The Cranky Jubilarian

Professor emeritus of history and SCU historian Gerald McKevitt, S.J., told the history of Jesuits in the West. He wrote the definitive The University of Santa Clara.

Professor emeritus of history and SCU historian Gerald McKevitt, S.J., told the history of Jesuits in the West. He wrote the definitive The University of Santa Clara, A History, 1851–1977 and worked with George Giacomini Jr. ’56 on the beautiful sesquicentennial volume Serving the Intellect, Touching the Heart: A Portrait of Santa Clara University.

He died Sept. 18, 2015, at age 76. At Fr. McKevitt’s funeral Mass, George Giacomini read from St. Paul, speaking of his good companion, the former slave Onesimus (“Useful One”). Michael C. McCarthy, S.J. ’87 delivered the homily. Excerpts.

In Fall 2013, Jerry had surgery to remove a tumor the size of a baseball from under his arm. I held his hand as we waited in pre-op. The nurse asked Jerry: “Is this your handsome son?” Jerry chuckled. She looked at his chart and discovered to her embarrassment that he was a Catholic priest. Mortified, she slunk out of the room. Then Jerry really started chuckling.

While he was recovering from that surgery in Los Gatos, Jerry celebrated his 50th anniversary of entrance into the Jesuits. The old grump complained about being trapped up there and having to attend this party against his will. “I’ll just sit in the back until I can slip out quietly,” he told me. So I wrote him a note:

Mac [as he called himself], surrender to your better angels. Besides, Reverend [what I called him], your perseverance through half a century as a Jesuit is extremely encouraging to me. It is a sign of hope that the life I entered is in fact worth my whole life and sustainable for the long haul. And while I am sorry I can’t be at the Jubilee, I feel joy for the great cloud of witnesses, among whom you have become such a major figure in my life.

About 24 hours later, this email from Jerry appeared in my inbox:

Your thoughtful note gave the cranky jubilarian something to ponder.

It’s difficult to comprehend how one’s [own] perseverance [in religious life] has meaning beyond the private and personal. That there might be larger significance, as you suggest, is consoling.

I’ve always entertained the fantasy—more than a fantasy really, a hope and deep desire—that when we meet, the Lord will greet me with a new name—perhaps “Onesimus.” We aspire to live a life useful to him, but the fruit of that aspiration remains unknown.

That very darkness [of not knowing] is merciful, of course. But still the ego craves a signpost that one is on the right road. Your kind note did that for me. Thanks for illuminating the path.

[Signed,] Rev

Tributes in prose and poem:

post-image Photo by Charles Barry, Courtesy of SCU Archives and Special Collections
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