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Bernard Shannon was born in Rahway, New Jersey and joined the
Jesuit Order in 1947 at St. Andrew's on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie with
aspirations toward priesthood. He had been at the top of his
the seminary at Weston, Massachusetts and chosen to publicly
thesis of Scholastic philosophy. However, in 1953 Bernie had a
mental breakdown. He was in three mental institutions before
assigned to St. Ignatius House of Studies, as it was then
prepare for dismissal from the Jesuits. It was a Jesuit
told Bernie that he would never become a priest.
Despite all the pressure to leave, Bernie steadfastly believed
he had an authentic vocation and because of his vows of poverty,
chastity, and obedience he still was a bona fide member of the
order. He did manual jobs around Inisfada, the huge estate left
by Genevieve Brady to the Jesuit order, began attending a self-help
called Recovery, Inc. and soon became a group leader. As he
recover from his own mental illness, Father Shannon dedicated
his life to
working with others who suffered from various psychological
Father Bernie always spoke openly about his mental illness and
us of the help he received from the Jewish psychiatrist Dr.
founder of Recovery, Inc., who said "the sick shall heal the
St. Ignatius Retreat House began in 1963 and Bernie entered into
spiritual conversations with retreatants and Jesuits working
all discovered that he had profound depth and insight. He also
relative who suffered from a gambling problem and he became a
Gam Anon with an interest in helping compulsive gamblers.
along the way a Jesuit Provincial heard about all this and
Bernie to consider returning to studies after a 17-year absence.
very Provincial who told him years before that he would never be
ordained was now on the staff of St. Ignatius Retreat House and
wholeheartedly recommended that he go on to the priesthood. His
was approved by the Pope. Bernie was overjoyed and was ordained
1980 at Fordham University. Father Bernie celebrated his first
St. Ignatius with all his family, friends, brothers, and sisters
Twelve-Step Programs. In 1975 Father Bernie founded the St.
Retreat movement which has grown tremendously to include several
States and Canada. In all, Father Bernie lived in St. Ignatius
years - longer than anyone else.
In the late 1990's Father Bernie began losing his memory and was
the Murray Weigel Infirmary, no longer able to care for himself.
lived at the Jesuit Infirmary at Fordham University until his
February 19, 2004.
Father Bernie knew what it meant to suffer greatly. In a Newsday
on January 19, 1994 Bill Reel told of his experience on retreat
Father Bernie who talked about what he called the "gift" of
illness. It reminds us of how some say they are "grateful" for
addictions. He often told us of God's great love for us.
Father Damian Halligan, a fellow Jesuit called Bernie "the
healer who reached out to others to give them their first
Father Bernie also told us about that "great meeting upstairs"
pointed upwards. May we always remember his humility, his love
and his tireless work for others...until we meet him at the big