P. MODESTO SANTAMARTA YUGUEROS (1921-2016)
Eight years ago, Fr. Modesto published a book which was entitiled Reflections. Searching for the Truth. It gathers together brief texts on diverse themes which he was treating, principally, during his first years of pastoral work in the Parish of Ntra. Madre del Buen Consejo in Leon, Spain. To search for the truth in things is the task demanded of every human being. Fr. Modesto searched since he was a boy, in the family environment of profound convictions of his parents Daniel and Maris Carmen, the truth about God, but in reality, it was the Truth itself with a capital “T”, the truth that he encountered in himself and which called him to be an Augustinian and a priest. Fr. Modesto was ordained a priest on 31 March 1945, just exactly about six months before the ending of the Second World War. He was 24 years old. From the bishop who imposed hands on him he heard with attention two truths which were inscribed on his heart with the fire of love which he made his own until his last breath. One was that the priesthood which not just the action of one moment but rather a commitment that was forever. The other was that the priesthood did not belong to him; it was from Christ, who had chosen him for himself as an instrument in order to place him as father, brother friend, counselor, confidant and guide for every man and woman who would cross his path from that moment on. On the other hand, it meant that Fr. Modesto was to offer himself to all selflessly without holding anything back for himself. All along the path of the almost 95 years of his fruitful life, Fr. Modesto found thousands of distinct ways to bring into practice the advice that he heard from the bishop who ordained him. Many are those who benefited on more than one occasion in this selfless, serene but vigorous, calm and patient way in which Fr. Modesto exercised his priesthood. There are many witnesses of that way of acting even up until the very same day on which his weakened health became irreversible and did not permit him to spend uncountable hours in the confessional. Without doubt inspired by Mary the Mother of Good Counsel, many and good were the counsels which Fr. Modesto dispensed tirelessly so that people of every condition and age encountered how to walk by the paths of mercy that God offers us in order to achieve pardon. A priest, without doubt, Fr. Modesto was above all, an Augustinian. Few could imagine the love and determination that he applied to his studies of philosophy, theology, and the seriousness with which he took his vows, which he pronounced for the first time on 30 October 1938 and which his superiors saw for themselves. He occupied himself with works of responsibility and began his teaching career as professor of Philosophy in the University of Goiania (Brazil). In the Province of Castile he was Provincial Secretary from 1960 to1963. For two consecutive periods from 1963 to 1969 he was elected Prior Provincial. The years in which Fr. Modesto served in those posts were, without doubt, easy for no religious superior. Those time coincided with that epoch of comings and goings in the Church which characterized the first attempts to carry out the directives of Vatican Council II. Religious Orders suffered and the Augustinians were no exception. Above all, he knew how to risk the new without leaving behind at the same time the old in order to draw out the best part. His mandte as prior provincial finished, Fr. Modesto, after a brief stay of two years in Valencia, Spain as Prior and Director of the Colegio Santo Tomas de Villanueva, he was called to Rome to form part of the governing team of the Order of Saint Augustine.
Thus, from 1971 to 1977 he fulfilled the office of Assistant General, which obliged him to travel to a multitude of countries and in this way to come in contact with many distinct social, political, cultural and religious realities which enriched above all his inquisitive spirit. He was Assistant General the during the first period of governance of Fr. Theodore Tack. Fr. Modesto helped Fr. Tack very much in those complicated years after the Council. During those six years of service in the General Curia, his effectiveness, understanding and cordiality resulted in great help to many friars, showing himself always as an authentic father to others.
There is another facet in the life of Fr. Modesto that merits to be pointed out: his work as professor in the Colegio Nuestra Madre del Buen Consejo de León, Colegio Santo Tomás de Villanueva de Valencia and Colegio San Agustín de Alicante. Fr. Modesto demonstrated that he possessed a special talent to connect with children and with youth. He succeeded in transforming the religion classes into windows and doors for the students to enter into the air of reflection on profoundly human and meaningful questions. His classroom was a continual coming and going of youth who entered with their preoccupations and left form there relieved, comforted and peaceful. He dedicated much time to bring families together, to direct many youth with vocational questions and to help them come to know that which he truly was: a man of profound and solid faith, a man of deeply rooted convictions and with an open mind who knew how to draw near to and listen to all without asking them if they believed in God with the same intensity with which he did. From Saint Augustine there is a phrase “One does not honor the dead by rendering them worship but by imitating them” (De vera religione, 55, 108). May the God of all mercy receive with honors Fr. Modesto and give us the strength to imitate him in his many virtues with which he always gave himself so generously to his vows as an Augustinian, to his priestly ministry, to his teaching and to the service of authority. May he rest in peace.