Watch Father Don's funeral Mass on Catholic Theological Union's YouTube Channel
It is with profound sadness and a deep sense of gratitude for his life, that we share Father Don Senior, C.P., died on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the age of 82, after a brief illness.
Born on January 1, 1940, to Vincent and Margaret Senior, Father Don was the first baby born in the new year and the decade, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
When Don was in junior high school, the family moved from Philadelphia to Louisville, Kentucky, where Vincent Senior found gainful employment. The family joined St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, which was staffed by Passionist priests from the adjacent Sacred Heart Monastery.
Inspired by the Passionist seminarians at Sacred Heart and St. Agnes led Don to join the Passionist Novitiate in 1960 in St. Paul, Kansas.
Upon completing formation, Don was ordained a priest on April 27, 1967.
In an interview with Joyce Duriga for the Chicago Catholic newspaper, Don stated that he wanted to serve as a Passionist missionary in Korea after ordination and asked permission to do so. According to Don, he received the following response from the Province Superior:
“He listened but then later said, ‘We decided we are going to send you for graduate studies in Scripture in Europe,’” Senior said. “I’ve thought of it since like an arranged marriage. You have one thing in mind but you don’t have the freedom to choose it. Somebody else chooses it for you. Then hopefully you fall in love with your spouse. That’s sort of what happened to me. The study of the Scriptures have sustained my life.”
Read the full interview in the Chicago Catholic.
A few years ago, Don shared some of his vocation story:
Father Don was very involved at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) for many years. CTU presented his bio as the following:
Rev. Donald Senior, C.P., is President Emeritus and Chancellor of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago (CTU), where he is also a member of the faculty as Professor of New Testament. Born in Philadelphia, he is a member of the Passionist Congregation and was ordained a priest in 1967. He received his doctorate in New Testament studies from the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1972, with advanced studies at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and Harvard University. He served as president of CTU for 23 years. He is a frequent lecturer and speaker throughout the United States and abroad, serves on numerous boards and commissions; and is actively involved in the interreligious dialogue, particularly with the Jewish and Muslim communities. Fr. Senior has published extensively on biblical topics, with numerous books and articles for both scholarly and popular audiences. He led numerous study tours of the Middle East
He was the recipient of the National Catholic Library Association’s 1994 Jerome Award for Outstanding Scholarship and the 1996 National Catholic Education Association’s Bishop Loras Lane Award for outstanding service to Catholic education. In 2013 he received the O’Connell-Douglas Award for his contribution to interreligious and ecumenical harmony, and the Gutenberg Award for biblical scholarship. In 2014 he was granted by the Governor of Illinois, the Order of Lincoln Award, the State’s highest honor for public service. He is past President of the Catholic Biblical Association of America (1997-1998), of the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada (2007-2009) and of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (2012-14). Beginning in 2001, he has served the last three Popes as the American representative on the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Source: Catholic Theological Union.
Fr. Don received several other awards over the years for his outstanding contributions to the life and work of the church.
- Father Don received The Bernardin Medal, given to a Chicago area Catholic who has made significant contributions to the life of the city and Church of Chicago, and who embodies the core values and ideals of Amate House: faith, service, community.
- The Union honored Father Don with the Sophia Award for excellence in theological scholarship contributing to the ministry of the Church. Fr. Senior's lecture following the award presentation was entitled: “Don’t Pull Up the Weeds (Matthew 13:29): Biblical Wisdom on Seeking Communion in the Midst of Division”.
- He received a Ministry Award from the Association of Chicago Priests (ACP) for his contributions, “to the life of the Church of Chicago.”
- Father Don received the “Blessed are the Peacemakers” award from (CTU), for his 23 years of dedicated and committed service as president of CTU. The award is presented to those “…whose accomplishments and commitments reflect the values of CTU’s, own mission, particularly in the areas of reconciliation, justice, and peacebuilding.”
- Father Don received the Order of Lincoln Award, “the highest honor for professional achievement and public service” presented by the state of Illinois. As stated in the press release by the state of Illinois, “President Emeritus Donald Senior, CP, was named in recognition of his contributions as, ‘...a world class theologian, for 23 years the President of the Catholic Theological Union, the nation's largest Roman Catholic graduate school of ministry.’ In the statement from the Governor's office, also mentioned were Fr. Senior's contributions as general editor of the Catholic Study Bible, editor-in-chief of the journal The Bible Today, and co-editor of the New Interpreters Study Bible.”
Father Don authored numerous books, articles, and other writings. Many of his books can be found here.
On 11/09/2022, Duane Etienne wrote:
I, too, was privileged as Father Don’s classmate at St. Meinrad. Always impressed with his intelligence, but I did lose contact with him over these many years. May he glory in the presence of our loving Father!
On 11/09/2022, Fr. Cedric Pisegna, C.P. wrote:
When I graduated CTU in 1990 someone gave me a book: Finally Comes the Poet. The book was about preaching. After listening to Fr. Don’s teachings and preaching and can say this with all assurance: Finally Came the Poet.
On 11/09/2022, Sean Goan (Ireland) wrote:
It was a privilege and a great blessing in my life to have known Don. He was an inspiration to me as a scholar and an example to me of authentic Christian living. My memories of him range from being uplifted by his teaching to being encouraged by his dedication and personal kindness. I am particularly grateful for the time I spent with the Passionist community in CTU in 1991/92.
I would like to offer my condolences to the Passionist family of the Holy Cross Province. He will be greatly missed.
On 11/09/2022, Msgr. John J. Bendik wrote:
Fr. Don was a classmate of mine Saint Meinrad School of Theology, a Benedictine seminary in Southern Indiana. He, and the Passionist Community were a blessing for all of us. May he rest in the peace of the Lord he loved and served so well.
On 11/14/2022, Apostolic Nunciature wrote:
Upon request of HE Card. Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, the Holy Father has sent the following message:
HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL BLASE CUPICH
ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO
HAVING LEARNED OF THE DEATH OF THE REVEREND DONALD SENIOR, CP, HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS SENDS HIS CONDOLENCES TO YOU, HIS CONFRERES IN THE CONGREGATION OF THE PASSION, THE STUDENTS, FACULTY AND STAFF OF THE CATHOLIC THEOLOGICAL UNION AND THE ARCHDIOCESAN COMMUNITY. IN COMMENDING THE LATE FATHER SENIOR’S SOUL TO THE LOVE AND MERCY OF ALMIGHTY GOD, HIS HOLINESS JOINS IN YOUR PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING FOR HIS YEARS OF PRIESTLY MINISTRY, MARKED BY ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD, DEDICATION TO BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP AS A PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR, SERVICE TO THE CHURCH AS A MEMBER OF THE PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL COMMISSION AND HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO ECUMENICAL AND INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE. TO THOSE PRESENT AT THE MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL AND TO ALL WHO MOURN FATHER SENIOR IN THE SURE HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION, THE HOLY FATHER CORDIALLY IMPARTS HIS BLESSING AS A PLEDGE OF PEACE AND CONSOLATION IN THE LORD.
CARDINAL PIETRO PAROLIN
SECRETARY OF STATE