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Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J. dies at 71

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On Monday, Nov. 5, John Kavanaugh, S.J. passed away at 71 from long-term health complications in Saint Louis University Hospital. Kavanaugh was a philosophy professor at Saint Louis University and the founder of the Ethics Across the Curriculum program, an initiative at SLU aimed at encouraging and sustaining ethics-based research, service and teaching among the University’s faculty. 

Kavanaugh was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus in June 1971. He spent some of his early years as a priest working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, where he helped care for the dying patients she was working with.At SLU, Kavanaugh taught a course in Medical Ethics and was an outspoken opponent of the U.S. military involvement in Iraq and of the death penalty.

He was a regular columnist on issues of ethics for America Magazine, a Jesuit publication, and wrote several books, including “Following Christ in a Consumer Society” and “Who Counts as Persons? Human Identity and the Ethics of Killing.”

Theodore Vitali, C.P., chair of the philosophy department and a co-worker of Kavanaugh’s, said that he felt Kavanaugh was a man with a strong sense of faith and theology who served as a role model for all at SLU.

“Fr. John Kavanaugh was an extraordinary teacher and educator in the fullest sense of the Jesuit ideal. In a word, John was what he taught: a man profoundly committed to the Catholic faith and to its mission to the poor and marginalized people of the world,” Vitali said.

“John was an extraordinary man. In so many ways, he was the soul of Saint Louis University. He was legendary as a teacher and writer. Now he becomes part of the great legends of Saint Louis University.”

The funeral Mass for Kavanaugh will be on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Francis Xavier College Church.

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