Fr. Howard J. Gray, SJ
Fr. Howard J. Gray, SJ
Howard had a deep love of Christ and helped others encounter Jesus through both the Eucharist and the Spiritual Exercises
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Fr. Howard J. Gray, SJ

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Father Howard J. Gray, SJ, who died at 12:15 p.m. on May 7, 2018, at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, Mich. of complications from a car accident. He was 87 years old. May he rest in peace. 

Howard was born on May 23, 1930, in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1948 and entered the Society of Jesus at Milford, Ohio, on July 24, 1948. He was ordained at Colombiere Center on June 15, 1961. After his fourth year of theology, he made tertianship at St. Beuno's in North Wales under Fr. Paul Kennedy, SJ, one of the pioneers in the direct, one-on-one Ignatian retreat renewal. He pronounced final vows at Colombiere Center on August 15, 1965.

In the Society Howard earned a Bachelor's Degree in Latin (1953) and a Master's Degree in English (1959) from Loyola University Chicago. He also earned Licentiates in philosophy (1955) and theology (1962) from West Baden College in West Baden Springs, Ind. From 1965-1968, he did doctoral studies in English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., where he was a Knapp Fellow.   

During Regency, Howard taught Sophomore and Senior English, moderated the yearbook, school plays, and the Student Council at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago (1955-1958).  After ordination, he was a professor of English at the Juniorate at Colombiere Center (1963-1965) and also spent his second year as Dean. After doctoral studies, Howard was the Director of Formation for the Detroit Province (1968-1972). In 1971, he became the first superior of Loyola House, the joint Chicago-Detroit novitiate in Berkley, Mich.  After a year of sabbatical, Howard became the rector of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Weston, Mass. (1976-1982). He was Dean of the Theologate for one year before becoming the provincial of the Detroit Province (1983-1989). From 1985-1989, in addition to being provincial, he was the elected Vice President of the Major Superiors (CMSM). After a year of sabbatical and consultation for the Philippine Jesuit Province, Howard became the Detroit Province Tertian Director and the Director of the Detroit Province Spirituality Team (1990-1996)  where he worked alongside the late Fr. Walter Farrell, SJ  Howard was a delegate at two General Congregations: 33rd (in 1983) while provincial and 34th (in 1995) while Tertian Director.

At the age of 66, Howard left internal governance and formation work in the Society and became the first Director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Boston College (1996-2001).  He returned to the Detroit Province to become the rector of the Jesuit Community and the Assistant to the President for University Mission and Identity at John Carroll University (2001-2007). While at John Carroll, he was the Tertian Director for six Jesuits during a special 13-month Detroit Province Tertianship program (2005-2006).  Howard moved to Georgetown University to become the Assistant to the President for special projects (2007-2017) and, in his final year there, interim Vice President for Mission and Ministry. In 2009-2010, Howard was Tertian Director (for the third time) for the Jesuit Conference. In late July 2017, Howard joined the staff of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Howard had a deep love of Christ and helped others encounter Jesus through both the Eucharist and the Spiritual Exercises. He was known nationally and internationally for his scholarship and teaching on Ignatian spirituality. Early in his Jesuit life, Howard was one of a group of Jesuits and lay people who helped bring back the one-on-one personally directed retreat. Throughout his Jesuit life, he gave retreats (both preached and directed) and spiritual direction, lectured, and wrote about Ignatian spirituality. His lectures, talks, and retreats took him all over the USA and throughout the world -- East Africa, East Asia, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Throughout his seven decades as a Jesuit, he received six honorary doctorates, lectured extensively, and authored of over 60 articles and essays on Ignatian Spirituality, ministry, and the apostolic mission of Jesuit high schools and universities.

An avid reader, Howard was able to seamlessly incorporate themes, references, and quotes from great novels, poems, and spiritual books into his lectures, talks, and retreats.  Howard's love of the English language and his familiarity with English literature — his favorite books being Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky — helped him to be an amazing teacher, lecturer, and homilist. 

Howard was a gracious gentleman who always had time for others and, without fail, would respond to a kindness from others with a hand-written thank you note.

Read Fr. John O'Malley, SJ's, homily from Fr. Gray's funeral Mass here.

Thursday, May 10, 2018
4:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Prayer Service at 7:00 p.m.
Manresa Jesuit Retreat House
1390 Quarton Rd
Bloomfield Hills, MI  48304

Mass of Christian Burial
Saturday, May 12, 2018
11:00 a.m.
Visitation at 9:00 a.m.
Gesu Parish
2470 Miramar Blvd
University Heights, OH  44118-3820


All Saints Cemetery
480 W Highland Rd.
Northfield, OH 

In Memoriam
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May 08, 20188:10 AM
Howard played a crucial role in discerning my vocations, first to remain in diocesan priesthood then to enter religious life. He will continue as a mentor in how to follow Jesus along the way of St. Ignatius of Loyola. May Howard enjoy eternal rest and light! – Paul Panaretos, S.J.

