Fr Manuel Carracedo SJ was 91 years old when he died at Blacktown Hospital a fortnight ago, on 15 October. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1947 and was ordained in Oña, Spain, the country of his birth, on 16 July 1962. He arrived in Australia in July 1978 and was a devoted pastor to the Spanish Community in NSW for more than 40 years. A Requiem Mass for the repose of Fr Manuel’s soul was held at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ridge St, North Sydney on Thursday 26 October before his burial at the Macquarie Park Cemetery.
This, the first of two eulogies, was delivered by his nephew, Juan Carracedo, who lovingly referred to him as Tio (Uncle) Manolo:
“I feel very proud to be here representing the Carracedo family, Fr Manuel’s biological family, because in truth his “real” family was the community of Spanish speakers of Sydney, all those present here. He himself acknowledged this by choosing this place as his last destination and as the place where he would rest definitively, renouncing the possibility of returning to Spain, to his origins, despite the suggestion (or demand!) of his own brother Justo when, with the difficulties inherent to age, his activity was already decreasing. He always stated that his place was here.
“On behalf of my sister Maria Teresa and myself, I would like to express our most sincere gratitude for the series of events and circumstances, and especially the determination of all the people, that have made my presence possible at this farewell ceremony for Fr Manuel: the Jesuit Community, for delaying this funeral so I could be present here; the entire community of ‘cursillistas’ (cursillo members) and several people who have helped, welcomed and assisted me during my trip and stay here in Sydney: Lidia, Diana and Simon, Sergio…
“Thank you also for assisting and accompanying Father Manuel in his last moments and for helping him have what Christians ask our Lord with prayer, which is nothing other than a good death.
“Fr Manuel is the last to depart from a family of five siblings, four of them religious: two sisters of the Holy Family Congregation (Felisa and Vitorina) and two members of the Society of Jesus (Jose Maria and Manuel) and one more (Justo), our father who, together with our mother Maria Pilar, formed the Carracedo Planelles family. Five years ago, during the last week of September, we said goodbye to our father Justo and our mother Pilar. About three weeks ago we said goodbye to Sr Sagrario, Manuel’s sister, and today we say goodbye to him, Fr Manuel.
“Not all separation is absence, neither is all silence oblivion. This phrase could be a summary or maxim that defines the relationship we have always had within the Carracedo family. All the siblings left their paternal home at a very young age to join different boarding schools for their formation. The distance which separated them from their loved ones was not always easy to bridge, as it required several days of travel … and the ‘silences’ they caused—they did not have the technological means we have today—were only interrupted by the many epistolary letters that circulated among family members, sharing with each other the news of their lives and transmitting their best wishes to one another.
“Recently we found some of these handwritten letters and, curiously, one of them shared the news of my own birth and baptism! In our family, things were organised depending on when the uncles went on holidays, because they were expected to be involved in family events. That is why I was baptised the same day I was born, because I was a little late in arriving and my uncle (Fr Jose Maria) had to return to his work, and he had to be the one to baptise me.
“Today, in the family home, we still maintain the tradition of having our Christmas celebration on New Year’s Eve, as it was done in the past, because that was when my uncles could be there, since on Christmas Eve they had their own obligations. Even now, the last thing we do, before ending the year with the Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight, is to go to church to share a prayer of thanksgiving, pray for the deceased in the family and for help for everyone in the new year.
“Well, as I mentioned, the ‘separation’ did not always translate into ‘absence’, nor did the ‘silences’ turn into ‘oblivion’, because the Carracedo family, despite everything, has always remained very united and we have felt very present to each other. Those letters that I mentioned before, in the early years, and later on the telephone calls, provided us with that minimum contact which contributed to maintaining this union.
“All of this was always welcomed ‘under the umbrella’ of praying for each other as the central place for all our communications and which also marked all family events. Both Fr Manuel and his sister, Sr Sagrario, in their recent calls—since the letters had stopped circulating years ago—transmitted to us the prayers that they offered daily for each member of the family. Those prayers bore fruit in the way they helped keep the family together.
“As I said before, today we say goodbye to Fr Manuel, the last member of a family that lived giving itself to others, and who knew how to win the affection of everyone who met him.
“Today I dare raise a prayer for him to the Lord, to keep him in His presence, as was his main desire, so that he continues to pray for us.
“And I also pray for all of us who remain here, joining in the prayers of Fr Manuel, so that we learn from the example of his life. May we, like him, receive the affection of all those around us. And above all, when our own moment of farewell arrives, they can say about us what without a doubt today we all think of Fr Manuel: He was a good person. he was a good man.
The second eulogy was delivered by Lidia Serrano, a member of the Spanish-speakers community and also a good friend of Fr Manuel:
“It is not easy to share these words, which are ‘soaked’ with sorrow, but also with immense affection for our dear Fr Manuel.
“We all already know about his life and missionary work in Australia. Therefore, today I would like to share with you his last words, which were the following:
‘I always pray for everyone,
for those who remember me and those who do not,
for those who love me and those who don’t.
I have always been and will always be the Chaplain of the (Sydney) Spanish-speakers community.’
“It is for all this that we should be grateful for his prayers, teachings and great support in our lives.
“And, why not say it, also happy, since finally, as he always longed for, the day has arrived when he can meet face-to-face with his friend Jesus.
“And as a great and clear example of this, I share with you this gift from our dear Fr Manuel to all of us here. It is a poem titled Your faithful dog:”
Jesus, it occurs to me sometimes that I am your faithful dog;
always, always following after You since I was very little.
I don’t know what noose you’ve put around my neck;
But you pull me ever so gently… and I follow you so happily…
I will never leave this occupation, nor do I want to have another owner.
I go wherever You take me, even if it is a little far…
And when you ask me to do something, I do it the best I can.
Sometimes I get tired and stop, but I never, never leave you;
You just give it a little tug and soon I start moving again.
It’s true that on one occasion you gave me a powerful tug.
I was very troubled, tempted and confused;
But as soon as I saw how you looked at me, all my fears fled.
I don’t know exactly why I follow you and love you, Jesus.
I only know that I’m going with you—
and I’m completely honest in saying this to you—
Immensely happy to be your faithful dog.