Edwin Cassem
Fr. Edwin (Ned) Cassem, SJ
A gifted man, Ned always strove for the magis, whether in his academic accomplishments or ministry to others.
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Edwin Cassem

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Edwin 'Ned' Cassem, SJ, who died on July 4, 2015. He was 80 years old, a Jesuit for 61 years, and a priest for 45 years. May he rest in peace.

Ned was born with his twin brother, John, in Omaha, Neb., on January 24, 1935. He attended St. Margaret Mary Grade School and Creighton Preparatory School before entering the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo. He completed the required course of studies at St. Stanislaus, Saint Louis University, and Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Massachusetts. During that same time, Ned earned a degree in psychology at Saint Louis University, attended Marquette University for pre-med studies, and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1966. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1970, made tertianship in Omaha, and pronounced his final vows on December 26, 1985.

Ned began his residency in psychiatry while studying theology. Following his residency, he stayed on at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School for the remainder of his professional life. He initially worked in the relatively new field of consultation psychiatry under Avery Weisman, eventually becoming Chief of the Avery Weisman Consultation Psychiatry Service. From 1989 to 2000, Ned served as chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General. During this time he also served as a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He founded the Optimum Care Committee (Ethics Committee) in 1973, and chaired it until 2009.  

Over the year,s Ned gained national recognition for his work in palliative and end-of-life care. He completed important research on the relationship between depression and heart disease. From its original publication through its sixth edition, Ned edited The MGH Handbook of General Hospital Psychiatry. In 2009, Harvard established an endowed chair in psychosomatic medicine in Ned's honor.  

During his career, Ned served in many professional organizations — the American Psychosomatic Society, the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, the American College of Physicians, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and the American Psychiatric Association. On multiple occasions, these and other organizations recognized Ned with awards and honors. Ned also shared his insight and talent as a province consultor from 1975 to 1985, and as a member of Creighton University’s Board of Directors from 1969 to 2011.

A gifted man, Ned always strove for the magis, whether in his academic accomplishments or ministry to others. Generous and grateful, he sought to infuse God’s grace and joy into others' lives and ease their burdens. He did this well, always reminding those around him of their humanity and dignity. Despite the intensity of his work, Ned managed to live his own life quite peacefully and calmly, integrating his vocation as a physician within his vocation as a priest. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015 
10 a.m. 
Church of St. Peter Claver 
47 Pleasant Street 
West Hartford, CT 06107

Friday, July 17, 2015 
10 a.m. 
Campion Center 
319 Concord Road 
Weston, MA 02493

Campion Center Cemetery 
319 Concord Road 
Weston, MA 02493

In Memoriam
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July 10, 201510:38 AM
I knew Ned during his years at Youville Hospital and greatly valued his work. He was a dear and compassionate man. Sandi Albertson-Shea (widow of Ray Shea, former Jesuit) – Sandi Albertson-Shea

July 11, 20155:59 PM
Ned and his twin John visited my brother and our family often when they were young, as students, and as priests. They were kind and funny. After we all moved on I could still call up their spirits - especially when I would see their photo in an album or hear about their next steps --so I already know that these spirits really will live on. Blessings to them both. – Anonymous

July 12, 20158:26 PM
I had the privilege of living in a small Jesuit community in Cambridge with Ned, and his dedication to his work and his incredible enthusiasm for life were truly inspirational. He will always remain as one of my heroes. – Joe Rochelle

July 14, 201510:04 AM
Fr. Edwin Cassem M.D., S.J. was a Jesuit Priest and a Psychiatrist who is very well known. He was known as a very compassionate man who rounded regularly at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston MA which is not an easy place to work in my opinion given pressures from the nurses, and administration. Priest/Dr. Cassem worked long hours at the Massachusetts General Hospital which tired him greatly. His life is a celebration of what it means to be a Jesuit Priest and a Psychiatrist. He provided comfort to not only the patients but also to their families who were emotionally coping with loved ones who were dying. One particular son told me how much it meant to have Priest/Dr. Cassem visits for their parent who died of terminal cancer at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Priest/Dr. Cassem is probably regarded as one of the greatest psychiatrists who has ever lived. In addition, Priest/Dr. Cassem assisted families to cope emotionally when the Massachusetts General Hospital chose to terminate giving services to patients in medically futile situations. Those situations were very hard on families to cope emotionally. Priest/Dr. Cassem's legacy for his compassion should continue on in the hearts and minds of all Jesuit Priests and medical doctors that in the worst of circumstances that compassion is the trait that the patients and families so desperately desire. As the Jesuits Priests, and Audrey Cassem sister-in-law cope with the loss of one of the greatest priests and psychiatrists who has ever lived I send my heart felt compassion to all that Priest/Dr. Cassem worked and lived his life fully to the end giving as much as he could to each and every patient and family. More need to follow in his foot steps. Given the lesser numbers of men becoming Jesuits then the requirements for entrance need to be loosened to allow more persons to enter to enable others to follow in the path of wonderful priest and psychiatrist Fr. Dr. Edwin Cassem M.D., S.J.. Lisa Jacobs – Lisa Jacobs

July 25, 20152:33 PM
I became friends with Ned while studying philosophy at Fusz. He, John and their parents brought joy to my life then. I will miss him but thank God for his life and ministry. – Carl Meirose

July 30, 20154:18 PM
I knew him only as Ned Cassem, and he had a significant impact on my life. I learned of the Rev. part of his life only in this lovely article. I am sure he touched countless lives, both professionals and patients. Such a shame that his wonderful mind began to fail him in the end. – Janet Roxborough

December 25, 20171:25 AM
Ned was my second cousin. Even though I never met him, he changed my outlook for the rest of my days. My father, Robert Phillips, MD, was his cousin (Dad's mother, Ned's aunt was Elinor McDonough). When I was 9 years old, I so many religious/spiritual questions, Dad finally suggested I write a letter to his cousin Ned, since he was a Jesuit priest. I did. Ned answered! We wrote to each other for several years. His letters were funny, understanding and always contained an enigmatic challenge for me to explore some new idea. I loved these letters and I loved the man who wrote them. He was simpatico and a buddy. Sadly, I became a teen and lost interest in letters, I lost contact.with Ned, and I forever regret this. Ned has been with my thoughts and prayers daily. Since even through only letters, his faith and insight have sustained me. I am 66 now, and am grateful every day for the contribution his powerful faith, loving spirit and intellect have given to me, to live my life fully and in concert with God's will. – Roberta J Crowell

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