Friday, April 21, 2017

Former Rectors Fathers Panuska and Currie

J. Allan Panuska, S.J.

(Both served as rectors of Jesuit Community in Wernersville)

   Joseph A. Currie, S.J.    

Rev. 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.

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