J. Allan Panuska, S.J. (Both served as rectors of Jesuit Community in Wernersville)
Joseph A. Currie, S.J.
Allan Panuska, S.J. Rev. Joseph A. Currie, S.J.
These two Jesuits shared the initials J.A., the one J. Allan,
simply Al, the other Joseph A., simply Joe.
Born less than ten years apart, ordained eight years apart, Al before
the Second Vatican Council and Joe in 1968 just a few years after the Council
closed. They died within days of one another, Al on
Feb 28 and Joe on Mar 3.
As young priests, Al did serious research as a biologist and
Joe was a missionary to India, each one following traditions of Jesuit
excellence. Only our best young Jesuits
went off to India. And Al joined one of
the best Jesuit science departments at Georgetown University. Later leadership in the Society and in
education awaited Al. I remember him as a
young and generous Provincial, ’76 to ’82, supporting Province efforts to
minister within the black community.
And we remember Joe for the work he did in formation and
retreat programs for young Asian Indian Catholics. His brother Rob spoke at his funeral of his
tireless efforts crisscrossing India to interact with youth and young Jesuits. Rob said he knew every rail and bus station. After 22 years in India, 15 of them as a
priest, Joe returned to the United States to continue his chaplaincy work at
various colleges, notably thirteen years at Fordham University as associate
vice president for mission and ministry.
Al, after his service as Provincial devoted many years to college
leadership, sixteen as president of Scranton University. There he made himself so present to the
students that they named him “Papa Bear”.
(A Fordham print article about Joe used a similar expression: “Papa Joe”.)
Scranton University grew in both size and academic reputation over these
years. Al is known as a second founder.
These were men of uncommon devotion to youth and young
adults. While the Church into which they
were born changed radically, they read the signs of the times and continued steadily
to attract the young to Christian life and service, over a hundred years of
ministry between them.
Both had important roles to play at the Jesuit Center in
Wernersville, Al as rector from 1998 until 2004 and Joe as rector from 2010
until 2015. In every age, God has been
our refuge and sends us men and women of outstanding character and
commitment. These two were models for
our age and God will inspire those who follow them to build on their heritage.
(In 1996 my niece was at Santa Anita Park enjoying her work showing off thoroughbreds to prospective buyers when she had a severe heart attack that left her in a persistent vegetative state for the last twenty-one years. She loved horses from the time when she was a little girl and spent some twenty years caring for horses and working with some great trainers. She was with some family members when her body quietly stopped functioning on April 2, 2017 All along we knew that God was taking care of her in ways that we cannot understand.)
(Homily at her Funeral
Mass, April 6, 2017)
God’s Spirit was with Lisa all these
twenty-one years that her body lingered with us. I believe she came to know that she was
completely in God’s hands but still she looked for release knowing that we who
loved her were groaning and waiting.
She found herself in those states of heart and
mind that Jesus aligns with God’s blessings: blessed are the meek, blessed are the
poor, blessed the patiently single-hearted and more. God prepared blessings for her: an
inheritance, abundant consolations, and the sight of the divine.
We ask this morning that the Spirit help our
hearts connect with the consoling images that Jesus presents of the heavenly
kingdom. The Spirit of God inspires
Jesus to express our future presence with his Father by using images of what it
will be like. These images express the experience that the
deceased among our loved ones have after death.
The heavenly kingdom is like a wedding feast, like sons and daughters
finding their way home, like a threshing floor where the goodness in every
human heart is preserved in the harvest.
Jesus speaks, too, of the chasms now existing that will endure in the world
to come between the greedy and the poor.
But still God’s mercy rules even over these splits in the kingdom. Jesus tells us all this and then in his
death he goes to prepare a place for us.
AS SHE STAYED WITH US
Our mourning over Lisa has lasted twenty-one
years. She had wonderful care at Pine
Run; she stayed there long enough to get upgrades in her accommodations. Ron and Eileen were attentive to her care in
every respect. From her birth and then
from the very moment of her heart attack, God surrounded Lisa with love, a love
that will last in our eternity, that love now a sign of God’s transcendent
Our gift of faith gives us this language but
still we yearn to have Lisa tell us what it was like all those years. Perhaps these long years were for her only a
short journey to her new home. Even
among us from time to time our mourning was eased by the consolations that the
Spirit encouraged among us, her family and friends. Lisa shared in that same Spirit of God. We can say for her that eternity itself
replaced the manmade structure of time.
Lisa measured her experience with the memory of so many joys in family
and friendships and with the memory of her career caring for her prized horses.
If she had dreams they always were
leading to a place of discovery and peace even if in our eyes these dreams only
got there on Saturday.
And wondering about the position of mind and body
in which she found herself, Lisa might have heard some of the words that the
biblical Job heard in his own distress, having lost his health and all his
family and possessions to boot. In the
book of Job he hears God talk about some of the natural wonders of the
world….He hears God’s voice talk with him about the part of God’s creation that
Lisa knew through and through, the horse….
So God spoke to her in words like those that Job wrote down:
“Are you the one who gives the horse its strength or clothes its neck with a
flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a
locust,…. with its proud snorting? The horse paws fiercely,
rejoicing in its strength,… It laughsat fear, afraid of nothing.
God gradually convinces Job that God knows how to
care for all creation and in due time will take care of Job himself answering
all his questions. Lisa found herself
placed fully in the same love that created all of life, in the same love that
LIFE WITH THE HORSES
While the rest of us pursued our futures in
conventional classrooms and careers and styles of family life, Lisa always danced
to a different tune. Her love for the
world of horses led her to find satisfaction in courageous things…living on her
own in distant places, finding friendship not only in those surrounding the
stables but also in the horses themselves.
Without a doubt some of those horses loved her. Some rewarded her courage and her confidence
in them. They showed off just for her on
those early mornings when they carried her at breakneck speeds around the
practice track. They always kept her safe.
We all have a prized memory and this is mine: I
visited her in Saratoga in the summer of 1985.
I remember arriving with her at the stables just as the sun was coming
up on a perfect setting of stately trees and brilliant light. I peeked into the stables fit for the sport
of kings; I watched her and her horse enjoy their exercise. I sat quietly drinking my morning coffee in
the peace and beauty of the place. The
truth was evident. I and the rest of
the family who visited there knew that Lisa had found a place that blessed her. A place, yes, with the roar of the crowd at
the track and the adrenalin of competition but it was surely the horses
themselves that captured her focus, their welfare, their beauty, the wonder of
their relationships with her and the others in their community.
Let us end with another Biblical image of
horses, this one in the New Testament.
There are four horses in the visionary Book of Revelation. In that vision the horses will gallop into
our world announcing the Day of Judgment.
To us ordinary men and women the riders on these horses and even the
horses themselves will appear frightening but riders and horses, too, will be
performing the purposes of God. God
bless you, Lisa. You are not afraid. You now know all about the four horses of the
apocalypse. I imagine you now befriending
them and keeping them healthy and content as they await their day of
service. That is what you loved to
do. Whisper to them, Lisa. Whisper to them. And put in a good word for us.