Jesuit Father Edward T. Oakes died Dec. 6, 2013, at the Fusz Pavilion in St. Louis. He was 65 years old and a Jesuit for 47 years.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., on May 18, 1948, Fr. Oakes entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo., on Sept. 1, 1966. He completed a bachelor’s and a master’s in philosophy at Saint Louis University. After teaching English and Theater at St. Louis University High School from 1973 to 1976, Fr. Oakes earned an M.Div. at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif. He was ordained to the priesthood at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis on June 15, 1979.
From 1980 to 1987, Fr. Oakes studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology. Fr. Oakes loved studies and pursued them with great eagerness. In 1987 he accepted a visiting professor position at New York University where he taught theology and the history of Christianity until 1994.
After tertianship at Peter-Faver Kolleg in Berlin, Fr. Oakes joined the Religious Studies faculty at Regis University in Denver, where he taught for six years. Fr. Oakes’ enthusiasm for the intellectual life and his joyful personality were appreciated by members of the Jesuit community and his colleagues in the Religious Studies department.
Fr. Oakes was a prolific writer. His works include “Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar” (New York: Continuum, 1994) and “Infinity Dwindled to Infancy: A Catholic and Evangelical Christology” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). The latter work, which provides a survey of doctrinal and historical issues in Christology, won the 2012 Book Prize from the Center for Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue. Fr. Oakes contributed essays to numerous collections in theology and regularly published articles in both refereed journals and Catholic periodicals.
In 2002, Fr. Oakes became a professor of theology at University of St. Mary of the Lake – Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. His colleagues on the faculty and the seminarians very much appreciated his presence there.
In May 2013, Fr. Oakes was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At the time he wrote to his fellow Jesuits and spoke of his strong hope in God and quoted St. Paul: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” For several months, Fr. Oakes received chemotherapy to slow the growth of the cancer. He finished a writing project and returned to teaching for the fall semester. When his health began to worsen, Fr. Oakes moved to St. Louis and joined the Pavilion community. He is survived by his sister, Elizabeth D. Oakes, and his sister-in-law, Joanne Oakes.