Celba John FSC
Birth in Co Laois, Ireland: [3 March 1886]
Brother John, F.S.C
Rev. Brother John, F.S.C., Headmaster of St. Joseph’s College, Hong Kong, from 1937 to 1949, died in Manila on Thursday, 16 April 1964, aged 78.
Brother John was born in
Ireland in 1886. He joined the Christian Brothers in 1904. He went to New York
in 1906 and was there till 1911, when he was sent to Manila. The remaining 53
years of his life were devoted to work in the Far East, chiefly in Manila and
24 April 1964
Brother John, F.S.C.
The brief announcement of Brother John, F.S.C., published last week, gave only the most inadequate indication of the work he did here and elsewhere, and no idea at all of the man who did that work.
Brother John was Director of St. Joseph’s College for 16 years (1936-52) and was entrusted with the onerous task of re-establishing the college after the Japanese Occupation. The outstanding characteristics which endeared him to his pupils, their parents, Old Boys, were humbleness, understanding and desire to help anyone under all circumstances. He spent much of his early life in the Philippines and returned to Manila after his retirement from active teaching.
The following is an excerpt from the tribute paid to him in the Philippines Herald.
Because he was a good man it is obvious that the Lord loved him much and granted his wish. Brother C. John of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a humble man with a great mind and a big heart, was buried in Philippine soil. This was no mere accident. Away since 1937 from the Philippines, to the education of whose youth he had dedicated his great talents and most of the years of his apostleship, it was only upon his retirement from active teaching in 1960 that he was given a special assignment in Manila. But his heart had never left the Philippines. So the other day, his life’s work magnificently done at the age of 78, unobtrusively, quietly, Brother John passed away to join the saints in Heaven.
By modern human standards, Brother C. (his pupils never found out until very recently what C stood for: it stood for the name ‘Celba’ and the good Brother must have considered it too oddsounding to disclose it!) John may not rate a footnote in Philippine history. He was not a soldier, he was not a politician, and he was exceedingly shy. A commanding personality in the classroom, he would nevertheless blush a healthy pink at the mere sight of his name in the papers. But he was a great man. Thousands of Filipinos are better and more successful men because theirs was the good fortune of having been Brother John’s pupils.
Although he specialized in mathematics, Brother John belonged to that breed of pedagogical titans who taught every subject and well. He commanded both the respect and the affection of his studies. We all felt close enough to him to disclose youthful intimacies, but nobody dared take liberties with him. Brother John was never known to have raised either his voice or his hand to deter or punish mischief. He was strict without being a Prussian drillmaster.
As Brother John was
being buried and we were praying for Eternal Rest, we were reminded of a passage
from the Meditations of St. John Baptist de La Salle. He must have read
it many a time when the burdens of his work must have weighed heavily on him:
“What happiness is in store for a Brother of the Christian Schools when he shall
see a large number of his pupils in possession of eternal life, thanks to him,
through the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What an interchange of rejoicing
there will be then between master and pupil; what a union, in God, between their
souls. What a happiness both will experience considering how rich in glory is
that inheritance found among the saints.”
1 May 1964
◆ The Gateway Hong Kong Lasallian Family Bulletin Thirteenth Issue, The Lasallian Family Hong Kong, 2009.