Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rev. Joseph Owens, C.S.S.R., Requiescat in pace

In the latest issues of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly (Winter 2005), p. 54, was posted an obituary for Father Joseph Owens, C.S.S.R., the famous student of Etienne Gilson at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies in Toronto, and a magisterial scholar in his own right. Given the respect I have for Owens's work, and the tradition of Gilson which he represents, I can't let the occasion pass without notice.

On the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies website, is posted the following fascinating remembrance by Edward Synan (I offer here only an excerpt):
Among the memories of graduate students from my time at the Pontifical institute of Mediaeval Studies and the University of Toronto, none is more vivid than is that of the defense made by Joseph Owens, CSsR, of his dissertation for the Institute doctorate. His erudition had long been the object of awe-struck rumor on the campus; with that ceremony it ceased to be rumor and became attested fact. Owens faced a board of examiners calculated to strike awe in any student. To name only those who spoke that day for philosophy, Etienne Gilson and Anton C. Pegis were members of his jury. Awe, however, ran in the opposite direction. This formidable board voted Owens his doctorate summa cum laude and the world of learning has been confirming that judgement ever since. The dissertation Owens defended has merited publication in three revisions and [many] printings. ... [Edward Synan, "Preface," Graceful Reason: Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to Joseph Owens, CSsR on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday and the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Ordination, ed. Lloyd P. Gerson, Papers in Mediaeval Studies 4 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1983)]
Fr. Owens died at the Providence Health Centre, Toronto, on Sunday, October 30, 2005, in his 98th year and the 77th year of his Religious Life. Father Owens was ordained in 1933. Born in Saint John, New Brunswick on April 17, 1908, son of Louis Owens and Josephine Quinn, Fr. Joseph is survived by two nieces, Anne (David) Cole and Katherine (Ralph) Furness, as well as by his nephews, Bryson (Jacqueline) Eldridge, William (Trina) Eldridge, Robert Eldridge and Gerard (Susan) Eldridge. He served in parishes in Saskatchewan and British Columbia and completed graduate studies in Toronto at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. He then taught philosophy to the younger members of his Community, until he received his Licentiate in Medieval Studies in 1946. Thereafter, he continued his studies at the Institute while also lecturing in philosophy in Redemptorist houses of study. In 1951 he received his Doctorate in Medieval Studies summa cum laude from the Institute and became a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Institute in 1954. He taught and wrote extensively in medieval philosophy, particularly on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, focusing especially on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of the human person. Fr. Owens wrote nine philosophy books and nearly a hundred and fifty articles and forty book reviews during his lifetime as a scholar. In 1973, having passed the usual retirement age, he continued to publish and teach part-time for another twenty-five years.

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