March 16, 2021 – Michael Andrew Fahey was born in Fremont, Ohio, on Sept. 27, 1933. The family moved to Norwalk, Conn., where Michael grew up. He attended Fairfield Prep, and entered the New England Province novitiate at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass., in 1951. He studied philosophy at Louvain, Belgium (1955-1958), and for regency taught Greek, Latin, French, and English at Fairfield Prep and then earned a Master’s degree in French literature at Fordham University.
From 1961 to 1965 he studied theology at Weston. He was ordained a priest in 1964. He did tertianship at Sankt Andrä, in Austria. For the four years that followed (1966-1970) he did graduate studies in historical theology at the University of Tübingen, Germany, concentrating on how the early church fathers used the bible in their teaching and preaching. Among his professors were Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and Hans Küng. He was awarded the doctorate in 1970.
He returned to the United States and began a ten-year stretch teaching ecclesiology and early church history at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, in Cambridge. At this time, he also began his long membership in the national Orthodox/Roman Catholic Consultation.
In 1976 he was invited to be professor of systematic theology and director of graduate studies in the Department of Theology at Concordia University, Montreal. Over the following decade he also took on other commitments, helping develop a formation program for English-speaking deacons and their wives at the request of the Archdiocese of Montreal, working on church-unity issues for the Canadian hierarchy, and in his summers coordinating a program for the Archdiocese of Paris that provided student guides who gave free tours of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in a variety of languages. In 1985-1986 he was visiting professor at Rome’s Oriental Institute and at Boston College.
During that year he was invited to become dean of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and dean of its graduate faculty of theology, part of the ecumenical Toronto School of Theology. He held this position for ten years (1986-1996), during which he was also professor of ecclesiology. Toward the end of this period he was asked by the Jesuit board of Theological Studies to become editor in chief of this journal, a position he held for ten years. In 1997 he was invited to take the Doerr Chair of Catholic Theology at Marquette University, which he held from 1997 to 2006.
In 2007 he decided it was time to return to his home province. From 2007-2012 he was adjunct research professor in the theology department at Boston College, and accepted several visiting professorships, including at Boston University. In 2012 he became scholar in residence at Fairfield University, a position he held until 2017.
His research focused on historical and doctrinal issues that have separated churches, especially divisions between the Christian East and West. He wrote several books on these topics and numerous articles in theological journals and collaborative volumes.
His work was honored by fellow theologians, both Catholic and of other faiths. He was elected president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (1983-1984) and of the American Theological Society (1999-2000). In 2003 he received the John Courtney Murray Award for Distinguished Achievement in Theology from the Catholic Theological Society of America. He received an honorary doctorate (D.Div.) from the University of Toronto in 2005 and in 2006 he was the recipient of a Festschrift published in his honor. He was a trustee of Boston College, the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and John Carroll University, Cleveland.
In the summer of 2017, he moved to the Jesuit health facility at Campion Center, in Weston, Mass., where he had first studied theology and had been ordained some 60 years previously. He continued his scholarly work, maintained contact with colleagues around the world, and devoted his editing skills to helping Jesuit graduate students at B.C., especially those whose first language was not English, with their academic papers.
His last years were shadowed by cancer that developed in his tongue and jaw, which required surgeries and treatments, which he bore uncomplainingly. He died peacefully on March 12, 2021.