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Memorial Tribute
Zachary Hayes, O.F.M.

died: March 16, 2014

Zachary Hayes, O.F.M., one of the most renowned American scholars of the theology of St. Bonaventure in the twentieth century, passed into eternal life on Sunday, March 16, 2014. He was 81 years old.

Born in Chicago, Illinois on September 21, 1932, the son of Robert and Elizabeth Hayes, Gerald was raised in one of its suburbs, Midlothian, and was a member of St. Christopher’s parish, served at that time by Friars Minor of the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (St. Louis, MO). Entering this province’s minor seminary of St. Joseph in Westmont, Illinois in 1946, he entered the Franciscan order for years later as a novice in Teutopolis, Illinois on July 4, 1952, given the name Zachary and making simple profession on July 5, 1953. He then spent three years (1953-56) in college study at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio (affiliated with Quincy College in Quincy, Illinois), majoring in philosophy. In 1956, he began his theological studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Teutopolis, being ordained at the conclusion of his third year on June 24, 1959. Simultaneously, during these summers (1955-60), he studied music at De Paul University in Chicago; organ was his major instrument.

Close to completing his studies in music, he was sent overseas to serve as Catholic chaplain and pastor at the US Embassy in Bonn-Bad Godesberg in West Germany. While there, he began a doctoral program in theology in the Faculty of Catholic Theology at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn. He completed these studies in November 1963; his thesis, written under Johann Auer, was titled The General Doctrine of Creation in the Thirteenth Century, with Special Emphasis on Matthew of Aquasparta. Taking additional courses, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Theology on July 9, 1964. During these years, he also had taken several courses from Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, whose Habilitationsschrift (1959) on the theology of history in St. Bonaventure he would translate into English some years later (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971).

Returning to the States, Zachary Hayes began an illustrious career as a professor of systematic theology at St. Joseph Seminary in Teutopolis in the autumn of 1964. Four years later, in the Fall of 1968, he was integral to the moving of the seminary program to the south side of Chicago, in the neighborhood of Hyde Park, and the establishment of a school of theology, Catholic Theological Union: an innovative, post-Vatican venture in theological education established in collaboration with three other religious orders. Quickly attracting other congregations to the venture, the school became nationally well known for the excellence of its curriculum and faculty for training men for priesthood as well as an important center for the theological and ministerial education of the laity, with a particularly strong emphasis on preparation for mission. The school exemplified Fr. Hayes’ scholarly hermeneutic: for theology to be helpful to the Church, it must be actively engaged in a conversation with contemporary cultures.

Zachary Hayes was a distinguished educator. Thanks to the influence of several Franciscan scholar-educators (notably, Philotheus Boehner and Matthew Menges), he had been firmly grounded in the contributions of the medieval Franciscan School, especially Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, even prior to his arrival in Bonn; these masters would provide him with the basis for an alternative (Franciscan) approach to the classic topics of Christian theology. Consequently, he developed and taught a variety courses covering subjects such as revelation, Trinity, creation and cosmology, Christology and eschatology. In his later years, he also became keenly interested in the relationship between religion and the sciences. He was a member of the Chicago Center for Religion and Science.

During these same years, he was invited to teach at numerous other universities and institutes: Catholic as well as non-Catholic. Of particular note were the summer courses he taught in the M.A. program in Sacred Science (1966-1990) sponsored by the Franciscans at St. Bonaventure University. Simultaneous to his classroom teaching, ongoing research and writing, Fr. Hayes also made significant contributions as a formation director for the friars of his own province studying for ministry at CTU in Chicago. He was a member of numerous boards and academic societies, eagerly sought after for his intellectual acumen and understanding of the dynamics of teaching and learning – a subject on which he has also written.

In addition to his service as educator in the classroom, Zachary Hayes was also a prolific writer – in both scholarly and popular formats - as well as a translator. He contributed approximately 90 scholarly articles or encyclopedic entries and 60 critical book reviews. From his list of 17 published volumes, his most significant works flowed directly from the subjects he treated with his students in the classroom: creation theology, eschatology, cosmology but especially Christology. Perhaps his single most important work was his magisterial monograph The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonaventure (1981), reedited on several occasions. As dialogue with classic texts were important values for him, he also served as a well-regarded translator for the works of several important contemporary theologians (e.g., Joseph Ratzinger and Karl Lehmann); but perhaps his greatest legacy in this genre will be a series of English translations of various selected sermons and mystical writings by the Seraphic Doctor as well as a corpus of six of his most seminal theological works (viz., on the Trinity, the Knowledge of Christ, the Ten Commandments, the Gifts of the Spirit, the Reduction of the Arts to Theology and the Itinerarium) for Franciscan Institute Publications.

In 1974, Zachary Hayes was promoted to the rank of full professor. In 1997, he was honored with a festschrift of scholarly essays celebrating his 65th birthday and 30 years of exemplary teaching, titled That Others May Know and Love: Essays in Honor of Zachary Hayes, OFM. Franciscan, Educator, Scholar. Among the numerous awards, commendations and honorary degrees he received, his reception of the John Courtenay Murray Award for Distinguished Achievement by the Catholic Theological Society of America in 1985 and the Franciscan Institute Medal in 2002 were signal honors. He continued teaching at CTU, until ill health necessitated his retirement in 2005. He was transferred to the Franciscan community in Sherman, Illinois where he lived in retirement, continuing his work of translation, until the community was moved to Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 2012. His remains rest in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.


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