In June, Fr Michael Shields, SJ, retired from service to the LRI after 35 years. Fr Shields was missioned to the LRI – then the Lonergan Centre at Regis College – in autumn of 1980, to assist Fr Frederick Crowe, SJ, with the growing demand for assistance from scholars and especially from the many ‘daughter’ centres popping up around the world. Following the death of Fr Lonergan on November 26, 1984, the Centre’s archival material was considerably augmented by the legacy of his books, writings, and personal papers. This was the occasion for creating a new entity, the Lonergan Research Institute. The materials of the Lonergan Centre became the library of the Institute, with Fr Shields as librarian, a role he has fulfilled admirably ever since. Under his stewardship the LRI library has steadily grown to become one of the most complete collections anywhere of Lonergan-related materials. Fr Shields has also been the principal translator of Lonergan’s voluminous Latin works. He has translated over 40 unpublished archival manuscripts and five published volumes in CWL (to date) – by his estimate, that’s 1.2 million Latin words into 1.7 million English words! His translations have exercised an incalculable influence on a generation of students unprepared to tackle Lonergan in straight Latin. Robert Doran, SJ, General Editor of the Collected Works, expressed his “deepest gratitude and appreciation to Fr Michael Shields, S.J., for his wonderful contributions to a large portion of the volumes in this series. His translations constitute a major part of this project. He has also translated a number of archival items that may be found on the website www.bernardlonergan.com. He has always been ready to respond when I’ve asked him for help… The Collected Works project is greatly indebted to Mike and his work.”
In the autumn of 2013, soon after marking his Golden Jubilee as a priest in the Society of Jesus, Fr Shields quietly shifted to part-time work, agreeing to stay on at the behest of the rookie Director, Jeremy Wilkins. The longest serving staff member in the initiative begun by Fr Crowe, Fr Shields has been an invaluable source of knowledge and institutional continuity, as well as a very beloved member of the LRI community. He will be assigned to the Manresa community in Pickering, Ontario.
LRI Research Assistant Eric Mabry voices the sentiments of the whole LRI community when he writes:
Lumen agentis ardet ardenter in anima eius! Fr. Shields is someone who is lit from within, as though the spark of the passionateness of being illumines his eyes and animates his speech. For the younger scholars in the LRI, he has been a source not only of knowledge and scholarship but also of humor and wit. He is disciplined in his habits, generous with his time, kind in his disposition, genuine in his questions, and authentic in conversation. Fr. Shields reminds us that the continuity of an intellectual community is dependent on the way in which it is passed down, not primarily through books and articles but through interpersonal relationships, through friendships. The younger scholars in the LRI will always remember him, and we will miss his presence with us in the LRI immensely: Agimus tibi gratias, pater, pro annos suos ministerii ad tradentem sapientiae.
Please join us in thanking Fr Shields for his exemplary and selfless service, and in wishing him well in the next chapter. Ad multos annos!