On Saturday, December 16, 2017, Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and USML Chancellor, presided at a Funeral Mass for the Reverend George Dyer, Pastor Emeritus of Saint Patrick Parish in Wadsworth and former Dean of the Graduate School of Theology of USML. Father Dyer died on Sunday, December 3, 2017 after a short illness. USML was represented at the Funeral Mass by Fr. Larry Hennessey, Fr. John Lodge, and Fr. Dennis Kasule. Msgr. John Canary, Vicar General Emeritus and former Rector of USML was also in attendance.
The passing of this Chicago priest is important to Mundelein Seminary as Father Dyer was Dean of the Graduate School of Theology from 1967 to 1978. I met Father Dyer when I matriculated to Mundelein Seminary in the Fall of 1976. He was serving as and as a professor of theology. His was the first theology course I took. It was enlightening. Now as I serve in two of the roles he had, professor and dean, I feel a particular reason to eulogize him for the Mundelein community.
I was asked by the Chicago Catholic to describe his personality. Two words come to mind: inquisitive and kind. He was among the most inquisitive men I have ever met. He was a true intellectual, in the sense of being fascinated by learning, especially when learning related to the pastoral ministry. I also remember him as a very kind man, always focused on people.
Fr. Dyer was a Chicago priest and a man of significant contributions. Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1953, he served with distinction in a number of significant roles until his retirement in 1996. As a theological educator, he spent the first half of his priesthood at Mundelein Seminary, first as librarian and a lecturer in church history (patristics) and then later as Dean and professor of theology. As Dean, he was involved the University of Saint Mary of the Lake earning accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. He also was committed to promoting the hiring competent professors both clergy and laity at Mundelein including hiring Sister Agnes Cunningham, as the first female faculty member.
As a scholar, he wrote a dissertation on limbo. He followed this with two more popular books on eschatology and another scholarly article on the subject published in Theological Studies. Years later, when this topic became the subject of a study by the International Theological Commission, the Late Fr. Edward T. Oakes, one of our prolific dogmatic theologians, retrieved the published dissertation from the Feehan Memorial Library and read it. For about a week, he reported to his fellow faculty of how Fr. Dyer had anticipated in the 1950’s some of the questions which the ITC was exploring in the early 21st century.
In the second half of his priesthood, he became pastor of Saint Patrick’s Parish in Wadsworth. He was fully and devotedly a parish priest. As pastor, Father Dyer let the planning and construction of a new church for Saint Patrick Parish. While serving as parish priest, his intellectual life continued, as did his theological contribution. He was the founding editor of Chicago Studies, a journal of pastoral theology published by the Faculty of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. The journal just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Father Dyer remained on the board most of those years. Chicago Studies published significant articles from theologians who had been experts at Vatican II and other internationally recognized scholars. One of his interests was the development of doctrine, to which he saw Vatican II making important contributions. Chicago Studies is now entering its second half-century as a peer-reviewed open access journal for priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers. Concerned as well for education of the laity, he published a weekly column under the name Androgogy, which was run in thousands of parish bulletins. He also authored the audio programs The Three Minute Theologian which considered current themes in Catholic teaching for a popular audience. Even after his retirement in 1996, Father Dyer would continue to minister as an assisting priest at Saint Julian Eymard Parish in Elk Grove Village, and then at the Sedgebrook Retirement Communion in Lincolnshire.
I enjoyed his inquisitive nature. He was always thinking about how theology could better serve the people of God. I am honored to be his seventh successor in the office of Dean. May his memory be eternal. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.