The Lives of the Brethren 1985 -- 1990

From the Acts of the XIII Provincial Chapter
June 7, 1990

Edmund Butler was born on December 14, 1918, at Salem, Massachusetts, one of the six children of Joseph and Clara Sylvester Butler. His elementary education was taken at Pickering School in Salem, and his high school years were spent at St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1937. He then attended Notre Dame University, 1938 to 1940, and Catholic University of America, 1940 to 1942, and received a B.A. in English.

He entered the Dominican Order at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Illinois, where he received the habit and his religious name of Richard on June 24,1942. A year and a day later, he made first profession at River Forest, then continued philosophical and theological studies there from 1943 to 1950. The Faculty conferred a master's degree in philosophy in 1946 and a lectorate in theology in 1950. His ordination to the priesthood took place on June 7,1949. Following completion of the theological program, he was sent to the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome for two years and received the doctorate in philosophy.

Father Butlers ministerial years were devoted to the youth of America in campus ministry and teaching: from 1952 to 1953, Instructor at Loras College and Director of Aspirants to the Order in Dubuque, Iowa; from 1953 to 1962 at Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico; from 1962 to 1964, National Chaplain of the Newman Apostolate, with headquarters in Chicago; from 1964 to 1968, Provincial Director of the Newman Apostolate, while living at St. Pius V Priory, Chicago, Illinois; from 1968 to 1974 at St. Thomas More Newman Center in Tucson, Arizona; and in 1975, while on sabbatical, teaching in the "Semester Abroad" program of the University of Dallas in Rome. In addition to his campus ministry work in Tucson, Father Butler became the chaplain-director of Los Changuitos Feos de Tucson, a well-known Mexican mariachi band of young men between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, and travelled with them on tour throughout the United States and Mexico.

In 1965, Father Butler was appointed Consultor to the Vatican's Secretariat for Unbelievers. He later served as Secretary to the American Bishops' Commission on Unbelief as well as on the Board of Fellows for the Interpreter's House in North Carolina, a Methodist ecumenical movement. He received numerous awards, among them: the Cardinal Cushing Priest Alumnus Award from St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts; the Notre Dame Man of the Year designation, a New Mexico Alumni Award, and the Ronald Knox Literary Award of the National Newman Chaplains' Association.

Following his sabbatical in Rome in 1974-1975, and given his ill health, he returned tothe States to reside at St. Dominic-St. Thomas Priory in River Forest. He was appointed chaplain and theology teacher at Fenwick High School, directed retreats for religious, and preached for various programs offered at the Priory.

Realizing the need for good theology textbooks, in 1976 he asked for permission to use The Priory Press corporation to revise and republish "The Challenge of Christ" series originally prepared and published by Dominicans in the late 1960's. As general editor of the new series, he worked with other Dominicans and members of the Fenwick faculty to prepare the set of theology textbooks for high school use.

Throughout his lifetime, Father Butler lectured at over forty American colleges and universities and contributed articles to twenty magazines, such as Commonweal, America, The Critic, and U.S. Catholic. He also wrote six books, two of them on the ideas of George Santayana, whom he had known during the last two years of the Harvard philosopher's life. His final volume, Witness to Change. A Cultural Memoir, was written from an autobiographical perspective, reflecting upon the dramatic cultural changes he had witnessed over five decades, 1925 to 1975, and offering a critical analysis of both the societal and ecclesiastical developments during that period.

In early March of 1988, while on a visit to his family in Massachusetts, Father Butler suffered cardiac arrest. He died on March 18. Following a Mass of the Resurrection in Peabody, Massachusetts, on March 21, he was brought back to the Priory of St. Dominic and St. Thomas in River Forest, Illinois. His funeral Mass was celebrated on March 23, and he was buried in the Dominican plot at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.