Fordham honored the memory of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., on Sept. 25 with a Mass, dedication of a plaque commemorating him, and book launch that marked the 60th anniversary of his arrival on campus as a Jesuit in training.
Cardinal Dulles, whose 25 books and more than 800 articles and essays earned him a reputation as the pre-eminent American theologian, was remembered as someone who possessed boundless knowledge about Jesus Christ and the Gospels.
“He would have spent hours meditating on them,” said Theodore Cardinal McCarrick (FCRH ’54) during the homily. “All his life as a Jesuit, a theologian, a priest and a Christian, he strove to find a deeper understanding in things.”
Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., said he hoped the Mass would allow people who were unable to meet Cardinal Dulles to know him better. He drew on the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians to reflect on the cardinal’s humility.
“He humbly regarded others more than himself,” said Cardinal McCarrick, who was a member of the Sodality at Fordham when Cardinal Dulles was moderator.
“During our [elevation to the College of Cardinals in 2001], John Paul II placed the cardinal’s hat on Avery’s head, and it fell off repeatedly,” he said. “But Avery was never embarrassed because he was so humble.”
He recalled how much Cardinal Dulles enjoyed spending the latter part of his life at Fordham, where he was the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society from 1988 until his death in 2008.
“He loved Fordham. He was comfortable here; it was his home,” he said. “Until he died at the age of 90, Cardinal Dulles spent the greater part of his life at Rose Hill—teaching, writing, publishing, lecturing.”
Afterward, invited guests went to the William D. Walsh Family Library for the launch of The Legacy of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.: His Words and His Witness (Fordham University Press, 2011).
The volume is an exhaustive bibliography of his works and also includes:
• the first and last lectures given by the cardinal;
• the response to his last lecture, “Farewell Address as McGinley Professor,” by Rev. Robert P. Imbelli (FCRH ’60);
• reflections on the last year of his life by his longtime assistant, Anne-Marie Kirmse, Ph.D., O.P., and
• the homilies delivered at his funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and his burial in the Jesuit Cemetery in Auriesville, N.Y.
It was compiled and edited by Sister Kirmse and former graduate assistant Michael M. Canaris to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the cardinal’s arrival at Fordham in 1951.
At the book launch, Sister Kirmse emphasized the role that Fordham played in Cardinal Dulles’ scholarly endeavors.
“Fordham stands as the bookends around the career of Avery Dulles. He came here as Mr. Dulles in 1951 and he died here as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor in 2008,” she said. “We at Fordham are very proud to claim him as our own.”
Compiling the bibliography took a lot longer than Sister Kirmse anticipated due to the desire to be accurate. Although Cardinal Dulles had given her a head start by starting a rough draft of the bibliography himself, Sister Kirmse joked that he used a manual typewriter and sometimes typed on the roller.
There were 850 original entries in the bibliography, but when all the translations, editions, reprints and condensations were listed, the total increased to more than 1,700 entries.
Sister Kirmse said compiling the cardinal’s notes and archives was bittersweet.
“Everything he wrote from 1989 onward when I began to work for him, I had read and offered comments and suggestions,” she said. “Reviewing the material for the book brought back a flood of memories.”
Canaris spoke of his admiration for Cardinal Dulles and the gratitude he felt at being able to work on the book project.
“He is truly one of the most monumental, holiest and kindest people I’ve ever met,” Canaris said. “I feel privileged to have been a part of this project, as challenging as it was. I’m proud of the work, but I’m also very thankful to be a part of it.”
Patrick J. Ryan, S.J., the current McGinley Chair, remembered his days as a theology student under Cardinal Dulles.
“Avery loved elaborate practical jokes,” Father Ryan said. For example, Cardinal Dulles often returned several papers to him with comments alluding to the preparation of steak.
“Written atop the paper in Avery’s scrawl was ‘Well Done.’ The next paper got a ‘Medium Well,’ and then, finally, ‘Tartare,’” he said.
Father Ryan also quoted a FrenchCarmelite nun, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who had said, “I am not dying, I am enteringinto life,” to exemplify the deep spirituality in which the cardinal immersed himself.
“I believe that’s what the death of the truly holy is like.”