Sunday, October 5, 2008

Jim Egan, S.J., RIP; Nathaniel Arbiter, RIP; Saint Grendel of the Gravy, RIP and dance in heaven

Could someone please slow down on the sickness and dying?

I remembered three recently departed creatures of Godde at mass this morning: Grendel the dog, and two humans, Jim and Nat.

Many of you know about Grendel. He is now St. Grendel of the Gravy. His life and death touched many creatures. (I wrote about him briefly here. Many other bloggers did too, and more eloquently.) We will not forget him.

Jim is Jim Egan, an old colleague, a member of the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus (a.k.a. the Jesuits), who died at the age of 73, of cancer, this past Thursday evening, October 2. Funeral is tomorrow (Tuesday) 10 a.m., St. John's Church at Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska).

I remembered him in the prayers as a colleague of 20 years ago, but I spaced out (I was already sick). It was thirty years ago that we worked together. Lord, have mercy. I was the first woman chaplain at St. Paul's University Catholic Center in Madison, Wisconsin, which was both a parish and a campus ministry (and which is a very different place these days). Jim was a priest on staff there, the only Jesuit on the full-time staff --the other full time people were diocesan, plus one Franciscan for a while-- and he had one of the most vital spiritual lives of anyone I have ever met, and the gift of sharing it appropriately. He was also a spectactular liturgist and preacher.

Jim was open about his vulnerabilities --his being a recovering alcoholic, his past struggles with depression-- as well as able to be strong for and with people in the community who were suffering and struggling themselves. He was a true colleague, able to work with me as a woman (though I was, believe it or not, hired as the non-threatening candidate! they almost hired the other finalist instead; okay, you can stop laughing now) in an era when it was still new to have women as full-time pastoral ministers in the Catholic Church, especially those of us who were not nuns.

After his time in campus and parish ministry (he'd also worked as a hospital chaplain), Jim worked in several other areas: on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, in Uganda, in Omaha, Nebraska as "servant minister" to his Jesuit community, and again in a parish. One of his last written reflections is here, with a link to a photo. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

My cousin Nat (a first cousin by marriage of my mother's) died peacefully in his sleep in the wee hours of Sunday morning, a few days after moving to a residential hospice. His wife Carolyn and daughters mourn and celebrate a long and good life. He was somewhere in his 90s, I think. I wrote a bit about him here after hearing he had gone into hospice. May the angels sing him into paradise. (I'll post an obituary of him here once the newspaper obits are out. It's too soon.)

Please continue to hold in your prayers my friends Deenie and Christy and David (they are also here).

1 comment:

Chuck Henry said...

I don't know what possessed me, but tonight I googled Fr. Jim Egan's name. He was a friend, a confidante and a spiritual counselor when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin from 1974-1978. I attended the University Catholic Center and was drawn in by Fr. Jim's compassion and his ability to relate to other people's struggles.

I will never forget him for the counseling and consoling he provided to my parents when I came out to them. We stayed in touch for a decade or so, but then, I lost touch.

For some reason, tonight I was thinking of him, and was saddened to read of his recent passing. I will remember him and talk to him in my prayers tonight. He was a beautiful man and a wonderful friend. He was a part of my life at one of the most important junctures in my personal and spiritual growth.

Thirty years later, I still smile when I think of him and am comforted by the memory of his support, his spiritual guidance and his embrace.

chenry@absllc.org