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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, and Freiburg.

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, honoris causa.

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.


Originally published in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig, Sixth Series, 1960.


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