Father Jean-Guy Saint-Arnaud passed away on the morning of Friday, January 20, 2023at the Residence Notre-Dame de Richelieu, where he had been living since April 2020. He was 88 years old. He had been suffering from leukemia for several years.
Jean-Guy was born on December 31, 1934, in Montreal. He did his high school and college studies at Collège Saint-Ignace, in Montreal, before entering the novitiate of the Society of Jesus on August 14, 1954. After taking his first vows, he followed the first stage of studies in Montreal: two years of ancient and modern literature (1956-58) and three years of philosophy (1959-61). He then did three years of regency at the Collège de Saint-Boniface, in Manitoba, where he taught philosophy from 1961 to 1964. At the end of his third year of theological studies at the Faculties of the Society of Jesusin Montreal, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Church of the Immaculate Conception on June 10, 1967, by Bishop Adolphe Proulx of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall. Upon completion of his theological studies in 1968, he enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Strasbourg in order to obtain a doctorate in religious studies. His dissertation, which he defended at the end of June 1970, was on John Henry Newman, a theologian and thinker with whom he had been familiar since the beginning of his studies in the Society and on whom he had written his licentiate thesis in philosophy and his licentiate thesis in theology. Newman would inspire him throughout his apostolic life in his reflection on faith and unbelief.
His apostolic journey is divided into three phases: teaching philosophy and directing college studies at Collège Brébeuf from 1970 to 1976; his involvement in the Centre de spiritualité Manrèse in Quebec City with Gilles Cusson, where he oversaw the smoothrunning of the center, teaching the way to give the Spiritual Exercises while giving them and accompanying interns. This was from 1976 to 1999. In the third stage of his active life, from 1999 to 2019, he devoted his time to writing, directing eight and thirty day retreats, and facilitating general and provincial chapters of congregations in Canada and elsewhere in the world. He also gave occasional conferences and received people for spiritual guidance. Jean-Guy was a gifted teacher who expressed himself clearly and simply, using original formulas and peppering his remarks with witty comments and subtle jokes that held the attention of his audience.
Jean-Guy had a great love for the Society, which was expressed in his attention to the study of the founding texts and the decrees of the General Congregations. He was the superior of two small Jesuit communities in Quebec City. In the six books he published, in addition to his doctoral dissertation entitled Newman and Unbelief, he dealt with subjects that he had first addressed in his teaching, including spiritual discernment, which was particularly close to his heart (see his bookentitled Où veux-tu m’emporter Seigneur?). Jean-Guy also wrote many articles for Les cahiers de spiritualité ignatienne, of which he was the director for five years.
On the occasion of his 50th anniversary in the Society, in 2004, Father Kolvenbach, then Superior General, underscored in a letter what he had accomplished in his apostolic service. Among other things, he told him: “Your activity has brought you to travel in Quebec and abroad and has put you in contact with many local churches and their members. You have been available to share the Word of God with them and to invite them to focus on the essential, the person of Christ.In the name of the Society, thank you for helping those who have come to you to better understand the demands and the importance of an authentic spiritual life.