He could be among the first to receive recognition under new norms issued a few weeks ago. Details:
Brother Richie Fernando was a 26 year-old Jesuit seminarian from the Philippines when in 1996 he died protecting his Cambodian students from a hand grenade.
He is now on the road to sainthood, thanks to a norm issued by Pope Francis this summer that opens the door to canonization for those who have “voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.” Father Antonio Moreno, head of the Jesuits in the Philippines, told Rappler July 30 that the order had received permission to begin the initial work of opening Brother Fernando’s cause for canonization. Brother Richard (Richie) Fernando, S.J., arrived in Cambodia in 1995 to serve at a Jesuit mission which served people who had been disabled by polio, landmines, or other accidents. According to the Jesuits of the Asia Pacific Conference, Richie quickly earned the trust of his young students as he learned their native language and took the time to listen to their stories of suffering. One of his students was an orphan named Sarom, who became a soldier at 16 and was maimed by a landmine. Even while some at the mission found Sarom’s attitude troublesome, Richie wrote in letters to friends that Sarom still had a place in his heart. On October 17, 1996, Sarom came to the mission school for a meeting with the school director and staff. While he had finished classes, he had asked to continue at the school, though his request was denied because school officials found him disruptive. Angered, Sarom suddenly reached into his bag and pulled out a grenade, and moved towards a classroom full of students. The windows of the classroom were barred, so the students were trapped. Brother Richie stepped behind Sarom and grabbed him to prevent him from throwing the grenade. “Let me go, teacher; I do not want to kill you,” Sarom pleaded. But he dropped the grenade, and it fell behind him and Brother Richie, exploding and killing the Jesuit, who fell over Sarom, protecting him and everyone else in the school from the blast. Just four days before he died, Riche had written a long letter to his friend and fellow Jesuit, Totet Banaynal SJ: “I know where my heart is. It is with Jesus Christ, who gave all for the poor, the sick, the orphan … I am confident that God never forgets his people: our disabled brothers and sisters. And I am glad that God has been using me to make sure that our brothers and sisters know this fact. I am convinced that this is my vocation.” Read more:Sainthood cause launched for young Filipino Jesuit, who offered life for students
Photo: CNA/Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference