April 11, 2020 - Fr. John H., as he was known, was born on Eauripik Island in the Micronesian state of Yap, the son of Thomas Hiemal and Teresa Legapomog and the second of 10 children. He graduated from Xavier High School, Chuuk in 1973. He was a Jesuit for nearly 45 years and a priest for 34 years.
His Jesuit life began and ended in the Philippines, but, aside from some formation in the United States, most of his apostolic service took place in Micronesia.
After a pre-novitiate program at the Ateneo de Manila from 1973-1975, John Stephen Hagileiram entered the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches on May 30, 1975. He pronounced his first vows as a Jesuit on May 31, 1977. Then he spent two years at the Loyola House of Studies, Quezon City. He returned to Micronesia for regency at Xavier High School (1979-1982), where he taught English, Religion, and Micronesian Social Studies. He was known for his laughter and good humor even during a turn as Dean of Discipline there.
Theological studies took him to the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley from 1982-1985 (M.Div.) and 1988-1989 (M.Th.). He was ordained a priest on his home island on December 10, 1985 by Bishop Martin Neylon, S.J. Then Fr. Hagileiram served for three years at Queen of Heaven Parish in Ulithi, Yap. He completed tertianship at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx, New York (1989-1990) and pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit on June 21, 1991 in Pohnpei, Micronesia.
Fr. John H. was a pastor at heart. Between 1990 and 2009, he was primarily in Woleai, Yap, often with overlapping roles as Pastor of St. Ignatius Parish, Episcopal Vicar for Yap, and Superior for Yap and Palau. Training lay church leaders was a vital part of his ministry in Woleai. He also served as director of St. Ignatius House of Studies in Guam from 1995-1998. There he assisted young Micronesian men in their vocational discernment while they studied at the University of Guam.
In 2009 Fr. Hagileiram was appointed Regional Superior of the Dependent Region of Micronesia, serving in that role until 2014. Among the Major Superiors of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, he was known for his love of the Church and Society, his lightheartedness, and his “transparent goodness.” Also during that time, he promoted a new educational venture on the main island of Yap. Yap Catholic High School opened in 2011. The New York Jesuits who arrived that year to found both the academic programs and physical plant of YCHS learned quickly to watch what they said, because it seemed that Fr. John H. was related to everyone in the State of Yap!
In 2016, his physical decline prompted his move to the Jesuit Health and Wellness Center in Manila. Despite his inability to get around, Fr. Hagileiram served as a spiritual director, enjoyed many visitors, and maintained an active online presence, staying in touch with friends and family throughout Micronesia, the Philippines, and the U.S. Even during his last few weeks, when he was no longer able to communicate well, social media was abuzz with loved ones sharing their happy memories of Fr. John H. He passed away peacefully on Good Friday afternoon, April 10, 2020.
The customary novena prayers and rosary are taking place each evening across the Micronesian islands (including Eauripik) and abroad.
There will be no public wake and funeral at this time. Fr. Hagileiram has been cremated. Beginning on Easter Sunday, his ashes will be kept for a few days in the Oratory of St. Ignatius at Loyola House of Studies and then preserved in the Chapel of the Beatitudes at the Jesuit Health and Wellness Center. Public services and burial will be held after the coronavirus pandemic has diminished.
Sacred Heart Novitiate Cemetery, Novaliches, Philippines