A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. Joseph F. (Joe) Eagan, SJ
Teacher. Campus minister. Parish priest. Author. World traveler. Photographer. Mountain climber.
March 12, 2015 – These are just some of the words that describe Fr. Joe Eagan, SJ, during his 75 years as a Jesuit. And today, in his mid-90s, he shows no signs of stopping. Well, maybe his mountain climbing has slowed down — but not much else.
For example, he recently wrote Vatican II Renewal, Path to the Future of the Church. “When I moved to our Jesuit Community at St. Camillus five years ago, it was the first time I had time on my hands,” he recalls. “I wanted to share the riches of our Church, to explain the renewal-reform of Vatican II as the sure way for our Church to renew herself and regain lost credibility, and especially to give hope to so many disillusioned Catholics, young and old today, as Pope Francis has done so well.
Fr. Eagan heard this often-expressed need for hope when, as associate pastor in two San Francisco Bay area parishes, he taught adult theological education to hundreds using his prize-winning 1995 book, Restoration and Renewal, the Church in the Third Millennium.
His research for the present book included three weeks in Rome – a city to which he was no stranger, having organized and chaperoned two European tours for students from Creighton Prep and Campion Jesuit High School (a 1963 tour featured 27 students attending the coronation of Pope Paul VI). On a later visit, Fr. Eagan had the privilege of talking with Pope John Paul II and concelebrating Mass with him in his private chapel. In addition, he earned his doctorate in ecclesiology and ecumenism at Rome’s Gregorian University.
Other highlights of Fr. Eagan’s remarkable life include: serving as director of campus ministry at Creighton University (during which he organized and accompanied a study abroad group to the Jesuit Sophia University in Tokyo, and climbed Mt. Fuji in the process); two decades teaching theology at the University of San Francisco, which included two round-the-world sabbatical years to study the world religions and the global Catholic Church and biennial meetings of Jesuit ecumenists in Europe, Africa and Asia; and a “wonderful second career” of 15 years as parish priest.
Perhaps most poignant were his visits to Latin America. “My brother [the late Fr. John Eagan, SJ] was a great inspiration to me in many ways, including his passion for social justice,” he explains. “John opened my eyes to the tragic situation in Central America in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As a result, I made three trips to El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to interview key persons including Jesuits to learn the true reality there for my USF classes on liberation theology.”
Reflecting on these many places, experiences and ministries, Fr. Eagan says, “I thank God every day for the amazing blessings and many good friends of my rich Jesuit life – and now, here at Camillus, for the inspiration of my Jesuit brothers, their nearness to God, their acceptance of diminishment and suffering, and their strong faith. Plus, they’re fun to be with. I’m so blessed. As the English mystic Julian of Norwich never tired of saying: ‘All is gift.’”
S P I R I T U A L I T Y
Fr. Eagan shares this paraphrase of verses from Psalm 103, which he says “beautifully expresses” Rembrandt’s depiction of the father in Return of the Prodigal Son.
The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger, rich in love,
As the heavens are high above the earth, so strong is His love.