The Seattle University and Jesuit communities lost two exceptional colleagues recently. Fr. Peter Ely and Fr. Pat Howell both were influential in the initial creation of the Institute for Thought and Culture in 2013 and had continued to support our programs throughout the years. Most recently, Fr. Ely served as Chair for the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative, and Fr. Howell led the ICTC as Interim Director in 2018-19.
From Dr. Jeanette Rodriguez, ICTC Interim Director:
Remembering our Brother Peter:
On April 11, 2020, Holy Saturday, we the SU community suffered a great loss. Our brother Fr. Peter Ely, SJ, passed. Shocked and overwhelmed by grief, we mourn that we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye; to tell him how much his presence meant to us, or that his questions about our well-being, our family, and our research, made us feel “seen” and cared for. We will miss how he drew from his own flawed humanity to appreciate and to advocate for mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.
We were the recipients of the depth of his intellect and renewed by his sense of wonder, awe and curiosity. His ability to lift up the best of the Catholic tradition and his desire to be in dialogue with other traditions helped guide us to find God in all things. He was eager to understand and be in dialogue with the diversity of experiences within the human condition; and was particularly interested in the worldview of the atheists, agnostics, and seekers. He sought every opportunity to learn and grow and to offer those insights, but even more importantly, the questions – for us to engage with for deeper reflection about life, love, purpose, meaning, and belonging. In many ways, he reminds us of the Renaissance Jesuit; sharp intellect, compassionate posture to the world, a linguist, a lover of the arts. Many of us might well remember his presence at games, lectures, plays, and concerts. And how many of us remember him - always willing to pause as we were rushing to class, a meeting of some sort on the quad; he always made time to say hello and check-in in some way. The same way he stopped to gaze at the budding flowers and greenery, or the birds singing - always animated about life and with a sense of gratitude for all of creation. We too are grateful for having had the opportunity to cross paths with Fr. Peter.
God of all consolation, in your unending love for all of us you turn the darkness of death into the dawn of new life.
Be comfort in our sorrow and strength in our grief.
Help us to know the peace and light of your presence, where every tear is wiped away. We ask this through Christ Jesus, who walks this road of grief with us.
Fr. Ely wonderfully supported the ICTC, from co-founding the institute and speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2013 (above left) to attending almost every hosted conversation, reception, and lecture throughout the years, often giving the official welcome and always asking thoughtful questions.
In an official capacity, Fr. Ely chaired the Interreligious Dialogue Initiative (IDI). The initiative was established in 2012 when Fr. Ely was Vice President for Mission and Ministry, and starting in the fall of 2015 became a program within ICTC. Fr. Ely wrote that the IDI "aims to awaken sensibility in the SU community to the richness of the world’s religions, a richness abundantly represented on our campus, and to move beyond mere tolerance to engagement." For the 2019-20 year, Fr. Ely worked closely with Dr. Jason Wirth (Philosophy) to develop a series of lectures; you can read more about the IDI and this year's programs here.
The ICTC was especially pleased to host a small reading group this spring, led by Fr. Ely and focused on his book Adam and Eve in Scripture, Theology, and Literature: Sin, Compassion and Forgiveness. The culmination of ten years of research and writing, this book is a delight and a lasting gift from Fr. Ely.
Father Peter Ely Memorial Online Memorial
Novena of Grace 2014: Reflections from Fr. Ely (Transcripts available following the link)
As a way to honor his legacy, we invited those who were so moved to share a very brief remembrance (just a few sentences) of their gratitude for Fr. Howell. We post these contributions at “In Grateful Remembrance of Patrick Howell, S.J.,”
“I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one. I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.” - Afterglow
This short remembrance poem by Helen L. Marshall is how I imagine my friend and colleague Fr. Pat Howell, SJ would want to be remembered. It’s an ideal eulogy poem for someone who has given unforgettable memories, love, and joy. Fr. Pat and I first met in 1990 when I came to SU.
He was/is the embodiment of the Spirit of Vatican II.
We sense that in losing him, we have lost not only the man but also his unique way of manifesting God. The voice that spoke of God, encouraged young Jesuits and lay collaborators, reminded us of the best of our Catholic Tradition, and offered comfort to people suffering from both inner and outer trials, has been silenced.
I wish to thank Fr. Pat, belatedly, for his life as a dedicated priest, friend, colleague, and godfather to my daughter Gabriella.
We will all miss Fr. Pat here, and we will rely on his continued help from the next life.
We are incredibly saddened by the passing of Fr. Pat Howell last Thursday. Fr. Howell drafted the initial proposal for the ICTC in 2007, and remained active in his support of the institution as a Distinguished Professor in Residence.
Pat Howell served as the Interim Director this past academic year with enthusiasm and dedication. He felt a particular calling to address the more recent sexual abuse revelations in the Catholic Church and facilitated campus discussions including a presentation on the history of the crisis that he shared across many parishes. All of this culminated in a spring lecture series on the topic and robust resources website, available here.
The ICTC staff enjoyed hearing about and helping out with the final edits of Fr. Howell’s book, Great Risks Had To Be Taken, published last spring. Fr. Howell gave a book reading in June at Elliott Bay Books, part of the STM “Search for Meaning” Empowerment Series. Along with completing his book, Fr. Howell loved writing his monthly letters for the ICTC E-News, and quickly gathered followers who looked forward to his insights each month. We’ve archived his letters on our website. This is a snapshot of the countless contributions that Fr. Howell made to the ICTC and Seattle University.
Last year’s staff gathered in June to celebrate our momentous year and send off members to new opportunities. Pictured, left to right: Fr. Peter Ely, SJ –Chair of the ICTC’s Interreligious Dialogue Initiative; Dr. Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos – Inaugural Director of the ICTC; Lucas Sharma, SJ – ICTC Research Fellow; Fr. Pat Howell, SJ – Interim Director; Jessica Palmer – Assistant Director; and Amber Larkin – Program Coordinator