Dominican Fr. Benedict Ashley authored over 20 books, including his autobiography released just last month.
(Chicago, IL, February 28, 2013) Fr. Benedict M. Ashley, O.P., well-known Dominican theologian and philosopher whose major influence on Catholic theology and ethics in America were evident in his writing, teaching, and consulting, died on February 23rd after a brief illness. He was 97 and a Dominican Friar since 1942.
Fr. Ashley authored over 20 books, including Theologies of the Body; Living the Truth in Love: a Biblical Introduction to Moral Theology, Thomas Aquinas: Gifts of the Spirit, Spiritual Direction in the Dominican Tradition, and The Dominicans. His passionate intellectual pursuits from a young man made him a major voice in the development of the “River Forest School” of Thomism. Fr. Ashley received an M.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. form the University of Notre Dame. In addition, he was granted an S.T.L. and Ph.D. from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.
Fr. Ashley taught at numerous institutions, including Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Dominican graduate school, where he served as president from 1962 to 1969. Ashley later held the title of Associate Professor at the Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University’s Health Sciences Center. Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis, which he co-authored with fellow Dominican Fr. Kevin O’Rourke O.P., and Jean deBlois, C.S.J., is considered a fundamental text in the field of Catholic bioethics.
Just last month, Fr. Ashley published his milestone autobiography, Barefoot Journeying: An Autobiography of a Begging Friar (New Priory Press, Chicago). This memoir covers Ashley’s remarkable life, from his youth in Kansas, his studies at the University of Chicago in the 1930s under Professors Mortimer Adler, Thornton Wilder, and Gertrude Stein, to his decades of service as a Dominican priest. The work also extensively reflects on the upheaval and realities in the Catholic Church before and after the Second Vatican Council.
When asked to comment on Fr. Ashley’s 600-plus page autobiography, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, said, “Fr. Benedict Ashley brings to his own life both the depth of objective analysis he uses in other studies and the subjectivity, grounded in the truths of the Catholic faith and the love for Christ and his Church, that only he can disclose. This is a good book reflecting the life of a truly good man."
Among many distinguished appointments, Fr. Ashley continued to serve the Institute for Advanced Physics in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was a member of the advisory board of the Lumen Christi Institute for Catholic Thought in Hyde Park.
Two of Fr. Benedict’s most prestigious awards and honors are the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal conferred by John Paul II and the post-doctoral Master in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
Even into his 90s, Fr. Ashley would periodically teach formal theology courses at Aquinas Institute. Just as he had taught and formed young Dominicans during his first years of formal ministry, likewise toward the end of his life he again lived for many years in the stadium community (this time in St. Louis), where his edifying example of Dominican life continued to inspire many young brothers in initial formation. Due to declining health, Fr. Ashley moved to St. Pius V Priory in Chicago in 2009, and in 2013 at the age of 97, surrounded by his brother Dominicans, he was still earnestly engaged in the 'apostolate of the pen.’ Never content merely to shine, Fr. Ashley studiously sought to illuminate others even into his final days.
A funeral Mass in celebration of his life will be held at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in River Forest, Illinois, on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Memorial gifts will be directed to the Ashley-O’Rourke Initiative in Health Care Mission at Aquinas Institute of Theology. For information, see www.domcentral.org or call 312.243.0011.
The Dominican Friars, Province of St. Albert the Great
Dominican friars, officially called the Order of Preachers, is a worldwide communion of men and women founded nearly 800 years ago by St. Dominic. They remain dedicated to serving the people of God through Prayer, Study, Service, and Community, bound together by a singular devotion to preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.
The provincial headquarters of the Dominican Friars, Province of St. Albert the Great, are located in Chicago, Illinois. Otherwise known as the Central Province, with over 150 members, these men minister primarily in the Midwest, but their work extends throughout the world. Ministries span from teaching to parish work to campus ministry, but all entail preaching. These ministries can be found from Albuquerque to Detroit, from St. Louis to Minneapolis, and around the world.