Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of our brother Fr. Bill Harmless, S.J., who was called to eternal life on October 14, 2014. Bill died suddenly and unexpectedly while out for an evening walk. He was 61 years old, a Jesuit for 36 years, and a priest for 27 years. At his death, he was a member of the United States Central and Southern Province applied to the Wisconsin Province.
Born on July 30, 1953, in Kansas City, MO, Bill attended St. Peter’s Grade School and Rockhurst High School (Kansas City), and Rice University (Houston, TX). Before entering the Society at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, in 1978, Bill volunteered with the Peace Corps in Mali and taught English in Houston. Bill studied philosophy at Loyola University, New Orleans. He completed his theology studies at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, was ordained on June 13, 1987, made tertianship in Los Gatos, CA, and pronounced final vows on March 21, 2003.
During regency, Bill served as the Director for Religious Education at St. Joseph Church, Houston, TX. After ordination, Bill continued studies, earning a Ph.D. in Religion and Education from Boston College in 1990. From 1990-2003 Bill taught theology at Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL. While there, he held the Thomas E. Casetecker Chair; the College named him Teacher of the Year (1994). In 2003 Bill was the Walter and Mary Tuohy Professor of Interreligious Studies at John Carroll University, University Heights, OH, before moving to Creighton University, Omaha, NE, later that same year. Since 2003, Bill taught as Professor of Historical Theology and Patristic Studies at Creighton University. In 2010 Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences recognized him as its Scholar of the Year. In 2013 he held the Visiting Chair of Theology at Villanova University, Villanova, PA. Earlier this year, he was awarded the Graff Endowed Faculty Chair in Catholic Theological Studies at Creighton University. Throughout his academic career—in publications, lectures and teaching—Bill contributed much to scholarship on St. Augustine and early monasticism. For this he was internationally renowned in his field. Since 2009 he served on the Board of Directors of the Augustinian Heritage Institute, Villanova University.
Bill epitomized the Society’s intellectual apostolate. He was a dynamic teacher. He demanded much of himself and his students. The best students sought out Bill’s courses. He was a creative scholar, often seeing connections in ancient texts that others did not. Bill committed himself wholeheartedly not only to his research, publication and teaching, but also to promoting the Jesuit identity of the universities where he worked, and to fostering faith in the lives of students. At Creighton, he was an articulate advocate for a liberal arts education; there he authored the preamble for the University’s Magis Core Curriculum. Colleagues knew Bill for his strong and passionate positions, but also as someone who never let a difference of opinion affect what he thought of them as persons. A cold beer, some great tunes, and friendly conversation usually followed a good argument. His fellow Jesuits greatly valued his presence among them.
Arrangements are as follows
4:00 – 6:00 p.m., Sunday, October 19
St. John’s Church
2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE
6:00 p.m., Sunday, October 19
St. John’s Church
10:30 a.m., Monday, October 20
St. John’s Church
Presider: Rev. Tim Lannon, S.J., Creighton University President
Homilist: Very Rev. Ron Mercier, S.J., UCS Provincial
Following Funeral Mass, Monday, October 20
Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 4912 Leavenworth Street, Omaha, NE