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Our Program of Formation involves eight years of academic and ministerial training. Throughout all that time our student friars in formation depend completely on the generosity of others and so keep our benefactors in particular at the center of our prayer life. Pleased do ad your own regular donation to our continuing need. We thank you now and will continue to thank you with our prayers.
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Western Dominican Province
5890 Birch Court
Oakland, CA 94618-1626
Our Dominican School
The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA offers Masters and other degree and certificate programs rooted in the tradition of the Dominican order and our brother, St. Thomas Aquinas. Faithful to the teaching of Holy Mother, the Church, our school prepares not only young men studying for the priesthood, but also other men and women who will be the leaders of local communities of faith. Please do join in supporting this essential ministry of the Western Dominican Province.
Fr. Gerard William Ehler, OP
"...He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away." (Rev. 21:1-4)"Angels fly," wrote G. K. Chesterton, "because they can take things lightly. The devil fell by force of gravity." Fr. Gerry was (and is!) of the angel sort.
Fr. Gerry died peacefully in his room at St. Albert's Priory on October 8. A native of Chicago, he attended Christian Brothers LaSalle High School there, where he gained national prominence by winning the William Randolph Hearst Oratorical contest; and also Northwestern University, majoring in drama. With his mother and aunt, his sole surviving relatives, he moved to California, and in 1957, entered the novitiate then located at Kentfield.
While a student at St. Albert's, he cultivated his own and others' talent for speaking by promoting the dramatic arts. He helped direct, and played the leading role in, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and several times during each year he would conduct and participate in community dramatic readings. But his sterling production was his adaptation in dramatic form of one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: "The Pardoner's Tale." The adaptation was exquisite, such that when Gerry, having enrolled in the Drama Department of University California Berkeley for summer courses, his professor declared it acceptable as an M.A. thesis. His early dream was to establish in the West a school of drama with a Catholic orientation, such as the Dominicans, Gilbert Hartke and Urban Nagle, had done in Washington and New York, but reality moved him in other directions.
His early assignments were to parishes in the Bay Area, and then to the directorship of our Mission Foundation. Even when relieved as director, he continued through the remainder of his active ministry to serve our missions by preaching and begging on their behalf. But his principle ministry by far was that of preaching parish missions and retreats throughout the western states and sometimes in the East and Canada. His keen and controlled sense of the dramatic, his down-to-earth conservatism, and his contagious good humor made him a most welcomed preacher wherever he was sent. More than what he said, the way he said it drew people to a greater appreciation of their Catholic faith.
But after some 25 years on the Preaching Band his health, always a problem, deteriorated so that he was less and less able to endure the unsettled life of an itinerant preacher. He moved from St. Dominic's in San Francisco to St. Albert's. There he enjoyed the company of the young as well as the old, though his ill health often kept him from the visible life of the community. But when he did manage to make an appearance at common meals and recreation he sparked life and laughter among the brethren.
Two things sustained him in his sickness as throughout his ministry. One was his simple, uncomplicated faith, especially in the Mass, and real presence of Christ. Gerry wasn't much interested in exegesis or theology -- not Jesus' past life as recorded in ancient documents, but His presence here and now to and in Him; and he had no serious questions or problems about God. For him God-in-Jesus was quite enough to go by. As that final pain struck him down, one can easily imagine his saying in all simplicity: "Jesus, I love you," and meaning it.
The second thing that kept him sane and relatively cheerful in his last years was the movies. As he proudly proclaimed, he was a "movie buff." Not any old movie, but the classics. Some considered this his "escape" but if so, it was escape in the right direction; away from the surface of the ordinary into the extraordinary at its heart, for which we're made. Gerry responded positively to Tennessee William's line in a poignant moment of a very fine drama/film: "Sometimes there's God." You meet someone, look at a painting, read a poem, hear a preaching, watch a movie -- and yes, sometimes you're swept up into God or something fairly close to Him. Gerry was ever alert for such moments in the cinema and rejoiced when he found them.
A final word: Laugher. Just a day before he died, Gerry came to my room, gift for me in hand. It was a book -- about the movies, of course. But he also came bearing a joke, and told it as only he could. He made me laugh to tears, such that he himself laughed heartily along with me. I'm grateful for that last time together, which says much about Gerry and the whole Christian faith which we tried to live and preach. Chaucer, whose skin Gerry seemed to inhabit and from whom, as he would say, he cribbed his Pardoner's play, had written a magnificent poetic "novel:" a tragic story of two star-crossed lovers, Troilus and Criseyda. At the end of the poem, Chaucer sends it on its way, telling it not to be "envious" for being only a tragedy but together with him pray that someday he, its maker, be able to write a comedy. Which of course, he did in and through the Canterbury Tales -- tragic in part, like all of life, but far and away filled with laughter and ending in a Heaven begun here and now. And just a generation or two prior to Chaucer, an Italian poet had written the greatest of Christian poems, perhaps the greatest poem of all, which he called, not his tragedy, but his commedia, and which the world has since extolled as the divine comedy. Yes, in the end, and deep down all along the way, what's meant to be is not tragedy but comedy, not sadness and tears but joy and laughter. I'm grateful to Gerry for having kept me and many others mindful of so great a truth.
- Fr. Fabian Parmisano, OP
In the service of the gospel I have been appointed preacher, apostle and teacher. - 2 Timothy, 1.11
O God, grant that your servant, Gerald William, whom You called to the religious life and raised to the priesthood, may now be with You, in whom he placed his faith, his hope and his love. Amen
Date of Birth
Date of Profession
Date of Ordination
Date of Death
February 7, 1928
September 9, 1958
June 1, 1963
October 8, 1999