Fans, friends mourn Jesuit scholar’s loss

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QUEZON City, May 15, 2014—Friends, admirers, former students, colleagues, and fellow Jesuits are in mourning, following the demise on Wednesday, May 14, of Fr. John N. Schumacher SJ, an American-born historian who “chose to be Filipino”.

He was 86.

Everyone had a word of tribute for a man—and priest—whom almost every serious student of Philippine history looks up to as a legend.

Fr. John N. Schumacher, SJ and young historian Michael Charleston Chua with copies of the former's books (Photo: Michael Charleston Chua)

Historian Michael Charleston B. Chua who, as a student, read the Jesuit’s books, posted on micro-blogging site Twitter, “Fr. Schumacher, thanks for loving our country. Thanks for telling us about our heroes.”

Chua noted, “He [Schumacher] is the one who clarified in his works that the Propaganda Movement, although seemingly for assimilation, had nationalist aspirations. Some people disagree with his thesis, but they don’t have a whole book to argue with him. Always humble and productive, Fr. Schumacher will remain an inspiration to future generation of historians.”

Through its official Facebook page, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) heaped accolades on Schumacher, whom it cited for “advancing the field of Philippine historiography”.

Fellow Jesuit Madz Tumbali, in his post on Schumacher, said, “Our Lord, whose actions in human history you excellently wrote about, is with you now….Until our next historical updating! Thanks for the wisdom and friendship, Fr. Jack!”

Surprised by the Jesuit’s death, Norman Owen, former professor at the University of Hong Kong, commented, “He [Schumacher] was not only a first-rate historian, but a man whose grace was extended even to those who had written critical reviews of his books—as I once did! I am glad that I later had the opportunity to nominate him for the Grant Goodman Prize in Philippine History, of which he became the first recipient. We are all diminished by his departure.”

History professor Alvin Campomanes of the University of Asia and the Pacific, in an open message to Schumacher on Facebook, posted, “You will always be alive in my Philippine history and Rizal classes because we read the essays that you wrote. I will always treasure the memory of our first and last meeting in the Jesuit residence in Ateneo. Even in your old age, you kept on writing about our past. Thank you. I’ll see you again some day, Fr. Jack! Rest in peace. Consumatum est.”

For many years, Schumacher taught Church history courses at the LST.

He authored and published several books and articles including “The Propaganda Movement, 1880-1895’’; ‘‘Readings in Philippine Church History’’; “Early Filipino Jesuits, 1593-1930”; “Recent Perspective on the Revolution”; ‘‘Father Jose Burgos: Priest and Nationalist’’; and many other scholarly works, which have become required reading in Philippine studies classes.

In October 2011, the Catholic Mass Media honored Schumacher with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his outstanding contributions to Philippine scholarship. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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