Fr. Howard Gray, SJ
May 10, 2018 — Jesuit Father Howard J. Gray, an internationally known scholar on Ignatian spirituality, died May 7, 2018, from injuries he sustained in a car accident in Michigan. The 87-year-old priest conducted retreats, taught and spoke around the world, helping people encounter Jesus through the Eucharist and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.
Fr. Gray was one of a group of Jesuits and laypeople who helped bring back one-on-one personally directed retreats in the 1960s. His writings on Ignatian spirituality made him a popular speaker and retreat leader eagerly sought by parishes and organizations around the world.
In his seven decades as a Jesuit, Fr. Gray authored more than 60 articles and essays on Ignatian spirituality, ministry and the apostolic mission of Jesuit high schools and universities. He also received six honorary doctorate degrees.
“Howard’s deep love of the written word brought poetry and prose to Ignatian spirituality. When words could bring consolation to souls, Howard always found them,” said Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
Born May 23, 1930, in Cleveland, Fr. Gray entered the Society of Jesus in Milford, Ohio, in 1948. He was ordained in Detroit in 1961 and pronounced final vows as a Jesuit in 1965.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola University Chicago. He also earned licentiates in philosophy and theology from West Baden College in Indiana. He studied for a doctorate in English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison between 1965 and 1968, where he also was a Knapp Fellow.
Fr. Gray served as rector of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Massachusetts (now the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry) from 1976 to 1982 and was dean of the theologate for a year before becoming the provincial of the Jesuits’ Detroit Province, a post he held from 1983 to 1989. He also served for a period as vice president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in the 1980s.
At the age of 66, Fr. Gray left internal governance and formation work in the Society to become the first director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Boston College, serving from 1996 to 2001. He then served as rector of the Jesuit community and assistant to the president for university mission at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.
In 2007, he moved to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., becoming assistant to the president for special projects, a position he held for a decade. In his final year at the university, he served as interim vice president for mission and ministry. Fr. Gray was a delegate at two Jesuit General Congregations: the 33rd (in 1983) while provincial and the 34th (in 1995) while Tertian Director.
Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, (left) with Fr. Howard Gray, SJ
Throughout his Jesuit life, he gave retreats (both preached and directed) and spiritual direction, lectured and wrote about Ignatian spirituality. His lectures, talks and retreats took him all over the United States and throughout the world, including East Africa, East Asia, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
His funeral will be May 12 at Gesu Parish in University Heights; Fr. Kesicki will celebrate his Funeral Mass.
“Howard Gray accepted me into the Society of Jesus in 1984. From my first encounter with him as a Jesuit novice to the present day, I have considered him a dear mentor and friend,” said Fr. Kesicki. [Sources: Catholic News Service, Midwest Jesuits]