It was on Monday, 27th March 2017 that Fr. Pedro Molina García died at the age of 84 years in the Ruíz de Alda Hospital in Granada, Spain. He had being hospitalised urgently two days previously after suffering a heart attack.
Although his parents were originally from the Province of Granada (a place that was dear to his heart), Pedro was born on the 11th September 1932 in Cordoba, Spain. His parents had moved there because his father worked for the railways. It was in the seminary of the town that he did his philosophical studies.
Pedro entered the novitiate of the Missionaries of Africa in Maison-Carrée on the 27th September 1956. He did his theological studies at Carthage in Tunisia and it was there that he took his Missionary Oath on the 27th June 1960 followed by ordination to the priesthood on the 29th January 1961.
Pedro’s first and only appointment to Africa was to Burundi (also very dear to his heart). After some time learning the language, Fr. Molina worked in many different parishes: Gitongo, Bugenyuzi, Nyabiraba, Gitwenge, Mbogora, Ruyigi, Bukirazasi, Butwe and Rumeza. He had an artistic bent so he also spent some time at the Art school of Giheta.
In 1968, Pedro came to Rome for the Long Retreat at Villa Cavalletti and he then returned to Burundi and stayed there until 1974. He returned to Europe and was appointed to Italy where he worked in our houses in Marano, Trevigilio and Castelfranco. At the beginning of 1978, he returned to Burundi, this time to the parish of Ijene in the Diocese of Ngozi. He did not stay there long, however, as he had to return to Spain because of the failing health of his mother. Caring for her meant that he had to live outside of community. However, he did some pastoral work in a parish of Cordoba Diocese.
After his mother died in 1992, Pedro returned to Burundi. He undertook the building of the Church in Murore and looked after the decoration of the churches of Giharo and Ruyigi. In 1996, he had to leave the country definitively after a very serious motor-car accident which resulted in him losing his left arm. He was deeply affected and he had difficulty in getting over the accident even while carrying out different activities. With his artistic gifts, he remodelled the crypt at the Generalate. In 1997, Pedro was appointed to Canada where he rendered many services until 2004. He then returned to Spain definitively and was appointed to the community at Benicassim (Castellon).
At the beginning of his stay in Benicassim, Pedro’s health was relatively good. He showed interest in a lot of activities especially painting. He loved painting icons and he succeeded in producing a good number of them. He said that he had to paint them while kneeling. He also had an excellent collection of postage stamps to which he devoted a good many hours. He was delighted when his confreres sent him some. He also liked to read and actively participated in the different commitments of the community in pastoral work. However, his health began to decline slowly and that meant looking for other pursuits. He found it difficult to get around and this seemed to weigh him down so that he often remained closed up in room. It was only with the greatest reluctance that he accepted any help.
Pedro had to be hospitalised at Castellon on many occasions because of his health. After his last hospitalisation at the end of October 2016, he had to go to the El Oasis Nursing Home, which is beside the Missionaries of Africa residence in Benicassim. However, Pedro expressed a desire to return to Granada where his parents came from. He was brought to the Perpetuo Socorro Nursing Home in Santa Fe, Granada. It was there that he suffered his fatal heart attack on the 25th March 2017. He was brought to hospital but died two days later on the 27th March at 16.00 hours.
On the proposal of the Diocesan Head of Missionary Promotion in Granada, his body was waked in the Hall of Residence for Diocesan Priests. The Eucharistic celebration took place on Tuesday 28th March in the Parish of Nuestra Señora de Gracia in Granada, the former chapel of the Junior Seminary in the presence of members of his family from Granada and Cordoba as well as many relatives and friends of the Missionaries of Africa from Granada. During the Eucharist, presided over by Fr. José Morales, Provincial Delegate of the Spanish Sector of the Missionaries of Africa, Fr. Aurelio Sanjuan gave the homily and Fr. German Arconada gave an account of Fr. Pedro’s life in Burundi. Here are some extracts from what he said:
“Fr. Pedro arrived in Burundi in 1961 and something of him remained there forever and that something was much more than his left arm…Many times he bemoaned the loss of his arm which had forced him to leave the country prematurely…The last time I met Pedro was in Benicassim. He showed me a copy of the New Testament in Kirundi… He prayed better in Kirundi because that allowed him to present to God the many people that he had loved and known in Burundi…Pedro, now that you are near God, I am certain that you continue to love and pray for this country that so marked your life.”
The mortal remains of Fr. Pedro Molina García rest in the cemetery of Cordoba near that of his mother whom he loved so much.
May the Lord fill him with His happiness!
Agustín Arteche, M.Afr.