Gustave Weigel, S.J. (1906-1964)
GUSTAVE WEIGEL WAS BORN IN BUFFALO, NEW York, on January 15,
1906. His parents were Alsatians, Auguste Weigel and Louise Leontine
(Kiefer) Weigel. Gustave was the second of three children; the
first died at birth and the third, Louise, is now the wife of
Franklin E. Daigler of Buffalo, the mother of two children, the
older of whom is Sister M. Jeremy, R.S.M., of Baltimore.
Gustave attended the grammar
schools of two parishes in Buffalo from 1912 to 1918, in which
latter year he went to Canisius High School, conducted by the
Jesuits in the same city. At graduation in 1922 he was admitted
into the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at St. Andrewon-Hudson,
Poughkeepsie, New York.
He followed the usual training
program of Jesuits. After four years of novitiate and humanistic
studies at Poughkeepsie, he studied philosophy at Woodstock College,
Maryland, from 1926 to 1929, leaving that institution with A.B.
and M.A. degrees.
For one year, 1929-30, he was
instructor of Latin and English at Loyola College, Baltimore.
In 1930 he returned to Woodstock to begin his theological formation.
On June 25, 1933, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop
Michael Curley and in 1934 he left Woodstock with the degree
of Licentiate in Sacred Theology. Since Woodstock is co-ordinated
with the Universita Gregoriana, that Roman university recognized
his philosophic studies and granted him the degree of Doctor
of Philosophy in 1931.
Before continuing his graduate
theological studies, he made his tertianship at St. Andrew-on-Hudson
from 1934 to 1935. In the latter year he began his doctorate
work in theology at the Universitá Gregoriana in Rome.
fit finished his work there in June of 1937 and later published
his thesis, Faustus of Riez (Philadelphia, 1938), thus acquiring
the degree of a Doctor of Sacred Theology
In August of 1937 he began
his theological teaching at the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic
University of Chile at Santiago. He resided in Chile until 1948.
His sojourn there was a happy experience. He came to know Chileans
intimately and loved them intensely. Not, did
they refuse his friendship. He has countless friends in the Chilean
Republic who have been extremely loyal to him over the years.
The years in Santiago were
very active. In 1942 hi was named dean of the School of Theology
and h re mained in that post until 1948. He also retained his
chair of Dogmatic Theology and simultaneously taught metaphysics
in the Pedagogical Institute of the same one versity. During
the eleven years in Chile, he lectured much and widely. He also
managed to write two books El Cristianismo Oriental (Buenos Aires,
1945) and Psicologia de la Religion (Santiago de Chile, 1945).
In addition he collaborated with Srta. Raquel Tejeda L. in the
translation of Msgr. Ronald Knox's God and the Atom ('Dios y
el Atomo, Santiago de Chile, 1948).
In 1948 he left Chile to return
to his own country where he was assigned to Woodstock College,
the Jesuit Theologate in Maryland, whose history has been significant
and whose contributions to American Catholic thought have made
it one of the outstanding schools of theology in the land. But
he did not forget his Chilean friends and Chile did not forget
him. In 1948 the Chilean government made him an officer in the
Orden al Merito and in 1949 he returned to Chile for two months.
Woodstock was, however, a new
epoch in his life. Here he dedicated himself to Ecciesiology,
the theological study of the Church. He soon wrote many articles
and began to lecture in the various universities of the country:
Harvard, Yale, Pennsylvania, Stanford, Purdue, Georgetown, Fordham,
Notre Dame, Marquette, Catholic University, Loyola of Chicago,
Rutgers, Carnegie Tech, Brown, Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Carolina,
Vanderbilt, and others. In 1953 he was appointed by the State
Department to be a member of a team of three clergymen to lecture
in Germany on the state of religion in America. On this occasion
he lectured in German at the universities of Tuebingen, Mainz,
In 1954 he was at death's door
after an operation for cancer, but recovered completely.
The State Department appointed
him in 1956 to lecture in Chile and Colombia where he spoke at
the University of Chile, the Catholic University of Chile, and
the University of Antioquia in Mendellin. On this occasion the
Catholic University of Chile granted him a Doctorate in Letters,
His writings are mainly essays
for periodicals. He has published in Thought, Theological Studies,
The Thomist Reader, American Scholar, New Republic, America,
Christian Century, Review of Politics, etc. He is corresponding
editor for the Jesuit review, America. He has also contributed
to European and Latin American journals: Lumiere et Vie, Gregorianum,
Lutherische Rundschau, Una Sancta (Niederalteich), Mensaje (Chile),
and Re vista Universitaria (Chile).
He is one of the three Catholic
consultants of the Encyclopedia Brittanica to which he has contributed
articles as to the Encyclopedia Americana. He likewise wrote
for the supplement of the Catholic Encyclopedia and for Lexikon
fuer Theologie und Kirche.
He has also authored books
in English: a little Survey of Protestant Theology in Our Day
(Newman, 1954), and another brochure, which was the first number
of The Woodstock Papers, A Catholic Primer on the Ecumenical
Movement (Newman, 1957). A collection of his essays appeared
as Faith and Understanding in America (Macmillan, 1959). He co-authored
An American Dialogue (Doubleday, 1960) with Professor Robert
MacAfee Brown of the Union Theological Seminary of New York.
On the press are the Taylor Lectures which he gave at Yale Divinity
School in 1960, the first Catholic priest to give an endowed
lectureship at that university.
In spite of the fact that he
writes much, he does not consider himself to be a writer. As
he sees it, he is a professor of theology and nothing more. He
believes that a professor will inevitably publish the fruits
of his studies. He will obviously lecture on his subject to stu
dents and also to a wider audience. But this is the necessary
consequent of his dedication to his discipline The writings and
lectures are unavoidable by-products of study and research. For
the last ten years he has been deeply engaged in the question
of the Ecumenical Movement but this is a direct function of his
task professor of ecciesiology. This was recognized by Loyola
University of Chicago which gave him the Christian Wisdom medal
in 1960 and again by the University of Vermont which in the same
year granted him an honorary doctorate in divinity.
In addition to his interest
in ecumenism, he manifests two other concerns. He has spoken
and written often on the need of serious scholarship especially
in American Catholic colleges and universities. In this action
he was following the example of Msgr. John Tracy Ellis of the
Catholic University; and the work has already had excellent consequences
in Catholic schools. His other interest is Latin America. Because
of his stay there and the deep friendships it produced, he constantly
urges Americans to look below the Rio Grande with a desire to
learn and serve. He himself has tried to live up to this exhortation.
Father Weigel resides at Woodstock College. He belongs to the
Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, the
Catholic Theological Society of America, and the Commission on
Religious Education of the American Council of Education.
[EDITORS NOTE: FR. WEIGEL WAS
THE AUTHOR OF THIS SKETCH. HE DIED IN 1964]
published in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig,
Sixth Series, 1960.