March 18, 2015 — Nearly 200 people gathered in late January to honor Jesuit Father Richard J. Clifford, founding dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM).
The event featured remarks from Boston College President Jesuit Father William P. Leahy, as well as the presentation of a book in honor of Fr. Clifford and late STM professor of New Testament, Jesuit Father Daniel Harrington.
Fr. Clifford has devoted his life to the study of Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, and the theological education of candidates for the priesthood, as well as lay men and women wanting to serve the church. He estimates he’s taught around 4,000 students over his more than four decades in the classroom. He also knows about 40 percent of all Jesuits in the U.S., because they are his former students.
In a recent interview, Fr. Clifford reflected on the dramatic changes in the student body since the 1970s. Once made up exclusively of religious students, the theological school’s student body is now much more diverse: about 70 percent are lay men and women and about 25 percent are from other countries. “It can be more challenging, but it is also more stimulating. In the end, it is good for the church,” he said.
During the event, Fr. Leahy highlighted Fr. Clifford’s service as founding dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in 2008, when the former Weston Jesuit School of Theology became part of Boston College. Fr. Clifford and Fr. Harrington’s brother, Ed, were also presented with copies of “Biblical Essays in Honor of Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, and Richard J. Clifford, SJ,” featuring 18 essays from scholars with personal and professional connections to Frs. Clifford and Harrington.
Fr. Clifford is a leading biblical scholar and author of several works, including “Proverbs: A Commentary," "The Wisdom Literature” and “Psalms 1-72.” A graduate of Holy Cross, Fr. Clifford earned a doctorate in biblical studies from Harvard University. He was general editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly and is a former president of the Catholic Biblical Association.
Fr. Leahy called Fr. Clifford “a living example…of someone committed to faith and scholarship in service of the church and wider society. Given the 400-hundred year history of the Jesuit education, what more or better could be said of a Jesuit teacher and scholar?” [Source: Boston College]