May 20, 2020 - Father A. Ferdinand Derrera, SJ, died May 15, 2020, in Grand Coteau, La. He was 96 years old, a Jesuit for 68 years and a priest for 58 years.
The social-distancing orders in place because of the coronavirus pandemic required Fr. Derrera’s funeral to be celebrated quietly on May 19. Burial was in the St. Charles College cemetery in Grand Coteau.
Ferd Derrera was born in Segundo, Colo., on Oct. 9, 1923, to Fred and Theresa Gonzales Derrera. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by three brothers and two sisters. He is survived by his sisters Alice Ann Ten Eyck, Martha Sanchez, and Maxine Duran, and his brothers Ruben and Lawrence DeHerrera.
Father Derrera served in the U.S. Army from April 1943 to October 1945, in the European Theater of Operations during World War II and was part of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Following his discharge after the war, he attended Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1950.
He entered the Society of Jesus on Sept. 7, 1951, at Grand Coteau and pronounced his First Vows on Sept. 8, 1953. He was ordained to the priesthood July 30, 1961, at Loyola in Azpeitia, Spain. He pronounced Final Vows on Aug. 15, 1976 at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau.
The first part of Fr. Derrera’s apostolic life was spent in secondary education. He taught at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas 1964-67, and then spent a year in El Paso earning a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Texas, El Paso, and assisting at Sacred Heart Church, the Jesuit parish. Subsequently he was assigned to the Minor Seminary of the Corpus Christi Diocese, where for six years he was rector of the seminary, principal and superior of the Jesuit community.
From 1974 to 1977 he taught in the public schools of the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, along with several other Jesuits who did the same after the closure of Jesuit High School of El Paso. In 1977, he returned to the Corpus Christi Minor Seminary, first to teach, and then to resume his prior roles as rector and principal until 1982.
Fr. Derrera then began serving in parishes, beginning with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Antonio, Texas, from 1982 to 1985, then at Sacred Heart in El Paso, 1985-94, and then after a year’s sabbatical, at St. Joseph’s Church in Houston, 1995-2003. In 2003, he moved across town to Strake Jesuit College Prep where he was a teacher and spiritual father for two years; he then returned to parish work, this time in Grand Coteau at St. Charles Borromeo. In 2012, after seven years at St. Charles, he moved to the Ignatius Residence in New Orleans to care for his health. He moved back to Grand Coteau the following year when Ignatius Residence was closed and the Alphonsus Rodriguez Pavilion opened. For seven years, he was a cheerful presence there until his death.
Father Derrera’s life of service exemplified willing obedience. He was called upon time and again to go where there was a need, and he always responded generously.
Father Derrera studied philosophy at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and theology at the Colegio San Francisco Javier in Spain.
We remember with gratitude all that God has done through his life of service to God and God's people.
Gifts in memory of Fr. Derrera may be made to the USA Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus at 4511 West Pine Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108 or online.