment – how much more of himself must a man give before he can become one of you? God loves you.”

Where the university — as part of broader society — was ground contributing to the flourishing and rise, or repudiations and demise, of emerging and evolving social and economic thoughts as communism, social democracy, existential capitalism, and secularization, Father Delaney’s struggles were similarly part of the ongoing challenges faced by the Catholic Church amidst changes of the times.

Today, the positions taken by Father Delaney in the controversy-laden university issues can certainly be viewed from another perspective, one with a half-century of history as principal ally.

Those who dearly hold him in esteem can say much about Father Delaney’s counsels and their value over time.

For a Jesuit who became, at one time, principal of the Ateneo High School, a special day is set in the Ateneo high school calendar to honor him and another priest. CalledDelaney Duffy Day, or D3 to today’s youth of contracted text messages, the day is also generally spent to honor the teachers in the school.

But to the UPSCANs and members of the UP Catholic Community whose lives he touched in the long years of his stay, one may ask when is Delaney Day? They would probably answer: Any day.

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