Novak, Vincent M.Died
Jesuit Father Vincent M. Novak, renowned Jesuit religious educator, died on August 6, 2012, in the Bronx, NY. He had just celebrated his 88th birthday, being born on August 3, 1924, in Jersey City, NJ, the son of Spiro and Pauline (Lucich) Novak. After attending Xavier High School, NY, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, NY on September 7, 1942 and was a Jesuit for 69 years.
Following his novitiate and first vows, he studied both philosophy (1946-49) and theology (1952-56) at Woodstock College, Woodstock, MD, receiving the Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1956. In his regency he taught Latin and English at Canisius High School, Buffalo,NY, from 1949-52. As a towering presence (he was 6’ 7” in height) he also coached three sports. He was ordained on June 18, 1955, at the Fordham University Church. He received the S.T.D. Diplôme de Lumen Vitae, Brussels and was a post-doctoral scholar at UCLA, 1971-72.
He served almost all of his priestly life in the Bronx at Fordham University. First, he taught Latin, English and Religion at Fordham Prep (1958-1965), and then served in the classroom and administration at FordhamUniversityin several capacities. With his interest in religious education, he became editor-in-chief of the Lord and King high school religion textbook series. He authored two of student texts: for ninth grade, Jesus Christ, Lord of History (1962), and for tenth grade, Jesus Christ, Our Life and Worship (1963). This was cited by the Superior General of the Jesuits as a “remarkable contribution to the apostolate of religious education throughout the wide world.”
Because of the large turnout of 1,200 persons at Summer Institutes for teachers at Fordham, he and two others (his brother Joseph Novak, and John Nelson) in 1964 established a Graduate Institute of Religious Education to meet the demand for degree programs. Fr. Novak served for forty years as founder, administrator and teacher of what eventually became the independent Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GSRRE). This now offers Ph.D and M.A. degrees in a variety of pastoral ministries, and trains priests and laity from overseas, especially from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
In 2004 he stepped aside to become Dean Emeritus of GSRRE. In the words of Fr. McShane, the President of Fordham University, we read: “On this first day of May, in the year two thousand four, we honor Vincent M. Novak, SJ, as he retires as Dean of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. We praise and thank Dean Novak for forty years of leadership in what is now Fordham’s GSRRE; for pioneering fresh theory and practice in religious education; for developing new programs in spirituality and pastoral counseling; for recruiting faculty eminent in their disciplines; for attracting qualified graduate students worldwide; for bequeathing to future generations a sound, respected program.”
In addition to his 50 years of dedication to catechetical ministry, he regularly assisted and preached at Catholic parishes. This included two years full time parish ministry, from 2006-08 when he was an Associate Pastor ad Corpus Christi Church, Pacific Palisades, CA. In 2009 he returned to the east and to Fordham University, residing at Loyola Hall until 2012.