Ever-smiling missionary to the Philippines passes away at Techny

Father Charles Scanlon, 1927-2013

Scanlon,_Fr_Charles_for_webFather Charles Scanlon, a longtime missionary in the Philippines, passed away at Techny, Ill., on Wednesday, April 3, a few weeks shy of his 86th birthday.

Father Scanlon, who spent much of his priesthood working in education and formation, served more than four decades as a missionary in the Philippines—teaching in Divine Word schools and colleges in the regions of Tagbilaran, Bohol, Tacloban, Leyte and Vigan and as chaplain of St. Therese Chapel at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños in Laguna, Philippines.

In 1955, Father Scanlon, who studied in Girard, Penn., and Techny, Ill., received his mission cross from Cardinal Thomas Tien, SVD, a week before departing for the Philippines. Father Scanlon returned to the United States in 1967 to serve as vocations director for the Midwest, a position he held until 1970 when he went back to the Philippines, where he completed his years as a full-time missionary. Last year he celebrated 65 years in religious vows.

"He loved the Philippines," said Father Thomas Ascheman, SVD, provincial superior of the Society of the Divine Word – Chicago Province. "Having grown up in a large Irish family during the Great Depression, Chuck’s family—like many families during that era—financially struggled. Because of his childhood, he wholeheartedly related to the people whom he served."

In addition to providing education and pastoral care, Father Scanlon also was involved in social services, such as delivering food to the needy. In his letters home he wrote of the harsh weather, economic poverty, oppression of the Marcos regime and tuberculosis that plagued the community. At one point in his teaching career during the 1960s, he was using a set of encyclopedias that was so old that the term "airplane" was not in it.

For a time, he worked in Sorsogon, a remote section of the Philippines and wrote, "For most of the year, a boat trip to Sorsogon is quite dangerous and the road to Manila exists mainly in the people’s memory. It takes forever to get an air-mail letter from anyplace and a little bit longer for any letter to make the return trip.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1927, he was fifth of Mabel (Bond) and Thomas Scanlon’s nine children. He began his studies with the Society of the Divine Word in 1941, professed vows in 1947 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954. After his decades in the Philippines, he returned to the United States when his health began to decline and took up residence at Techny in 2002.

Father Scanlon is survived by two sisters—Mabel Ray and Rene Weber. His visitation and funeral Mass took place on Friday, April 12, at the Divine Word Residence at Techny. He is interned at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Scanlon can be made for the care of retired missionaries and may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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