May 08, 20189:54 AM
You were a great man, Howard. You knew the love of Christ and you knew how to share that love. We will miss you. – Leo Cleary

May 08, 201812:48 PM
I am grateful to Fr. Gray for "forming" our interfaith campus ministry team at Georgetown in the late 1990s, and for sharing the Exercises and principles/techniques of spiritual direction for generations of lay ministers. Directors and directees alike benefitted from his generosity of spirit, talent for communication, and good humor. He knew Whose he was, and taught me to seek that Who in all things. Eternal rest grant unto him. – Diane Michutka Fraser

May 08, 20182:10 PM
I am immensely thankful to have known Howard both as a student and as a coworker during his final years at Georgetown. I will miss him immensely. – Joshua Raftis

May 08, 20188:25 PM
I can proudly say that I have known Fr.. Gray my entire life....however to me he was just known as Uncle Howard. My mother, Marge, is Fr. Gray's only sibling and they were extremely close. Uncle Howard was a one in a million person. Our family has a huge hole with his passing, but we know that he is resting in a well deserved peace. We were proud to share him with the world, so that the world could be a better place. I only ask for prayers for my family, especially my mother, who is lost without her brother. – Rose Ambrose

May 09, 20189:30 AM
Father Gray was the first Provincial for whom I worked. I recall when he was provincial there was always so much laughter coming from his office. He was a good and gentle man and I know he will be missed. He was noted for his speeches and the last time I saw Father Gray was at the funeral of Rev. Walter Farrell, S.J. I know God is blessing him even more now. – Anonymous

May 09, 201811:18 AM
After I graduated from Loyola Academy in 1961 I was a part of an Institute for Sodality Leadership for a week at John Carroll University and I met Father Gray and he was very kind to me and helped me as a counselor and wrote me some thoughtful letters which meant a lot to me and my life. – Marty Lane

May 09, 201812:17 PM
Howard exemplifies all of the Jesuit values most notably men & women for others, social justice, cura personalis. I had the privilege of training through the ICP and became steeped in the St. Ignatian tradition. I will miss him dearly and feel blessed that my life was enriched because of his ministry. May he rest in peace! – Rosemary Kilkenny

May 09, 20181:18 PM
Father Gray was a dear friend who was extraordinarily generous with our family. We will also remember with gratitude his deep empathy, understanding, and commitment to doing what is right, even if it entailed taking risks. I miss my friend as there was much more I wanted to discuss, from life and family, to important subjects like Cleveland sports and hollywood movies. Rest in peace, Padre. – David Brinkley, Los Angeles

May 09, 20185:22 PM
Blessed to have had him as s teacher and a friend. Shared lots of laughter and joy together with John Omalley. May he rest in peace – Simon Makuru

May 09, 20188:17 PM
I had the privilege of knowing Father Gray from my years at Georgetown as an undergrad. I even got to have a one-on-one with him when I went on a retreat during my senior year. From his spiritual direction to his homilies at Mass to the mere sight of him walking through campus, there was something very special about him. At the time, I thought that it was simply his being an intelligent, well read, gentlemanly (grandfatherly) Jesuit who had a masterful ability to preach and to guide his students in Ignatian spirituality. Indeed, he was all those things, and I loved listening to him speak. However, looking back at those years and now reading the articles written and messages shared about him, I recall the passage in the Gospel of the men walking along the road to Emmaus who say to each other after Jesus departs, "Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke?" I'm sure that I also speak for others when I say that my heart certainly burned within me when Father Gray spoke. He must have been echoing the voice of the Risen One. Requiescat in pace, Father Gray. – Calvin Keen

May 10, 20187:46 PM
Howard truly loved the Lord and invited others to do so as well. Like Ignatius before him he believed very deeply that the Lord who could come to him could certainly come to any person who opens themselves to God's indwelling love. My deepest gratitude for Howard who by his life and teaching convinced me of this truth for myself. – Bill Zuelke

May 11, 20187:14 PM
With much gratitude for Howie, truly a man for others as generous as the Good Samaritan and loving as the Prodigal's father. – Sr. Gerry Finan,Helper

May 13, 20182:52 PM
I knew Fr. Howard not personaly but only from the websites when I listened to his lectures "Dynamics of Spiritual Excersises". I wanted to thank him personaly via e-mail but it is too late. So I would like to use this way to say: Thank you, Fr. Howard. Rest in peace. – Martin Nekuda

May 13, 20183:26 PM
I met Howard when he was at BC with the Jesuit Institute, and I invited him to give a talk on Ignatian Spirituality and Constitutions for an anniversary in our congregation. Not only was he as wise, imaginative and humorous a presenter as we had hoped, but he challenged us to look beyond and below our texts to the encounter with God in Jesus and in our world. I also enjoyed his homilies at St. Ignatius, filled with love, kindness and compassion. He has had an impact on my life and became a model for my own aging process. No nostalgia for the past, but moving forward in mission with Jesus. A Pentecostal witness, right to the last day of his life, on the road as a Jesuit whose vocation was "to travel" wherever he could be of service. He will be missed and remembered with joy. – Janice Farnham, RJM

May 20, 201810:15 PM
Let me just say that I owe more than I can ever repay to Fr. Howard Gray for his wise and gentle guidance at Weston School of Theology in the early 80's when I was a student there. His classes were a treasure and his Masses even more so. Thank you. – Michael Dulick

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