Father Edward A. Reese has been selected to speak at John McCain’s memorial service. According to ABC7 News, Reese knew McCain when he lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and was the head of the high school where two of the latter’s sons attended.
Reese told ABC7 that he was struck by McCain’s love of nature and his concern for the environment as a whole. “I was there when this bird came back and there was this grin on his face from ear to ear,” he said, recalling a specific memory. “Just that his hawk had come back,” Reese remembered. “And that’s the kind of man he was.”
Here’s what you need to know about Father Reese:
1. He Earned His Degree In Philosophy from Gonzaga University
Father Reese was born in Alhambra, California. He graduated from Loyola High School in 1961 before deciding to join the local Society of Jesus. He attended two different colleges during this time: the first being Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he earned a degree in philosophy; and the second being the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, where he earned a degree in theology.
In an interview with the Catholic Sun, Father Reese spoke on his beliefs and how he applies to the reality of everyday life. “Jesus knew the woman washing His feet was a sinner,” he said. “But He loved her. And He told her He forgave her sins. He didn’t say, ‘You’re not a sinner.’ And of course that was in the context of people that thought they were better than her. And Jesus was pretty straight with them.”
Father Reese also told that it is the responsibility of the Church to reach out to as many people as possible. “We need to listen to the struggling woman who’s unmarried and has a child. She is every bit as much of the Church as the cardinals in Rome,” he reasons. “The person struggling to raise his or her children in the Church needs to be listened to. The person who is estranged from the Church is part of the Church that needs to be listened to. To listen to the Church, to think with the Church — that is extremely profound and I think was what Jesus said.
“We are all the Church. So when we say the Church needs reform, we all need reform,” he added. “When the Church needs to be more holy, we all need to be more holy.”
2. He Was Ordained As a Priest In 1973 & Has Taught at Several Different Schools
After being ordained as a priest in 1973, Father Reese embarked on a long and fruitful career as an educator. He served as an assistant principal and teacher at his alma mater, Loyola High School, during the mid-1970s. During his time at Loyola, SI reports that he taught English, Modern European History and religious studies, he ran the student dormitory, and he coached the freshman football team.
In 1978, Father Reese became the assistant principal at San Jose’s Bellarmine College Preparatory. It was here, in addition to his administrative duties, that he taught early computer courses to students and also served as chaplain to the San Jose Police Department. He was eventually promoted to principal, and held the position until 1993. That same year, Reese moved to Sydney, Australia, where he served as a teacher and counseler at Ignatius Riverview. He remained at Riverview until 1995.
Reese also spent twenty years as the president of Brophy Prep School. SI reports that during his tenure at Brophy, he helped raise over $85 million in philanthropic funds, doubling the campus footprint, and made Brophy the first high school in Arizona with one-to-one computing. In 2010, he founded the Loyola Academy, which provides tuition-free education to 6th, 7th and 8th grade male scholars coming from under-served student populations in Phoenix.
In addition to his teaching positions, Reese currently serves as the chaplain of the Phoenix Police Department, a trustee for Gonzaga University, and a board member for the Boys Hope Girls Hope of Phoenix and the Phoenix Community Alliance.
3. He Was Close to McCain During His 2008 Presidential Run
Reese’s ties with McCain date back over a decade, when the latter was in the midst of his presidential run. In addition to his friendship with the politician, McCain’s wife Cindy served as a member of the board of regents at Brophy Prep School, where Reese taught for many years and where their sons Jimmy and Jack attended. As a result, he was selected to give the opening invocation at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis in 2008.
During the invocation, Father Reese thanked the McCain family for their generous donations to Brophy. “The McCains have been generous supporters of Brophy,” he said. “I am also pleased by his support of vouchers for Catholic schools like Brophy.” When asked whether he was lobbying for McCain to become president, Reese explained that it would be inappropriate for him to choose sides. “Catholic priests should pray for anyone and everyone,” he explained. “But I don’t think we should endorse or campaign for political candidates.”
4. His Brother Thomas J. Reese Is a Jesuit Priest & a Journalist
Father Reese’s brother Thomas is also a Jesuit priest. He was ordained in 1974, and shortly after he attended the University of California, where he earned a degree in political science. Thomas J. Reese worked as associate editor for the weekly Catholic magazine America between 1978 and 1985, and the Woodstock Theological Center between 1985 and 1998.
He returned to America in 1998, and stayed on as editor-in-chief until 2005, when he decided to spend a sabbatical year at Santa Clara University. Thomas returned to write for the National Catholic Reporter between 2013 and 2017. He served as the senior analyst at Religion News Service, and was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014. Two years later, he was elected chair of the commission. His term as commissioner expired in May 2018.
In addition to his journalism work, Thomas J. Reese has written several books about Catholicism and the Vatican. Some of his most notable works include Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church (1989), A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1992), and Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (1996).
5. He Was Elected President of the St. Ignatius College Preparatory In 2016
In 2016, Father Reese was appointed the president of the esteemed St. Ignatius College Preparatory. Several members of the Jesuit Church spoke highly of his appointing, with many feeling that he was the ideal man for the position.
“The Search Committee did an outstanding job of working through a slate of well-qualified candidates for this important position,”said Rev. Greg Bonfiglio, a member of the school’s Board of Trustees. “They served the mission of the school — and ultimately our students — extremely well. [Father] Reese brings with him skills and experience that uniquely position him to build on what has been accomplished and lead this excellent school forward. We are blessed to have him.”
John Strittmatter, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Brophy, was gracious about the impact that Reese had on their high school. “Father Reese has led Brophy, in collaboration with its students, faculty, administration and entire Brophy community to become a nationally recognized Jesuit high school,” he said. “We will miss him greatly. However we are happy that our sister school in San Francisco can benefit from his proven success as a leader, visionary and change agent.”
Reese told SI that he was prideful “in serving with, hiring and promoting talented people in all the wonderful schools in which I have worked. ”
It will be hard for me to leave Brophy,” he continued. “When the opportunity arose to serve the St. Ignatius community, I got excited. It’s the right time to make a change. I hope I can do some good at SI.”