Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of our brother, Fr. Eugene J. Carmichael, SJ, who died on November 21, 2023 at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 82 years old. May he rest in peace.
Gene was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 6, 1941. He graduated from Loyola Academy (1959) and earned bachelor’s degrees in history and philosophy from the College of the Holy Cross before entering the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus at Milford, Ohio on September 1, 1963. He was ordained a priest on June 7, 1973 at Madonna della Strada Chapel on the campus of Loyola University Chicago, and pronounced final vows at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 13, 1981.
While in the Society, Gene earned a master’s degree in counseling from Boston College (1969) and a master’s of divinity from Bellarmine School of Theology in North Aurora, Illinois.
During regency and theology studies, Gene was the Chicago Province Vocation Director (1969-1974). After ordination, he moved to Cincinnati and became the director of the Loyola Youth Retreat House and the director of youth ministry at the Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford (1974-1979). Gene then was missioned to Xavier University where he ministered for 36 years. He worked in the campus ministry department (1979-1981) before using his administration gifts as: associate dean of students (1981-1984), assistant director of the health and counseling center (1984-1991), administrator of St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel (1991-1992), associate vice president for mission and ministry (1992-2006), interim vice president of student development (2006-2007), and interim vice president for mission and identity (2007-2009). When Gene was almost 70 years old, he gave up administration and became a fulltime spiritual counselor at Xavier University (2009-2015). In 2015, Gene was missioned to Colombiere Center to pray for the Church and the Society of Jesus.
While he was working at Xavier University, Gene used his spiritual, listening, and counseling gifts as a chaplain at the Lebanon Correctional Institution and the Warren Correctional Institution. At both locations he presided at Mass, offered the sacrament of reconciliation, provided pastoral counseling, and celebrated the initiation of dozens of incarcerated men into the Catholic Church. Gene had this to say about his ministry at the prisons:
[It is] an opportunity to live out Jesus’ words: ‘When I was in prison, you visited me.’ We meet Jesus in the prisoners as we experience his gentle personal presence in them. To minister in prison is to encourage the inmates to recognize God’s love for them as well as his invitation to and challenge for them to share their God-given gifts with fellow inmates who are in need. It is Jesus who gifts the men with what they need in ways that only he is able to do. Prison ministers just show up, let go of our expectations, accompany the men and give thanks to God for God’s eternal love for all.
Gene was a devoted Jesuit priest. People gravitated to him because of his care, concern and love of them. His gentle presence and wise words helped others realize God’s love for them. Gene loved music and paid for part of his college education as a member of a Dixieland band.
Father Bill Creed, SJ, has these memories of Gene:
When Gene and I entered the Milford Novitiate in 1963, he stood out because he was 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighed 230 pounds; as he matured, he became known as ‘the gentle giant,’ his gentleness had dwarfed his physical stature. Although we lived in different cities during most of our years of ministerial service, Gene and I became the very best of friends. In our friendship, I came to realize that Gene was an extraordinarily gentle human being. In all ways he was gentle, even in the way he drove an automobile. One longtime friend of several of us Jesuits and a Xavier University alum where Gene served for more than three decades expressed succinctly the essence of Gene: “He was a large presence, with a gentle soul, who will be missed by many.”