Jesuit Father Ernest “Ernie” Ferlita, a Fulbright lecturer, drama and speech professor, chaplain, playwright and author, who also wrote operas, died February 4, 2015, in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, after 64 years as a Jesuit and 52 years as a priest. He was 87.
The Tampa native, son of an immigrant father from Sicily, entered the Society of Jesus at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau in 1950 after two years of service in Italy with the U.S. Army. He was ordained in 1962.
He held degrees in English and philosophy from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama; theology from St. Mary’s (Kan.) College; and playwriting and dramatic literature from the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut.
He taught drama and speech at Loyola University New Orleans from 1969 to 2002 and chaired the department for 18 of those years. He also served twice on the university’s board of directors.
He was a Fulbright Lecturer in American drama in 1980 at the Federal University of Parana in Curitiba, Brazil, and a visiting professor at Boston College in 1993-94. He taught drama at Loyola’s summer abroad program in London for five years and Shakespeare at Spring Hill College in Venice, Italy.
He was professor emeritus of drama and speech at Loyola from 2002 to 2010 while also serving as chaplain of the Poor Clares in New Orleans.
Fr. Ferlita was a prolific writer, penning a dozen plays, some of which were produced off-Broadway and earned regional and state awards. He also wrote several books, including some that mixed themes of theater and film with spirituality. He also wrote two operas.
His books of reflections on readings for the Sunday Mass were his homilies at St. Clare’s Monastery in New Orleans. He served there as chaplain before and after the city’s evacuation during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.