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In Memoriam

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston, SJ, who died on June 10, 2024 at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 98 years old. May he rest in peace.

Ben is survived by his brother, Kenneth Urmston.

Ben was born on September 20, 1925 in North College Hill, Ohio. Before entering the Society, he studied at Xavier University for a short time before serving in the United States Army in France, Germany, and the Philippines (1943-1946). Serving in the 86th Infantry Division, Ben participated in three major World War II battles: The Rhine, the Ruhr, and Bavaria. On September 1, 1946, he entered the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus at the Novitiate of the Sacred Heart in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained a priest on June 14, 1959 at West Baden College in West Baden Springs, Illinois, and pronounced final vows on February 2, 1964 at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

While in the Society, Ben earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin (1951), a master’s degree in philosophy (1953), and a master’s degree in religious education (1970) from Loyola University Chicago. He also earned licentiates in philosophy (1953) and theology (1960) from West Baden College in West Baden Springs, Indiana. In 1998, Ben earned his doctorate in peace studies from the Union Institute and the University of Cincinnati.

During regency, Ben taught English and Latin at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1953-1956). After ordination, Ben moved to Cincinnati where he ministered for almost sixty years. He taught English and theology at St. Xavier High School (1961-1970) before being missioned to Xavier University. He was the associate pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel and worked in Campus Ministry (1971-1981) before becoming an adjunct professor of theology, focusing his teachings on international issues, human rights, and non-violent solutions to the problems of the world.

After experiencing the horrors of war, Ben sought to bring peace to the world. In 1981, Ben founded and become the coordinator of Peace and Justice Programs at Xavier University. In 1995, to further his understanding of and better promote these programs, he started doctoral studies in peace studies. The Xavier University website states this about Ben:

In 1977 he began “Faith and Justice Forum”, a weekly radio talk show on WVXU [which ran until 2005]. A pioneer in many aspects, Fr. Ben helped begin the peace studies minor, one of the first interdisciplinary minors on our campus. Soon Fr. Ben was appointed the director of the newly founded Dorothy Day House, which would oversee the University’s Peace and Justice Programs…The Dorothy Day House is now a place where students can actively learn about, and strive for, peace and justice on a global scale. 

Ben also was active with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Justice Across Campus Committee at Xavier University. He has received many rewards for his efforts to bring peace and justice to the world. This recognition led to Ben being a consultant to the National Jesuit Committee on Corporate Responsibility (1998-2001). Ben was missioned to Colombiere Center in 2019 to pray for the Church and the Society.

Father Walter Deye, SJ, has this to say about Ben:

What can one say about Ben Urmston, his person and ministry in a few short sentences? What words were written on his heart? Two words suffice: “World Peace!” Not a day would be complete in the Xavier University office of the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice, and at the prayers of the faithful at daily Mass, and on Zoom calls without Ben articulating and promoting world peace. The day he moved to Colombiere, the activity director came by to welcome him. She asked him in what activities he wanted to engage. She was expecting to hear activities such as card games, exercise, singing, reading, etc. She was a bit stunned when he told her “world peace” and that was that. … He was a man of the Gospel with a strong will and the heartiest of laughs. May he now fully experience the peace of the Lord, a peace which the world cannot give.  

You can learn more about Ben’s history by visiting: www.xavier.edu/frben/peronal-history