Rev. Eugene J. Prior of the Society of Jesus died today, July 24, 2007, at the Jesuit Infirmary, Murray-Weigel Hall, New York, of cancer. He was 82.
Born on August 11th, 1924 in Manhattan and raised in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, Fr. Prior graduated from Fordham Prep and attended Fordham University before entering the New York Province of the Society of Jesus on February 1, 1943. He was ordained a priest on June 18th, 1955.
Fr. Prior first arrived at Loyola School as Mr. Prior, SJ, in 1949, when he served as a Jesuit scholastic, teaching and moderating the yearbook. After ordination, he taught for five years at Regis High School and returned in 1962 to Loyola, where he served continuously and extraordinarily until his death. He was Student Counselor and then the Assistant Headmaster for many years; for the last six years he has been Loyola’s Vice-President of Alumni Relations and External Affairs. He has also officiated at countless baptisms, weddings and funerals associated with members of the Loyola School community, which celebrated him in recent years on the occasions of his 60th anniversary of entering the Society of Jesus, his 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, and his 80th birthday, at which over 1,100 of his friends, current and former students, and their families celebrated a life of service. During Fr. Prior’s recent illness alumnus Ray Zrike ’68 said simply, “Fr. Prior is the heart and soul of Loyola.”
In Spring 2006, Fr. Prior was diagnosed with a recurrence of the cancer from which he suffered many years ago. He underwent surgery, and since then he has resided at the Jesuits’ infirmary, Murray-Weigel Hall, on the campus of Fordham University. More than one staff member from the infirmary observed that there was never a Jesuit who received more visitors at Murray-Weigel than Fr. Prior.
A wake for Fr. Prior will be held in the Loyola School gymnasium this Sunday, July 29th from 2:00 – 9:00pm and Monday, July 30th from 2:00 – 5:00pm. The funeral will be held on Monday, July 30th at St. Ignatius Loyola Church at 7:00pm with a reception in Wallace Hall to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Fr. Prior Scholarship Fund. Please view the Fr. Prior slideshow that was shown at this year's Alumni Dinner.
On the table next to Fr. Prior’s bed in the infirmary, amidst the hundreds of get well cards and messages from around the world, was a copy of Loyola trustee and Jesuit Father Jim Martin’s recent book, My Life with the Saints, featuring short essays of such figures as Mary and Joseph, Joan of Arc and Bernadette of Lourdes, Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola, and Pope John XXIII and Dorothy Day—the communion of saints. Now Gene Prior is among them.
Eternal rest grant unto your faithful servant, Fr. Eugene J. Prior, SJ, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
Steve Katsouros, SJ