Martin Legarra (1910-1985), Augustinian Recollect.

The Augustinian Recollect Martín Legarra Tellechea (1910-1985) was a direct witness of several great events of the 20th century. He developed his ministerial service with optimism, sympathy and communication skills. His life as a missionary, educator and bishop could have served as a movie script.

From 1931 to 1961, the Philippines hosted Fray Martín. His ministerial work develops successively in three large, highly differentiated areas: the parish apostolate, government service and the educational apostolate. His first residence is the convent of Saint Nicholas of Intramuros of Manila, where he finished his Theology and received the ordinations of subdeacon, deacon and priest (March 19, 1933).

His first destination is Calapán, in Mindoro, as parochial vicar of whom he had been his novice master, Fray Hilario Vega. He studies Tagalog while serving as a priest to simple people. This ministry together with the most disadvantaged it will accompany him, in one way or another, throughout his life.

Seven months later he is appointed parochial vicar of Cavite and Catholic chaplain from the US base in Cañacao. Three experiences broaden his mindset: the apostolate in English, the encounter with the military sphere and ecumenism.

Since Martín never learned to drive, this led to many meetings and opportunities. The large hospital on the military base frequently requested the urgent services of fray Martin. It was the Protestant chaplain who was going to look for him in his vehicle. This daily experience of collaboration and good witness led him to say years later: “Such an example of Christian collaboration taught a lot to respect, to understand and… to love!”.

After three months he is sent to Pola (Mindoro) because the Recollect religious who serves there is sick and someone must take care of the parish.

In 1935 Martín is sent back to Manila, to the Basilica of San Sebastián, where a very popular image of the Virgen del Carmen is venerated. Not anymore he will leave the capital. At the nearby school of the Augustinian Recollects Sisters, he also has his first contact with the educational apostolate.

During this time he launched his vocation as a popularizer. Correspondent in Philippines for the Bulletin of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, he becomes present at major events. And he runs All Missionaries magazine during the time when his offices are located in Manila. This leads him to be named Secretary of the Executive Committee and member of the Propaganda Committee of the XXXIII International Eucharistic Congress of Manila (February 1937). And he will be editor and author in the collective work Catholic Missions in the Far East.

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