Remembering Jesuit Father Gerard H. Ettlinger

July 16, 2018 - Fr. Gerard H. Ettlinger, SJ, was called to eternal life on July 15, 2018. Fr. Ettlinger died at Murray-Weigel Hall, Bronx, N.Y. He was born on Sept. 30, 1935 in Flushing, N.Y., entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on July 30, 1953, and was ordained on June 9, 1966 at Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y. He pronounced his final vows on Aug. 15, 1975 at Fordham University, Bronx, N.Y.

Jesuit Memorial Reflections 

By Fr. Ray Schroth, SJ


Born 1935, entered the Jesuits 1953, taught and researched 1960-2016

Among the over 30 photographs of family and friends lined up above his desk and several icons on the other walls, one black and white snapshot stands out. A big, tall Jesuit in his flowing black habit has leapt up in the air on his side of the volley ball net, while a helpless handful of young boys struggle to reach up, while, with a triumphant smile, the Jesuit is about to pound the ball right into their court.

For anyone who knew Gerry Ettlinger, the scene is no surprise. When he graduated from Regis High School in 1953, he had played JV basketball and won medals for his scholarship. A fellow student wrote in his yearbook, “He has to be the only varsity player with an organized fan club to look up to him both physically and intellectually.  His sense of humor is tops.”

Following the standard Jesuit training at the St. Andrew-on-Hudson novitiate, Bellarmine College, Shrub Oak for philosophy, and theology at Woodstock, he was off to Oxford University to study English, from 1968-1972. There he got his PhD, with Frankfort squeezed in for German. From 1972 to 1974 he taught theology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute. Clearly, he was being trained for something big — and scholarly.

From 1974 to 1987 the “big” event was Fordham University. There he began with classical literature, and went on to theology, a sabbatical in Rome, and back to theology teaching at Msgr. McClancy High School and a chaplaincy with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart in Elmhurst, N.Y.

In 1987 he moved to the theology department of St. John’s University, where, until 2016, he deepened his scholarship and demonstrated his administrative skills as professor of theology, department chair, and holder of the John A. Flynn chair in theology.

According to three professors, two of whom knew him at both Fordham and St. John’s,  he was widely admired for his constantly open office door, where students were always welcome, and his generosity, in which he scheduled extra sessions with graduate students who needed help with texts in foreign languages. One professor, a Lutheran, was touched by Gerard’s openness and friendliness. When he was in Europe on sabbatical, grad students didn’t hesitate to send him rough drafts of research papers, for advice.

Four of his major books deserve attention: Theodoret of Cyrus Eranistes, (1975), a translation of and commentary on fifth century theologians on the nature of  Jesus; The Fathers of the Church (2003), a retranslation of Theodoret with a new, long introduction; Jesus, Christ and Savior, the Message of the Fathers of the Church (1987), a companion to a series on the Old and New Testaments; and Corpus Christianorum (2007), which he wrote working at both Fordham and St. John’s on a newly discovered commentary on Ecclesiates, collecting relevant documents from around the world and editing them together. The whole book is in Greek.

In his assignment to Murray-Weigel Hall, foot problems required him to move around in a wheelchair; but the laughing smile in the volley ball photo on the wall accompanied him to the dining room and occasional preprandials and events in the recreation room.  Judging by his bookshelf, along with the Greek texts, his sense of humor has been carefully defined:  four volumes of James Thurber and thirty volumes of VHS films of the wildly satirical British comedy team, Monty Python. Meanwhile he has left countless high school, college and graduate students wise, smiling and grateful for his gifts.

Fr. Ray Schroth, SJ, serves as editor emeritus of America Magazine.



Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Murray-Weigel Hall Chapel
3:00-5:00 p.m. and 7:00-8:30 p.m. (Prayer Service at 7:00 p.m.)
515 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY  10458


Thursday, July 19, 2018—11:30 a.m.
Murray-Weigel Hall Chapel
515 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY  10458


Jesuit Cemetery, Auriesville, N.Y.

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