By Barry Leidl
On Friday, September 4, Jesuits, family, and friends gathered at Guelph to say a final goodbye to those Jesuits who died during these past few difficult, COVID-filled months. The cremated remains of George O’Neill, Mike Hawkins, Peter Larisey, Norm Dodge, FX Johnson, Charlie Sitter, Mike Murray, and Joe Frechette were laid to rest in the Jesuit Cemetery on the grounds of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre following the celebration of a memorial Mass at Holy Rosary Church, presided over by the Provincial.
In the homily, Fr. Greg Kennedy, SJ, recalled his consoling experience as one of the Jesuit caregivers to his ill and dying brothers at René Goupil House in this way.
By allowing themselves humbly to be served, the dying Jesuits gave us younger Jesuit volunteers the formative and transformative gift of service. In their accepted frailty and vulnerability, they taught us to be men for others. They called forth the best in us. They were Christ for us, igniting our hearts with love and inviting us to be Christ-like.
It seems to me no accident that we bury these men, who died some months ago, on the first Friday of the Season of Creation, the liturgical period to recall us to our earthy roots. The theme of this year’s Season of Creation is jubilee for the Earth. “Jubilee”, says Pope Francis, “is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.” We are gathered here to do just this with respect to the lives of these eight Jesuits. We are connected to them, and through them we reconnect to the Earth, to which they return in a special way today. Knowing that they will soon rest in a restored union with all of creation and its Creator, we rejoice. Moreover, we do them honor by jubilantly caring for this same creation and serving this same Creator.
The burials took place in a simple ceremony led by Bert Foliot, followed by the planting of two trees. The trees are specimens of the famous Jesuit Pear, believed to have been introduced by Jesuits in the Windsor-Detroit area in the 1700’s. The Jesuit Pear grows to heights of over 40 feet and can live for several centuries. These trees will serve as long-lasting remembrances of the eight Jesuits who were buried last week and the tumultuous times in which they breathed their last.