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Five die of coronavirus at Jesuit retreat centre

05 May 2020

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Jesuit Fathers Michael Hawkins, 83, Peter Larisey, 91, Norman Dodge, 92, and Francis Xavier Johnson, 93, as well as George O’Neill, 77, died between April 29 and May 3 at René Goupil House, a Jesuit infirmary neighbouring the Manresa retreat centre.

All the deceased became infected while residing at the Jesuit community, where 16 of 22 residents and an unspecified number of staff tested positive for COVID-19. The facility has been in lockdown since March 9.

Since there can be no Jesuit without a mission, all the men living at the infirmary in Pickering are assigned to pray for the Society of Jesus, and thereby to also pray for the Church and the world.

Though relatively young, Mr. O’Neill had been resident at René Goupil House for many of his 57 years of Jesuit life.

During 63 years as a Jesuit, Father Hawkins had been a missionary in the Darjeeling region of India, a retreat master and a teacher.

Rev. Gilles Mongeau, a Jesuit who normally works in the Canadian Jesuits’ head office in Montreal, was at Hawkins’ bedside, singing and praying with him, when he died.

Father Dodge was a social worker who in 67 years as a Jesuit established outreach programs for seniors and the homebound in Ottawa and Montreal and served as superior of the Jesuits in Ottawa from 1997 to 2003.

Since he left Dartmouth, N.S., in 1953 to begin life as a Jesuit, Fr. Larisey carved a unique path.

In the 1960s he obtained a PhD in modern art history at Columbia University. He became one of the leading experts on the art of Canadian painter Lawren Harris and in 1993 published an award-winning, 300-page critical overview of Harris’s life and work called Light for a Cold Land.

For decades, Father Larisey taught and wrote at the intersection of modern art history and theology at Regis College, affiliated with the University of Toronto.

The annual Peter Larisey Lecture in art and theology has been presented at Regis College since 2011.

Besides his academic work, Father Larisey was in demand as a spiritual director and helped mentor young people as a community leader with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps,

Jesuit Superior Rev. Erik Oland has asked friends of the Jesuits to pray for them.

“The most important support you can give is by way of prayer; prayer for these men, prayer for those who care for them and prayer that these next weeks and months will see fewer and fewer illnesses and loss of life,” Oland wrote in a May 3 letter.