Jesuit Father Paul T. Lucey died on May 3, 2014, at the age of 98, the oldest member of the New England Province Jesuits. Born April 4, 1916, in Worcester, Mass., he entered the Society of Jesus on July 30, 1936.
Fr. Lucey was the fifth of six children of John Michael Lucey and Ellen Frances Lawrence. His father had been born in Ireland and had come to the United States at the age of 15; his mother had been born in Gloucester, the daughter of a fisherman from England who had settled here. Fr. Lucey went to the local grammar school and Classical High School in Worcester, then followed his two brothers, John and Frank, to the College of the Holy Cross as a day student. Both of them also became priests.
Fr. Lucey was very devoted to his mother, for whom his birth had been a traumatic experience. He once said; “I would have walked through fire to help her if she needed it.” The last time Fr. Lucey saw his mother was on July 30, 1936, the day he entered the Society, after his second year at Holy Cross. While making the long retreat in October of that year, Fr. Lucey received word that his mother had died. He broke off the retreat to attend his mother’s funeral so he had to make it again in his second year. His novice master was Fr. Jack Smith, whom Fr. Lucey respected and loved.
Fr. Lucey was at Shadowbrook for three years. In 1939, he was sent to Weston to study philosophy. In the summer of 1942, on the train journey to the villa at Keyser Island, Conn, Fr. Lucey learned that on the status he was being assigned to teach mathematics and to assist in the physics lab at the College of the Holy Cross. This came as a profound shock, because he had no background in math but Pearl Harbor had convinced administrators that there would be a demand for math and science graduates. He used that summer to learn math and by the end of three years he felt that he had learned enough to teach it properly.
He returned to Weston to study theology in 1945 and was ordained on June 19, 1948, by Archbishop Richard Cushing. He said his first Mass at his home parish, Blessed Sacrament Church, in Worcester. His brother John, a priest from the Diocese of Springfield, was the assistant priest.
In his fourth year of theology he was assigned to teach the first-year philosophers on the other side of the house. The following year he went to tertianship at Pomfret. In 1951 he was sent to Rome to begin doctoral studies in philosophy at the Gregorian University. Writing on William of Ockham, he finished the degree in a year and a half, since Weston needed a first-year philosophy teacher.
In 1953, he returned to teach philosophy at Weston and immediately became dean of the philosophy faculty, a position he held for the next nine years. With another younger faculty member, Reggie O’Neil, he was instrumental in modernizing and adapting to graduate-level university standards the academic practices of the Roman seminary system that then prevailed in American Jesuit scholasticates, establishing connections with the philosophy department of Boston College, and enabling scholastics to do master’s programs in other fields in addition to their philosophy studies. In 1962 he was named rector of the Weston College community on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. That night Fr. Lucey made a pact with himself that he would begin the process of moving the schools of philosophy and theology out of Weston. The philosophy faculty was in agreement about moving; the theology faculty was not so excited. Eventually with the help of the Provincial John V. O’Connor and the young faculty member George MacRae, they were able to convince the theology faculty to move to Cambridge.
After leaving the rector’s position, in 1968, Fr. Lucey was taking a break at the retreat house/villa Round Hills in South Dartmouth, Mass. One day he received a phone call from the new provincial, Bill Guindon, who begged Fr. Lucey to become his Socius, because Fr. Lucey was someone who knew the younger men. Fr. Lucey promised that he would be the Socius for the next three years, which turned into a four-year appointment. Then Fr. Lucey had a sabbatical year at Berkeley. He joined the staff of the Center for Religious Development (CRD) in its second year of existence. In 1974 he became the superior of La Farge House in Cambridge and director of CRD.
Fr. Lucey claimed that the highlight of his Jesuit life was being elected a delegate to the 32nd General Congregation (1974-1975), which Pedro Arrupe had called to assess the Society’s experience since he had become General and to appropriate fully the implications of Vatican II. There, Fr. Lucey experienced the passion with which Jesuits from around the world supported Arrupe’s insistence on working for justice. When they returned to the States, Bill Guindon, Maurice Walsh, and Fr. Lucey went around to the different communities of the province to report on the congregation.
Fr. Lucey continued at CRD and then asked to do hospital ministry. He was chaplain at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Jamaica Plain from 1983 until 1989, while continuing to give both eight-day and 30-day retreats in the U.S., Canada and Ireland. In 2001 he moved to Campion Center. Until his final days Fr. Lucey continued to be involved some spiritual direction. When he died peacefully, on Saturday, May 3, 2014, at the age of 98, he was the oldest member of the New England Province.