William J. Hill, OP
died: October 12, 2001
William J. Hill, O.P. died on October 12, 2001.Bill was professor emeritus of systematic theology at the Catholic University of America where he had taught since1971. He was an active member of the Society, particularly of the seminar on Trinitarian Theology, and served as CTSA president 1979-1980. Awarded the society's John Courtney Murray Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theology in 1983, Bill was a respected colleague and friend of many members of CTSA, as well as teacher and mentor of many who graduated from Catholic U. He served as editor-in-chief of The Thomist from 1975-1983. At his funeral at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C., where Bill lived throughout his theological career and where he taught from 1953-1971, Brian Shanley, his Dominican brother and professor of philosophy at Catholic U., cited Bill's homily at the CTSA convention in 1985 as capturing the heart of Bill's understanding of the theological vocation. That homily, titled "The Theologian: On Pilgrimage with Christ," can be found in the CTSA Proceedings 49(1985). Brian suggested that Bill continued to teach us during his long illness (Parkinson's disease). The opening and closing paragraphs of Bill's homily (cited below) can serve as a source of encouragement for us all in these difficult days.From William Hill's "The Theologian on Pilgrimage with Christ" CTSA Proceedings 40(1985): 230-32."It is an awesome thing to fall into the hands of the living God." These warning words of St. Paul are stark ones indeed. They conjure up for us the "dangerous memories" to which Johann Baptist Metz made reference last evening; for one thing they suggest more may be required of us than we are prepared to give. But they are doubly awesome to those of us who are summoned to that ministry of the Word proper to the theologian, to we who are called upon to speak and write meaningfully of such a God to our contemporaries. Difficult and challenging enough in ordinary times, this attempt to show who God will be for us and what humankind must be for God, becomes nothing less than precarious in these days of cultural sea-changes...."Alan Jones concludes his little book on Christ (Journey into Christ, Seabury, 1977) by recounting a story from Mallory's Morte d'Arthur :a group of pilgrims put up for the night in an inn are awakened by peals of laughter coming from one of the rooms occupied by a retired archbishop who is still asleep. When they awaken him he tells them of his dream of Jesus handing men and women up a ladder into heaven, among whom is Lancelot. And he exclaims:'Ah, Jesus, mercy! Why did you wake me I was never so merry and well at ease in all my life.'And he laughed and laughed and laughed. And that is the way it will be at the end of the pilgrimage. It all ends with laughter in heaven."For those who are not familiar with Bill's work on the mystery of God, I'd recommend his Three-Personed God: The Trinity as a Mystery of Salvation (Catholic University of America Press, 1982, still in print), and Search for the Absent God (Crossroad, 1992).
Mary Catherine Hillkert, O.P.
Associate Professor of Theology
University of Notre Dame