Fr. Vincent O’Keefe, SJ, Remembered

Fellow Jesuits, family and friends celebrated the life of Fr. Vincent O’Keefe, SJ, at a Funeral Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York, N.Y. on Thursday, July 26. Fr. O’Keefe, 92, entered into eternal life on Sunday, July 22.

Fr. Vincent O'Keefe, SJ at the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Rome. Photo by Don Doll, SJ

Fr. James Croghan, SJ, grandnephew of Fr. O’Keefe and chaplain at Regis High School, warmly recalled his uncle and brother Jesuit as an individual whose love of God, the Church and the Society of Jesus was palpable in his relationships with friends, family and all those whom he served in his long life and career. Fr. Croghan labeled love as the constant, driving force in Fr. O’Keefe’s life. Fr. Croghan offered reflections on Fr. O’Keefe’s 90th birthday celebration two years ago at Murray-Weigel Hall, the health care center for New York Province Jesuits located adjacent to Fordham University in the Bronx, and how Fr. O’Keefe, even in his later years, served as a source of inspiration to all.

Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference, offered words of appreciation for Father O’Keefe’s life, saying Father O’Keefe “loved to be with people—as a host, a brother Jesuit, a storyteller, a priest.”

Father Smolich added, “Father O’Keefe was absolutely loyal: to Pedro Arrupe, to the Society of Jesus, and to the Church. He was a man of great joy, a kind of joy that only comes through intimacy with God.”

To listen to excerpts from the Mass, click here

Fr. Vincent T. O’Keefe, SJ, was president of Fordham University in 1965 when he was elected at the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus to serve as one of four General Assistants to the newly elected Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ. For the next 18 years, Fr. O’Keefe was stationed at the Rome headquarters of the Jesuits and worked closely with Father Arrupe in guiding the renewal of Jesuit life in the wake of the reforms called for in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

During his years in Rome, Father O’Keefe was a favored commentator for ABC News at such events as the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978 and the two conclaves that followed and elected Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II. He also provided commentary for ABC during many of Pope John Paul II’s trips abroad, including his visits to the United States in 1979, 1993 and 1995.

After the 33rd General Congregation in 1983, Fr. O’Keefe returned to the United States. He was appointed rector of the Jesuit community at Fordham University in 1984. From 1988-90, he assumed principal responsibility for planning Assembly 89, an unprecedented gathering of Jesuits and their colleagues from the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States held at Georgetown University as part of the celebration of Georgetown’s 200th anniversary.

After working at the Jesuit Conference in Washington, D.C., Fr. O’Keefe returned to New York City to serve as superior of the Jesuit community and writer-in-residence at America House where the Jesuit weekly America is published. In 2007, he was assigned to Murray-Weigel Hall to pray for the Church and the Society.

Father O’Keefe, fluent in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German, was one of the best known and most-loved Jesuits of his generation. He grew up in Jersey City, N.J, the youngest of eight children. He graduated from St. Michael’s High School in Union City and entered the Jesuits in 1937 at Wernersville, Penn. After studies at Woodstock College, Md. (1941-1944), he taught at Regis High School in New York City from 1944-1947 as a scholastic. Theological studies in Louvain, Belgium followed, and he was ordained to the priesthood there in 1950.

Click here to view a blog post by America magazine editor Fr. Jim Martin, SJ, on Fr. O’Keefe. Included is a video of Fr. O’Keefe’s reflection on former Jesuit Superior General Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ.

Click here to view an article from Fordham University on the passing of Fr. O’Keefe.

To view a slideshow of images of Fr. O’Keefe, please visit the web site of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus

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