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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.
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 years 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.