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Cherished former College of Nursing chaplain remembered with door, window, plaque at chapel

A new door bearing the Jesuit symbol has been installed and dedicated to the memory of the late Rev. Tom Bannantine, SJ, at the Health Sciences Christ the Healer Chapel in the Criss II Building. Fr. Bannantine served as chaplain for the College of Nursing from 1997 to 2013.At six feet, four inches tall, it was difficult to miss the late Rev. Thomas E. Bannantine, SJ, making his rounds as chaplain of the Creighton University College of Nursing.

“He was a giant of a man, but a gentle giant,” said Sue Magnuson, academic affairs and event coordinator for the College of Nursing, of Fr. Bannantine, who served as chaplain for the College from 1997 to 2013. “He was so revered among the students. He had such a calm, loving, approachable nature. Everyone who knew Fr. Bannantine loved him and we wanted all the students here now to know how important he was to the students who came before.”

Following Fr. Bannantine’s death at the age of 82 on Aug. 8, Magnuson and Sr. Candice Tucci, OSF, Fr. Bannantine’s successor as chaplain for the College of Nursing, began wondering if they could raise funds for a fitting remembrance of the Jesuit gentle giant.

Dec. 14, the College of Nursing and the Creighton Jesuit Community gathered for that remembrance as a door with a window bearing the Jesuit symbol, and a plaque commemorating Fr. Bannantine were dedicated at the Health Sciences Christ the Healer Chapel in the Criss II Building.

The selection of the door and window, particularly, were most suitable, Sr. Tucci said.

Sr. Candice Tucci, OSF, who succeeded the Rev. Tom Bannantine, SJ, as chaplain of the College of Nursing, talks about Fr. Bannantine's legacy. The door behind Sr. Tucci was dedicated Dec. 14 in honor of Fr. Bannantine.“When I came to this position and to this building two years ago, this door looked like any other door except for the small cross and nameplate attached,” she said. “So this was a great way for us to come together as the Creighton College of Nursing and to remember Fr. Bannantine, who was such a beloved figure and chaplain here for so many years.”

In a homily for the dedication, the Rev. Greg O’Meara, SJ, rector of Creighton’s Jesuit Community and a professor of law, noted Fr. Bannantine’s faith and service as an open door to the people he was called to serve.

“In the unique pursuits of nursing and education, there is the need for the ministry of mercy, the touch of human kindness,” Fr. O’Meara said. “For those of us who knew Tom Bannantine, this was his gift in spades. Gently, quietly, always with a smile, he would show us how God was at work in our lives.”

To raise funds for the new door, window and plaque, Magnuson and Sr. Tucci started with a simple email to faculty and staff at the College.

“We were thrilled,” Sr. Tucci said. “It was so touching that they would do this in his memory. But he’s still so present here, so very much alive in the work that continues in the College.”

Along with ministering to students, faculty and staff, Fr. Bannantine often visited patients and families at the Creighton University Medical Center. The toughest cases brought out the best in him, remembered fellow Jesuit the Rev. George Sullivan, SJ, former president of Creighton Preparatory School, who lived with Fr. Bannantine in his last months at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and was present at the chapel door dedication.

“He considered it a personal mission, when someone came in with cancer or another grave illness, to make sure that person and that family felt comfortable and cared for,” Fr. Sullivan said. “It was an example to us all.”

Faculty, staff, friends and fellow Jesuits who worked with the Rev. Tom Bannantine were present Dec. 14 for a dedication of a window and door to the memory of the late Jesuit and chaplain of the College of Nursing.In addition to his service at Creighton, Fr. Bannantine’s 63-year Jesuit career included a regency at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and hospital chaplaincies in Pontiac, Michigan, Green Bay, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis — home of his beloved Cardinals baseball team.

Fr. Bannantine was also chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Omaha for 11 years and was a teacher and counselor at Creighton Prep between 1967 and 1972, where the Rev. Steve Ryan, then a student at Prep and now chaplain of the Creighton School of Dentistry, first encountered him.

“He was a wonderful man,” Fr. Ryan said. “He was a big man, but so gentle, so kind, so caring. He was always the same in that regard.”

Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.