(Oct. 5) MOBILE, Alabama Fr. Gregory Lucey, S.J., who died Sept. 30 at age 88, was living embodiment of how most of life can and should transcend politics, and of how a man of faith should act.

Lucey spent two stints as president of Spring Hill College here in this Gulf Coast city and also headed the national Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, an umbrella outfit that oversees 28 such schools in the U.S. As such, he had a profound effect on many thousands of students and the institutions that served them — and also on the greater community of Mobile, where for decades he was a strong but genial presence at almost every worthwhile cultural endeavor.

And in an age where academicians seem constitutionally incapable of separating scholarship and politics, Lucey studiously avoided the temptation to spout off. Oh, sometimes with body language or eye rolls he would betray a latent liberalism, but he knew that tending souls is more important than temporal politics.

Yet if any university president had politics in his blood, it was Lucey. His much older brother Patrick, in the Irish-Catholic northern American tradition, was a Democratic governor of Wisconsin and a strong Kennedy family ally in the 1960s and 70s. When liberal Republican Rep. John Anderson of Illinois ran an independent bid for the White House against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980, he chose Patrick Lucey, seen as a reliably liberal reformer, as his running mate.

Fr. Gregory Lucey, though, knew that the personal supersedes the political.

Among his good friends was a very conservative publisher of the daily newspaper, and he was close friend and pastor to conservative Republican former U.S. Rep. H.L. “Sonny” Callahan of Alabama . Indeed, so close was he to Callahan that when the latter died on June 24 of this year, the 88-year-old Lucey flew down from Wisconsin, where he had retired, to officiate and give the eulogy at Callahan’s funeral in Mobile. It was at the reception afterward that I last spoke to him, when he made a point to amble over to join me and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — two more conservatives! — in conversation, with a smile and a quip and even a compliment for some recent column I had penned.

Lucey was always like that, warm and engaging, whether he saw someone while on an exercise walk through campus or at a symphony orchestra performance…. [The rest of this tribute is here.]


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