Frederick Crowe, S.J.
died: April 13, 2012
Fr. Crowe’s life dedicated to Lonergan’s philosophy
Jesuit Father Fred Crowe died Easter Sunday aged 96
Written by Michael Swan
TORONTO - Jesuit Father Fred Crowe’s long, happy and productive life came to a peaceful end Easter Sunday, April 8. He was 96 years old and had spent 76 years living the vows of a Jesuit.
“The last years of his life he just kept writing,” said Jesuit Father Gordon Rixon. “He was one of those Jesuits who was in the library by 5:30 in the morning.”
For most of the last 60 years, Fr. Crowe was in the library carefully collecting, editing, explaining and interpreting the work of his seminary professor, Fr. Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan was a Canadian Jesuit who became a towering figure in philosophy and theology.
Fr. Crowe was the 20th century’s foremost interpreter of Lonergan and “the person without whom Lonergan’s work would never have become as accessible as it is,” said the Toronto Lonergan Institute in a note on his death.
As a scholar, Fr. Crowe published at least 200 books and major articles, including Christ in History: The Christology of Bernard Lonergan from 1935 to 1982, which came off the press when Fr. Crowe was 90.
The fact that Fr. Crowe’s long and fruitful scholarly career was dedicated to the work of another man doesn’t detract from the originality or the importance of his own work, said St. Michael’s College Lonergan scholar Michael Vertin.
“It’s not simply Lonergan. It’s Lonergan’s take on the core of human history as manifested in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,” said Vertin. “To help articulate that in a way that’s accessible to present-day people, that’s worth a life.”
Vertin knew and worked with Fr. Crowe for 45 years, helping to edit four of his books. He first met Fr. Crowe when he was a 28-year-old graduate student.
“After my parents he was probably the single most significant person in my life in terms of someone providing an example of how to live,” Vertin said.
Part of that example was Fr. Crowe’s basic happiness.
“He was radically joyful and radically content,” noted Vertin.
Fr. Crowe was born in 1915 in Jeffries Corner, N.B. Before entering the Jesuit novitiate in Guelph, Ont., he graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1934. His Jesuit life began Sept. 6, 1936 and proceeded through the usual stages until he was ordained a priest June 27, 1949. From there it was on to doctoral studies in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, 1951 to 1953.
He came back to Toronto and taught theology to Jesuits and others until his retirement at age 65. He followed his teaching career up with almost another 30 years of research and writing.
He was general editor of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, served as president of Regis College from 1969 to 1971 and was the first director of Toronto’s Lonergan Research Institute from 1985 to 1992.
He didn’t make it to the Jesuit infirmary in Pickering, Ont., until 2006 and continued to write and research from there.
Fr. Crowe’s long religious life was spent on both sides of the Second Vatican Council, said Rixon.
“The people who helped us through the transition, who knew both the pre-Vatican II and the Vatican II Church, they’re becoming precious and few. You think of Fred who has gone to God at almost 97. There aren’t many like Fred around,” he said. “You wouldn’t be wrong to talk about that as the passing of an era.”
Since Easter the Jesuit community at Regis College and friends like Vertin received a flood of e-mails from people around the world whose lives, minds and hearts were touched by Fr. Crowe.
Fr. Crowe’s funeral Mass was held on April 17 at Regis College, St. Joseph’s Chapel. He was buried in the Jesuit cemetery in Guelph, Ont.