Chaplain's Corner

Remembering Anthony DeMello, S.J.

Dear Fellow Alumni and Friends of Fordham,

It’s a wonderful thing to celebrate joyful occasions, and Fordham certainly did this past year during its 175th birthday! If you have never heard of a Dodransbicentennial, then you just missed your chance to be the first college grad at the office to drop the word ever so casually in friendly conversation.

There was, however, one day this past June when I found it hard to do any celebrating. June 2, 2017, marked the 30th anniversary of the death of my friend, Anthony DeMello, S.J., a Jesuit from India. It was a little more than 30 years ago that Father DeMello accepted our Campus Ministry invitation to once again conduct a retreat at Rose Hill. His international fame preceded him, and on June 3 some 200 people gathered in the McGinley Center for his morning conference. It never occurred. Tony had suffered a fatal heart attack in Loyola Faber Hall just the night before.

That very day I was scheduled to travel to Australia; a change in my plans was not possible. And so I brought the tragic news about Tony’s death along to the Jesuits Down Under. One of the Jesuits there was so deeply shaken that he could only say four words: “Tony changed my life!” He was the very first person I heard use that phrase. But he was certainly not the last. During the past 30 years, I’ve heard those words spoken and seen them written in letters from literally all over the world, words from people describing Tony’s profound influence on their lives.

How did he do it? I think the best explanation is that he brought people to Life and to Love (both with a capital L!). Those two words occur often in the titles of some of his earliest works, like “Wake Up to Life!,” “The Way to Love,” and “The Call to Love.” By combining his profound understanding of both Jesuit spirituality and Eastern Wisdom teachings with his experience as a psychotherapist and pastoral counselor, he was able to make true connections with all kinds of people. It also helped that his talks, conferences, and retreats were always presented with an abundance of personal charm and humor. It may be hard to believe that 60 Jesuits would enjoy six hours of another Jesuit’s note-less conferences and still ask for more, but I witnessed exactly that at a Syracuse retreat house many years ago.

Now that you have gotten a taste of some of Father DeMello’s work, I hope you will find out more at demellospirituality.com. Along with publications, you will find information about how to experience a DeMello Day of Retreat. These events are led by experienced people who have so benefited from Tony’s message that, like the Australian Jesuit, they too can say, “He changed my life!”

Leo J. Daly, S.J., GSAS ’56
Assistant Alumni Chaplain