May 15, 2018 – Matthew Cypher of the McDonough School of Business is looking forward to the day his daughter asks him who baptized her and getting the opportunity to describe the late Rev. Howard Gray, S.J.
“As she makes her sacraments over her young life, without a doubt I will be brought back here,” Cypher said at a memorial Mass for Gray in Dahlgren Chapel this past Monday. “It will be one of the great delights of my life to explain this man to her and to instill in her the wisdom that he instilled in me.”
Cypher, who directs Georgetown’s Steers Center for Global Real Estate, also had Gray as a spiritual advisor for a retreat a few years ago.
Gray, 87, passed away May 7 due to injuries sustained in a car accident.
The beloved Jesuit served the university in numerous ways, including as vice chair of the university’s board of directors from 2002 to 2006, as special assistant to the president in 2007, and, most recently, as interim vice president for mission and ministry in 2017.
In a message to the Georgetown community, President John J. DeGioia noted Gray’s “profound impact . . . on the lives of our students and countless women and men in our community.”
“He was sought nationally and internationally for his scholarship and teaching on Ignatian Spirituality and for his wisdom as a spiritual director,” he added.
Compassion and Love
Rev. Gregory Schenden, S.J., Georgetown’s Roman Catholic chaplain, gave the homily at the memorial service, where he compared Gray to the good Samaritan.
“In his sharing of Christ, with all of us, he embodied that Samaritan’s compassion and love, but he also demanded it from all of us,” Schenden said.
Born in Cleveland in 1930, Gray graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1948 and then joined the Society of Jesus.
He earned a bachelor's degree in Latin in 1953 and a master's degree in English in 1959 from Loyola University Chicago. Gray also held licentiates in philosophy (1955) and theology (1962) from West Baden College in West Baden Springs, Indiana.
Scholar and Author
Prior to coming to Georgetown, Gray served as rector of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, as provincial for the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus and as founding director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Boston College.
Gray also taught at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California; Fordham University; John Carroll University; Loyola University of New Orleans; and the University of Detroit Mercy.
He was the author of more than 60 articles and essays, including An Experience in Ignatian Government from Studies in the Spirituality of the Jesuits.
Rev. John O’Malley, S.J., a theology professor at Georgetown who has known Gray since they were teenagers, wrote a reflection about his longtime friend in America magazine yesterday.
O’Malley, a University Professor at Georgetown, said in the article that people came to Howard “with their darkest secrets, their deepest wounds and their highest hopes. They came to the field hospital he called spiritual direction, and there they found balm for their wounds and comfort for their souls.”
Reading People’s Hearts
In a Facebook post, Rev. James Martin, S.J., author and editor-at-large at America magazine, said Gray “was exceedingly well read in Ignatian spirituality, tremendously experienced in the practice of spiritual direction, and highly gifted in reading people's hearts.”
“Among his Jesuit brothers, his many colleagues and many friends, and among those with whom he ministered, it is likely that Howard will be remembered not as the holder of those positions and offices, as important as they were, but as something else: one of the great Jesuit spiritual masters in the last 50 years,” said Martin, who penned The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life.
Gray was admired by people of all faiths and backgrounds.
“In discussing with him what he would tell me about what makes one good in pastoral care, he said, with a smile, ‘simple my brother – compassionate listening,’” said Georgetown’s Imam Yahya Hendi.
Gray was buried at All Saints Cemetery in his hometown of Northfield, Ohio, on May 12.