Died 21 April 2016
Jesuit Father Raymond G. Helmick died on April 21, 2016. He was born on Sept. 7, 1931, in Arlington, Massachusetts, a western suburb of Boston, and grew up there. Fr. Helmick was the second of three children. His sister Marie was the oldest; his brother Bill, six years younger, became a diocesan priest. Fr. Helmick attended St. Agnes Parish schools through the ninth grade and then transferred to Boston College High School. He graduated in 1949 and entered the Shadowbrook novitiate on his 18th birthday.
It turned out he would enter the Society twice. The first time he developed a stomach ulcer during his primi year and, because there had been a spate of ulcer diagnoses in the novitiate, superiors decided that first-year novices so afflicted would be sent home. Fr. Helmick was determined to re-apply, however, and he entered Shadowbrook again in February 1951. After philosophy studies at Weston (1954-1957), he spent regency teaching history and religion at St. George’s College in Kingston, Jamaica (1957-1960).
He did theology studies at Sankt Georgen, in Frankfurt, Germany, and was ordained a priest in the Frankfurt cathedral in August 1963. He returned to the U.S. the following year for tertianship at Pomfret, Conn. As was the custom with men assigned to the missions, he returned to Jamaica and St. George’s.
Expecting to teach at the Kingston seminary, Fr. Helmick left Jamaica in 1967 to pursue graduate studies in ecumenical theology at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. In the summer of 1972, he led a group of theology students to Belfast, a city notable then for its sectarian conflicts.
When he left Union in 1973, he moved to London, where he set up an ecumenical center focused on conflict resolution. From 1982 to 1985, he was based at NGOs in Washington. Then he moved to Boston College, where for the next 17 years he continued his conflict-resolution work while teaching related courses in the theology department and at St. John’s Seminary. From 2002-2004, he served as senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington.
Fr. Helmick had a lifelong interest in music, architecture, and other art forms. In his years of graduate study at Union he relaxed by building a harpsichord.
Illness brought him to Campion Center in 2012. He continued as many of his activities as health allowed (even teaching on a part-time basis at B.C. until 2015. He died peacefully in the early morning of April 21, 2016.