By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – It has been eight years since Fr. Frank Connon, a beloved Irish Redemptorist priest passed away. But his memory I fondly cherish.
A human rights activist and photographer since the time of the Marcos years and during the politically fragmented years of the early 1990s, Fr. Connon remained funny and forgiving. He chose to close his eyes forever in Cebu, whose language Cebuano he fluently spoke and used in celebrating Holy mass.
He said to me once, “death is just sleep, for we all are journeying into cosmos.”
In my darkest moments of fear and frustration, Fr. Connon had been there to provide straight to the point words of wisdom, laced with humor. My perspectives always got clearer after talking to him.
In 2004 and 2005, Fr. Connon commissioned me to produce video documentaries on the lives of Redemptorist priests Fr. Louie Hechanova and Fr. Leo English, author of the Tagalog English dictionary. He continued working for justice, side by side lowly farmers and fisherfolk, in the Philippines, always being light-hearted even in the most difficult times. He took over the justice and peace desk of the Redemptorist after the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano in 1985.
Fr. Connon knew the value of history. He had always been fond of documenting events, especially political events and archiving these. He wrote memoirs of Cebu’s anti-Marcos upheavals and published them in local newspapers.
Journalist and UP Mass Communications professor Diosa Labiste shares memories of Fr. Connon. “I remember Fr. Connon. We journeyed to Marihatag in 1989 to look into indigenous communities displaced by anti-guerilla sweeps of Tadtad religious fanatics and soldiers. I was with PNF-Cebu bureau then. He was fearless and so I tried to be brave when we were stopped at Tadtad checkpoints and when I interviewed visibly shaken refugees. I will not forget.”
When I left for the US in 2007, I had told him I will miss him and he had said, go go, life is a journey, enjoy enjoy the cosmos.” I laughed, as usual. Remembering him today, I think he made sense more than ever. In his latter years, Fr. Connon had arguably went beyond the political priest that he was. He became larger than life, saying that God is for all, for love and justice. (Featured photo is Redemptorist Church in Cebu from Google.com)