05 January 2016

Columban Fr Geoffrey Revatto RIP

Fr Geoffrey Revatto
(15 October 1925 - 28 December 2015)

Fr Geoffrey (Geoff) Revatto was born on 15 October 1925 at Guileen, Whitegate, County Cork, Ireland. He was educated at Guileen National School and at St Colmanʼs College, Fermoy, County Cork. He came to St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1943 and was ordained priest there on 21 December 1949.

Sipalay Beach [Wikipedia]

He was assigned to the Philippines and to the the Diocese of Bacolod on the island of Negros, Philippines. At the time the diocese covered the whole of the province of Negros Occidental. He spent the next twenty-seven years in various assignments on Negros, including La Castellaña, Sipalay, Ma-ao Central, Dancalan, Binalbagan and Biscom. Biscom is a large sugar mill located in Binalbagan and had its own priest for many years.

Sugarcane trucks, Philippines [Wikipedia]

Father Geoff served for three years on mission promotion in Ireland from 1978 to 1980. Then he was once again assigned to Negros where he served as Bursar in Batang, Himamaylan, the central house for the Columban District of Negros, for five years and then as Pastor in Cauayan in the Diocese of Bacolod.

Mount Kanlaon, from the east [Wikipedia]
Mt Kanlaon dominates much of northern Negros. La Castellaña, one of the parishes where Father Geoff served, is at its base.

In 1988 he was appointed back to Ireland, where he took up various tasks in the Far East offices. (Far East is the the Columban magazine for Ireland and Britain). Even as he gradually lost the use of his legs, he continued to drive in a specially modified car and to faithfully put in a dayʼs work in the offices. By the year 2000 he had to give up that activity also.

Father Geoff was a quiet, dedicated, patient man who rarely complained as his health deteriorated and even the simplest activities demanded huge effort. He enjoyed a joke, the company of fellow-Columbans and always found ways of contributing to the life of the community. He died peacefully in the Columban Nursing Home, Dalgan Park on 28th December 2015.

Fr Thomas Revatto, also a Columban, spoke briefly at the funeral Mass. Father Tom was ordained one year before his brother.

May he rest in peace.

St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park

Homily at Fr Geoff Revatto’s Funeral Mass

St Columban's, Dalgan Park, 31 December 2015

by Fr Donal Hogan

I was one of a group of Columbans who arrived in the late 1960s in Negros.  Geoff, Tom (his brother) and so many of the pioneers on the island since 1950 were so supportive of us young ones.  Their experience, friendship and sound advice helped us greatly during those first years. In fact, I see one of the last group of Columbans to be assigned in Negros in the early 1970s is with us today – Jim Martin, and I know that for him, too, the friendship of Geoff and Tom were a great source of encouragement and support.  

I often wondered how on earth these pioneers managed without older Columbans to guide them when they first arrived.  No doubt it was by the grace of God and the support of one another.

Geoff is now at peace with the Lord.  He has been received into the loving embrace of his heavenly Father in the company of his parents, sister  Mary and many Columban confreres, especially his friends from Negros – Mark Kavanagh, Des Quinn, Sean Holloway and so many others.

In the Gospel Jesus says, ‘Come to me . . .’  the final call of the Lord to Geoff . . . 'and I will give you rest.'  In another place the Lord says ‘Come , my beloved . . .  winter is past . . . darkness is over and the light has come.'  Geoff has now been welcomed into the light of God’s presence.

In the first reading we heard, ‘It is good to wait in silence for the Lord to save’.  This echoes the psalmist, ‘Be still before the Lord and wait in patience.’ Observing Geoff during these last years he lived these scriptures.  He was so patient in accepting the limitations his failing health brought to him.  He maintained his good humour, courtesy and kindness.  There was a calmness and contentment about him.  Clearly his prayer was  'Not my will but thy will be done.’  His presence was a blessing for us all.

The second reading says:  ‘The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.’ Geoff touched the lives of so many people – especially the poor in Negros, I think in particular of the parish of Sipalay which had been without a resident priest for 50 years till Geoff arrived in the early 1950s.  His presbytery was a simple  nipa house. In the dry season the parish could be reached by road but in the rainy season only by boat. 

A traditional nipa hut [Wikipedia]
The people in the photo are exercising 'Bayanihan', an expression of a Philippine communal value very similar to that of the Irish 'Meitheal'.

For recreation Geoff played bridge and golf when the opportunity arose.

Regarding the golf when I arrived in Negros in 1969, Tom and his brother Geoff, together with Mark Kavanagh and Jack Hynes (both deceased) had a regular four-ball with all competing fiercely.  Then I arrived – the new kid on the block.  One week Geoff challenged me to a game.  As Noel said last night, I had a feeling I was walking into an ambush.  On the first tee Geoff said ‘We’ll play strokes’ I was a bit surprised as usually it would have been match play - where it’s hole by hole.  But he knew what he was about. He was short and straight I hit longer but wilder – the ball could end up anywhere!  We went along till 10th hole – he was one stroke up.  Then I chalked up 10 strokes to his 4 on the 10th and never recovered after!

Where the 'exploits' above took place [Source]

In more recent times when Geoff was confined to the wheelchair, I remember at lunch complaining about the terrible day’s golf.  Geoff smiled and said to me, ‘Any day you can play golf is a "Good Day!"'  It was so true and made me realise how much I take for granted in life.

In the 1970s Geoff was assigned on Mission Promotion in Ireland and spent some time in the Cathedral Parish in Waterford and in Gort, County Galway.  He is fondly remembered by the local clergy and the people.   He had wide interests – he was a good golfer and bridge player and enjoyed the horses. 

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Waterford [Wikipedia]

One day in 1981 he received a phone call from superior in Negros asking him if he would come back and take up the position of Bursar in our central house in Negros.  Without hesitation he accepted and again in the central house his kindly and always supportive presence was much appreciated by Columbans young and old,  especially as that time was a stressful time with Niall O’Brien having been jailed with the other members of what became known as the Negros Nine.  Geoff was regularly in the courtroom to give support to those falsely accused.

A psalm Geoff often recited that is also a favourite of some family members is ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want’.  The last few verses are so appropriate for this occasion:  ‘You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes.  My head you have anointed with oil, my cup is overflowing.’  Indeed the final verse sums up Geoff’s life, ‘Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.  In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell forever and ever.’

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal - May his noble soul rest in peace.

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