Rev. Joseph J. Feeney, SJ, was born on October 8, 1934, in Philadelphia, PA. He attended St. Joseph’s Prep and entered the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues in Wernersville, PA, on August 14, 1952. He received his bachelor’s degree and Masters in English, as well as his Licentiate in Philosophy from Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, NY. He then went on to receive a Bachelor and Licentiate of Sacred Theology from Woodstock College in Woodstock, MD, and a doctorate in English from the University of Pennsylvania. He was ordained on June 12, 1965, at Woodstock College.
In 1971, Fr. Feeney began what would become a 43-year tenure as a professor of English Literature at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Over those four decades, he taught a wide variety of English courses, including a seminar on contemporary Catholic imagination in America and Modernism and Postmodernism. He also became a leading expert on Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, the famous Victorian Jesuit poet, on whom he wrote many books and articles and lectured around the world. He especially loved teaching on Hopkins to his students at SJU, where he often acted out portions of the poems. He authored the book The Playfulness of Gerard Manley Hopkins and was a co-editor of the Hopkins Quarterly for more than 20 years. In 1998, Fr. Feeney discovered in London an unknown poem by Hopkins, “Consule Jones” from 1875. He also helped develop the first Russian translation of select poems from Gerard Manley Hopkins, including writing the introduction.
In 2015, Fr. Feeney become Professor emeritus of English and adjunct professor at Saint Joseph’s University, where he remained active for several more years. He once said that he wanted students to gain “a broadening of what it means to be a human, a greater affection for people different from them and a love of sound, especially to poetry and beauty.”
He died peacefully on January 12, 2023, at the Manresa Hall Jesuit Community in Philadelphia at the age of 88.