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Issue Date:  April 4, 2008


Catholic Worker daughter

Tamar Hennessy, daughter of Catholic Worker cofounder Dorothy Day, died March 25. Hennessy, 82, had suffered a stroke a few days before and had been admitted to a hospital in Springfield, Vt. A funeral Mass was scheduled for March 29 at St. Mary’s Church in Springfield.

Hennessy was a child when Day, with Peter Maurin, founded the Catholic Worker Movement to champion Catholic social teaching with houses of hospitality for the poor and homeless and to protest war.

It proved be an exciting but difficult childhood, Hennessy told NCR in a 2003 interview.

“I was only 8 years old when it started. She was traveling a lot, and I was left to be taken care of by various people, and I got very ill. It was hard for both of us. She had her work, and yet at the same time she had me. She was very devoted. She was torn,” said Hennessy.

Hennessy offered a sympathetic, nuanced account of Dorothy Day the mother.

“She loved her family so much, and in so many, many ways she kept me going. She missed understanding the material side of it. She expected a lot of going without. At the same time, she supported me a lot, and I can’t say enough good about that,” Hennessy said.

Tamar married David Hennessy in April 1944 and raised nine children. David died in 2005. She stayed close to the Catholic Worker movement throughout her life. “I loved the Catholic Worker. It was so exciting. I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it,” Hennessy said.

Religious educator

John (Jack) Nelson, a founding faculty member of the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University in New York, died March 14. He was 78. A funeral Mass was held at University Church March 19.

Throughout his career Nelson specialized in the religious education of adolescents and created an extensive body of research and writing in this area. Colleagues remember him as “a key figure in the formation of two generations of religious educators.”

He was one of the authors of one of the first modern textbook series in Catholic religious education following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In the 1970s and ’80s he authored, in collaboration with his wife, Catherine Zates Nelson, 12 titles in a widely used series of textbooks in religious education for junior high and high school students, published by William H. Sadlier.

Mercy Sr. Janet Ruffing, professor of spirituality and spiritual direction at Fordham, called Nelson “the heart of the [graduate] school ... supportive to both students and faculty.”

“He was a popular and reflective teacher, and moved easily between systematic theology and the culture of youth and young adults,” she said.

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2008

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