On December 3, 2017, Rev. George J. Dyer, the founding editor of Chicago Studies, died after a short illness. Many people knew Fr. Dyer as a teacher, faculty colleague, writer, theologian, pastor, and friend. One small way in which the Editorial Board of Chicago Studies can honor Fr. Dyer is to reprint an article by his long-time friend and colleague, Agnes Cunningham, S.S.C.M. The following article was published in a Festschrift for Fr. Dyer in 2009. May he rest in peace!
George J. Dyer: “What’s Past Is Prologue” By Agnes Cunningham, S.S.C.M. “What’s past is prologue.” In 1611, William Shakespeare put these words into the mouth of Antonio in “The Tempest” (Act II, scene i). He could never have imagined that they might be applied, four centuries later, to a Roman Catholic priest serving in a city called Chicago, in a country known as the United States of America. With George J. Dyer, however, the past has always been prologue. A quick review of an article in the Spring 1999 issue of Chicago Studies, “George Dyer: A Retrospective,” is a good example of this. In that article, George was identified as a theologian, an educator, and a pastor. Everything that can be read there, however, is not all that can be said about him. Following ordination in 1953, young Father Dyer’s first assignment was back to the seminary, to begin studies for the doctorate in sacred theology. He earned the degree, defending his dissertation two years later. At the same time, he was appointed assistant librarian, with responsibility for teaching courses in Patristics and Ancient Christian Literature. His theological career would be furthered, about ten years later, when he pursued studies at the University of Chicago in systematic theology. In the meantime, the past became prologue with recognition of George as a theologian through his activities in the Catholic Theological Society of America and his contributions on the board of that organization. He acquired a unique kind of “fame” as the self-appointed and successful “campaign manager” for the election of the first woman president of the CTSA! Despite that—or, perhaps, because of it---George was honored by the society, in1982, with the John Courtney Murray Award for distinguished achievement in theology. In ecumenical circles, George was hailed as a sensitive understanding partner, when Cardinal Bernardin appointed him to the original archdiocesan JewishCatholic dialogue. The past was prologue, also, in George’s career as an educator. Following his early years of teaching theology, he continued as a professor when he was named Academic Dean at the seminary in the fall of 1967. His students had not been and were not to be seminarians only, however. The founding of Chicago Studies -- whose story lies beyond the limits of our interests here -- expanded his influence outside the classroom, assuring continued formation, initially, for parish priests, and later, for all parochial or catechetical ministers: clergy, religious, and laity. Of particular interest were the “theme issues” of that journal, some produced in collaboration with other scholarly societies, addressing important questions in Catholic life and thought. One notable issue became “The American Catholic Catechism,” which was translated into several languages. The German edition carried a foreword by Karl Rahner and the imprimatur of the cardinal archbishop of Munich, much to the delight of Cardinal Cody.
Published on Jan 2, 2018