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Loyola loses long-time teacher and beloved priest Father Fagin

June 15, 2012

Heavy hearts are on the campus of Loyola University New Orleans after the loss of Gerald “Jerry” Matthew Fagin, S.J., who died last night at the age of 74 after a courageous battle with cancer. Fagin, a member of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus, taught theology and spirituality at Loyola for 33 years, was a Jesuit for 55 years and a priest for 43 years.

“Jerry was a man who not only knew the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, but who also truly lived them in his work, his decision-making and in his life. He was a wonderful person to spend time with. He was insightful and humorous and had a wide array of interests. He truly believed that a person can find God in all things,” said Loyola President Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.

To many, he was considered to be a true servant, powerful teacher and living example of Jesuit spirituality. Fagin was in great demand as a spiritual director and devoted many years to developing spiritual formation programs at Loyola and at the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center in New Orleans.

“I find it sadly appropriate that this great man passed away at this time of year when we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” said Edward “Ted” Arroyo, S.J., rector of the Jesuit community in Mobile, Ala., and a long-time friend and colleague of Fagin’s.

“Father Fagin was a wise, kind and inspiring guide for the Loyola University community and his Jesuit brothers, steeping us all in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and steering us in ancient and contemporary ways of following Christ. He will be dearly missed by so many whose lives he touched,” said Fred Kammer, S.J., director of Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute.

According to Thomas Ryan, Ph.D., director of Loyola’s Institute for Ministry, through his teaching, preaching, spiritual direction, and leading workshops and retreats, Fagin touched people in many circles in New Orleans and around the world.

"Jerry was beloved because of his gentle insistence on God's unconditional love and for his quiet and Irish sense of humor. He also loved to speak of gratitude - because of God's gift to us of our lives and creation, what other response can we offer to God than lives and words of gratitude?” Ryan said, adding, “Jerry always ended conversations about difficult and vexing matters with a word of hope. He would say, 'Courage.'”

Fagin was born in Dallas, Texas on April 19, 1938. He graduated from Jesuit High School in Dallas in 1956 and entered the Society of Jesus at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, La., that same year, pronouncing first vows on August 15, 1958, and remaining in Grand Coteau for his Juniorate (1958-60). He continued studies at Spring Hill College, receiving a Master of Arts in philosophy in 1963, and returned to Jesuit High in Dallas for regency from 1963-66. He then studied at Regis College in Canada where he received a Master of Divinity in 1969, as well as a Master of Theology and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1970. Following priestly ordination on June 7, 1969, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Dallas, Fagin received a doctorate in theology from St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

Most of Fagin’s apostolic career was centered at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he began teaching theology in 1973. From 1978-89, he was associate professor of religious studies and was the chair of the Department of Religious Studies from 1981-84. He served as rector of the Loyola Jesuit community from 1984-89, and returned to teaching at Loyola as an associate professor of religious studies from 1991-95. From 1996 until May 2012, he was associate professor of theology in the Loyola Institute for Ministry. Fagin’s publications include “The Holy Spirit” (2002), co-authored with J. Patout Burns, and “Putting on the Heart of Christ” (Loyola Press, 2010), as well as several articles and published lectures. His new book, tentatively titled "God's Dream for You," will be published posthumously by Loyola Press. Fagin was also at work on a major book on spirituality for ministers at the time of his death.

“Jerry's last book before his death, ‘Putting on the Heart of Christ,’ shows us how the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius relate to contemporary virtue ethics, inviting us to a virtuous life,” said Arroyo. “May the example of Jerry's virtuous life help us who survive his passing truly grow in the virtues of putting on the heart of Christ.”

Fagin also served the New Orleans Province as superior of collegians from 1974-75, and socius to the novice master at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau from 1976-78. He also held the position of director of studies for the province from 1976-81 and was provincial from 1989-90.

Fagin was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph M. and Stella Frain Fagin, both from East St. Louis, Ill., his brother, James J. Fagin, and his sister, Joyce F. Bryant. He is survived by many nephews, nieces and dear friends.

The Loyola Institute for Ministry worked with Fagin to establish a scholarship in his name. Gifts can be made at http://giving.loyno.edu. Please designate your gift to the Fr. Fagin Memorial Scholarship. Letters of sympathy may be sent to his nephew:

Mr. Ken Bryant
14900 Lasater #218
Dallas, TX 75253

Visitation will be Tuesday, June 19, at 7 p.m. at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans, and a wake service will be held at 7:30 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 20, also at Holy Name of Jesus Church. Interment will follow the Mass at the Jesuit Cemetery in Grand Coteau, La.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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