Francis Paul Prucha
Fr. Francis Paul Prucha, SJ
Paul had the virtues of an eminent scholar, including intelligence, insight, and a great capacity for sustained, disciplined work.
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Francis Paul Prucha

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Francis Paul Prucha, SJ, who died peacefully at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wis., on July 30, 2015. At 94 years old, he was the oldest member of the Wisconsin Province, a Jesuit for 64 years and a priest for 58 years.

Paul was born in River Falls, Wis. on January 4, 1921, where he attended grade school and high school. He graduated from River Falls State Teachers College in 1941 and served in the Army Air Force from 1942 to 1946 before earning an M.A. in history from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. On August 17, 1950, Paul entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo. He cokmpleted the required course of studies at St. Stanislaus, Saint Louis University, and St. Mary's College, although in a somewhat abbreviated fashion after entering at the then-advanced age of 29. Paul was ordained a priest on June 12, 1957, made tertianship in Decatur, Ill., and pronounced his final vows at Marquette University on February 2, 1967.

Paul was an outstanding Jesuit scholar and educator. Assigned to Marquette University in 1960, he remained there for 50 years, even after he officially became professor emeritus in 1988. Visiting professorships and fellowships at Georgetown, Harvard, the University of Oklahoma, and Boston College also dotted his career. In 2010 declining health led him to move to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community. Paul trained generations of doctoral students in history, published more than 25 books and many scholarly articles, and was a major force in establishing Marquette's rich research archives documenting Catholicism among Native Americans. His two-volume The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians, published in 1985, is regarded as a classic among professional historians.

Paul had the virtues of an eminent scholar, including intelligence, insight, and a great capacity for sustained, disciplined work. He also had excellent taste and enjoyed creating objects of beauty out of simple materials. Declining physical health never seemed to affect his intellectual capacity or his wide range of interests. He had a wide circle of acquaintances, especially among his fellow historians. Those who knew him well saw him not only as an eminent historian but as a Jesuit priest for whom scholarship was a ministry and not simply a career. 

Monday, August 3, 2015 
6 p.m. 
San Camillo Chapel 
10200 West Bluemound Road 
Wauwatosa, WI 53226

Monday, August 3, 2015 
7 p.m. 
San Camillo Chapel 
10200 West Bluemound Road 
Wauwatosa, WI 53226

Tuesday, August 4 
9:30 a.m. 
Mt. Olivet Cemetery 
3801 West Morgan Avenue 
Milwaukee, WI 53221

In Memoriam
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August 11, 20152:20 AM
A great scholar, a great teacher, a good critic. We should be grateful that we had him touch our lives. – Anonymous

August 11, 20155:59 AM
I have known and been helped by Fr. Prucha for over 40 years. I will miss our regular phone conversations, all the way from central Finland to Wisconsin. Otan osaa - my condolences. Michael Coleman, Emeritus professor, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. – michael Coleman

August 11, 201511:17 AM
Father Prucha was a meticulous scholar and a caring, thoughtful mentor. When I was on a pre-doctoral fellowship, and he working on his comprehensive bibliography, at the Newberry Library in the mid 1970s, he was kind and helpful to me, as well as providing a model of dedicated scholarly work. I admired him tremendously and will pray for the repose of his soul. – Helen Bannan

August 13, 20151:51 PM
I was practicing medicine in River Falls, WI in 1991 when I recognized Fr. Prucha in a Country Kitchen restaurant. He had received the Distinguished Alumni Award from UW-River Falls the previous day. Friends of mine at Marquette had raved about him and his history classes. I joined him at his table and introduced myself. I visited him almost annually at MU or St. Camillus from then on when I visited my family in Burlington. My wife and I enjoyed his wit and appreciation for the arts. He was proud of his Prucha Archives at the MU Library. He was consulted frequently by historians and had many visitors. Great Jesuit. – James Beix

September 02, 20157:36 AM
When we visited Father Prucha in January, he told us that he was no longer reading books because he was afraid that he would die without finishing one. That was so typical of him, wanting to have everything complete and in proper order. However, he could not guarantee an end to the gratitude, admiration, and love that we and so many others among his students and colleagues feel for him. Our sense of loss is somewhat eased by knowing that he was comfortable with his own mortality, but we will miss him nonetheless. – Bill Kostlevy & Gari-Anne Patzwald

November 19, 20151:22 AM
I am now 61 yrs old and still remember his class at the Univ of Okla where he taught American Indian history as a visiting professor in about 1974 when I was a 20 yr old undergrad. Wow, what a class, I was very fortunate to have had him and still remember much about what he taught. He was scholarly, enthusiastic, kind, demanding (a hard class), and even humorous. God bless you Father Prucha!!! – David Glass

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