The Roman Catholic community, thousands of past students as well as Garifuna communities are tonight mourning the passing of a beloved pastor and educator who dedicated his entire life in service to Christ and to Belize. Ninety-two year old John Stochl, senior member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, died Sunday night at ten-thirty local time from complications of a stroke in his native Saint Louis, Missouri. He had been in Belize for sixty-five years as a pastor and educator, touching many lives. Showing an early affinity for the Garifuna culture, he played a major role in converting many Garinagu to Catholicism by exposing them to Christian teachings in their language. Correspondent Aaron Humes has a report on the impact Father Stochl had on Belize.
Aaron Humes, Reporting
At the Luba Garifuna Museum this afternoon on Fern Lane, Garifuna elder Sebastian Cayetano has put up a memorial to his friend and pastor, the late Father John Stochl.
Sebastian Cayetano, Parishioner, St. Martin de Porres Church
“This is the bag, Father Stochl’s personal bag, that he contributed to the Luba Garifuna Museum [on] twenty-fourth May, 2006. And in this bag, he gave me these booklets. Familia Gunfuliti, Holy Family in Garifuna; and this was the first publication, Lubeneri Sielu, dating back 1951. Father Stochl, Theodore Palacio, Candido Arzu, and many of the Garifuna St. John’s College students at the time. Then here is this very, very impressive letter, written by Theodore Palacio to Father Stochl. Barranco, British Honduras third January, 1952.”
And around the corner at St. Martin de Porres Parish Church, current pastor Father Matthew Ruhl describes the former Jesuit mission superior, pastor and educator as a ‘man of the people,’ whose example other Belizean Jesuits were expected to follow.
Father Matt Ruhl, Pastor, St. Martin de Porres Church
“He was beloved! That’s what he was. When I got here, people said, “Father, we need you to get out, like Father Stochl; we need you get out and around, like Father Stochl.” And so, Stochl had a bike, and fortunately I like bikes too; so I take his example, and I do what the people tell me. But he was a man of the people; he was truly a man of the people.”
For Cayetano, Father Stochl was a friend to the Garifuna people, among the first to tap into the rich potential of their unique culture.
“Father Stochl became acquainted with our Garinagu boy students, way back from 1950’s. In 1951, Ted Palacio, Candido Arzu and the rest of them wrote Lubeneri Sielu, the first Garifuna catechism, produced by Father Stochl and St. John’s College boys, way back then. Around 1999, 2000, we established the Garifuna Choir, the Belize City Garifuna Choir; along with my uncle, Theodore Palacio, along with Father Stochl. And then, Father Stochl was so much in love with our music that he decided to dedicate the third Sunday of the month to the Garifuna Choir. It’s a Garifuna-English mass that we celebrate at St. Martin’s; and even up to now, we still the celebrate the third Sunday Garifuna Mass at St. Martin’s.”
Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
Father Stochl received a Meritorious Service Award from the Government of Belize in 2011 and was a naturalized Belizean citizen. However, he will be laid to rest in Saint Louis. A memorial Mass will be held in Belize at a time and date to be announced. Father Stochl dead at ninety-two.
Jesuit who dedicated life to Belize passes away
Fr. Jack Stochl S.J. was most recently known to the parishoners or St. Martin DePorres in Belize City. He was also a former Headmaster of St. John's Junior College High School Division. Anyone who remembers him also knew of his parrot. A quiet humble man who spent many years in Belize.
He passed away peacefully last night. May he rest in peace. As the SJC boys would say "Hail the white and blue!"
Father John Stochl Dead at 92; Beloved Jesuit Pastor and Educator