May 30, 2012
Peace. Today we received news that Fr Pierre Ceyrac died early this morning in Chennai at the age of 98. Born on 4 February 1914 in Limozane, France, Pierre had one sister and 5 brothers. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1931. Being destined for India, he studied Sanskrit at the University of Paris and departed for Chennai in 1937. There in addition to the normal studies for priesthood, he studied Tamil literature. He was ordained a priest in 1945. 16 years of his life was given to AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation), which brought him to many parts of India and to deep engagements with young people.
In 1980 Pierre went to Thailand with a Caritas India team to assist the Cambodian refugees who had come in great numbers across the border as the Vietnamese army did battle with the Khmer Rouge. Pierre and several Jesuit companions, notably John Bingham and Noel Oliver, stayed on to be the founding members of a Jesuit Refugee Service program for Asia Pacific. They accompanied the Cambodian refugees until their return in 1993.
Pierre was fond of quoting a line of a Tamil poet, Thayumandvar: "Apart from wanting people to be happy, I want nothing else from live, God". He would also often refer to St John of the Cross, who famously said: "At the end of our lives we will be judged by love".
Pierre was a wonderful friend for the poor, a person who would be ready to exclaim "Wonderful!" in all circumstances - he had an infectious optimism, a deep sense of God's love for all. On one occasion at the Thai Cambodian border an exasperated UN offficial called Pierre an "unguided missile". Pierre fretted for a short time, fearing the official would seek to prevent him from entering the camps. But on seeing that he was still unrestrained, he delighted in the epithet, because he felt he was being labelled as a person who was free. He most certainly was a free spirit, and his freedom gave him joy and brought joy to others.
Do remember Pierre in solidarity of prayers and love for him and for all whom he loved and who loved him.
Mark Raper SJ