Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  April 2018  >  April 3, 2018  >  'A true source of encouragement': The Rev. Richard Hauser, SJ, 80, leaves foundational, spiritual, loving legacy at Creighton
'A true source of encouragement': The Rev. Richard Hauser, SJ, 80, leaves foundational, spiritual, loving legacy at Creighton

The Rev. Richard Hauser, SJIn the spring of 1975, the Rev. Richard Hauser, SJ, was approached by the director of Creighton University’s campus ministry, about taking charge of one of the daily Masses at St. John’s Church.

Fr. Hauser, then a professor in the Department of Theology, said he would love to take on a Mass, but he had a slightly different vision for the Mass he’d like to celebrate. He asked the director if he could experiment with a Sunday evening, student-run candlelight Mass, just to see if anyone was interested.

“The kids loved being in darkness,” Fr. Hauser recalled in a 2012 interview. “They could pray un-self-consciously. It just prompted growing more deeply into their own hearts.”

As the Mass grew in popularity among Creighton students, Fr. Hauser got a letter from the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Fr. Hauser was sure the note was a request that the Mass, which some in the Omaha Roman Catholic community had puzzled over, be shut down. But the chancellor, who attended the candlelight worship one evening, had other ideas.

“What he said to me was, ‘You had several hundred students there,’” Fr. Hauser said. “‘I saw quiet, prayerful people, coming week after week and being fully engaged in the Mass. I want to encourage you to keep doing that. From now on, when they call me, I will tell them I attended that Mass and it’s a beautiful Catholic service and I gave them permission to do it.’”

Forty-three years later, the darkness still has not overcome the light that Fr. Hauser, who died April 3 at the age of 80, introduced on the Creighton campus. A visitation for Fr. Hauser will take place at St. John's Church on the Creighton campus on Sunday, April 8, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a wake and vigil service commencing at 7 p.m. The funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m., Monday, April 9.

Born June 22, 1937, in Milwaukee, Fr. Hauser entered the Society of Jesus in 1955 and professed his first vows in 1957. He graduated from Saint Louis University in 1961 and spent the next years as a teacher of English and religion at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, followed by a year earning a master’s degree in history at SLU, then another year teaching at the St. Francis Mission in South Dakota. He was ordained a priest June 4, 1968, along with friend and fellow Creighton Jesuit the Rev. Don Doll, SJ.

Fr. Doll and Fr. Hauser marked many milestones together on their academic, spiritual and priestly journeys. Both Milwaukee natives, the two both attended Marquette University High School, professed first vows together and began their friendship in earnest in 1965 when both were teaching at the St. Francis Mission’s school on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“Dick would always tell me that the St. Francis Mission is where he learned to pray,” Fr. Doll recalled. “That set in motion much of what he would write and talk and give retreats about over the next 50-plus years. What was so beautiful about Dick is that he would always synthesize for himself what we were learning. He was able to make it personal and relatable. You look at his three books and they’re about prayer, suffering and discerning God’s will. In taking a personal approach to those spiritual concepts, he was able to spread a message of love to a lot of people.”

In the summer of 1984, the two Jesuits spent five weeks in the Holy Land as part of a biblical archaeology seminar.

Fr. Hauser explained the experience in a 1995 piece for Creighton’s Window magazine: “There’s an intensity of experience, of history, here. Your feet walk where [Jesus] walked, and you find yourself saying, ‘All of this actually happened and I’m here.’”

That awareness and mindfulness was central to Fr. Hauser’s priestly walk, Fr. Doll said, to the extent that Fr. Hauser kept a daily journal and encouraged others to do the same.

“He got me to keep a journal, and I’ve done so faithfully for more than 50 years,” Fr. Doll said. “It was just in his nature to be present in gratitude. As we get older, I think we forget the blessings we’ve had. Dick saw a journal as a way to hold onto the blessings of the day, the week, the year, and to find God’s will in your life.”

Fr. Hauser first arrived at Creighton as a professor in the Department of Theology after earning his doctorate in religion and religious education in 1973 from the Catholic University of America.

From his earliest days on campus as a theology instructor in 1972, Fr. Hauser proved to be a source of spiritual inspiration to Creighton students. His inauguration of the candlelight Mass and his taking on of the directorship of Creighton’s programs in theology, ministry and Christian spirituality were in keeping with what he always felt his fundamental calling was: to help all people recognize God’s presence in their lives.

“Fr. Hauser was a great example of apostolic zeal and a true source of encouragement to me as a younger Jesuit,” said Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, who was a student in the Jesuit Humanities Program at Creighton in 1996 and served as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Philosophy from 2000 to 2003. “Additionally, to so many alums and friends of the University, Fr. Hauser is the face of the Creighton Jesuits, ever-present in classrooms, conference rooms, Creighton events, and his long-standing late-night candlelight Mass on Sundays in the St. John’s Church. His impact on faculty and staff, in particular, demonstrated an authentic inclusion of these colleagues and friends in the mission and identity of Jesuit higher learning. I will miss his warmth, passion, determination, and playfulness.”

Another legacy Fr. Hauser leaves is the Jesuit, Catholic mission at Creighton, which informs practice at all levels of the University. In the 1970s, Fr. Hauser and Fr. Doll inaugurated a group for lay faculty to help promote the Jesuit character of Creighton.

In his constant work through and with the Society of Jesus and his ardent advocacy of Creighton, Fr. Hauser was always looking for opportunities to bring the University’s mission to the fore in both hiring individuals who directly support the Creighton mission and who, in whatever line of work they take at the University, found a place where they could tout, promote and live that mission.

Former Creighton President the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, SJ, BS’73, said a faculty and staff group that began in the 1970s has helped the University celebrate its Jesuit heritage in ways that set Creighton apart.

“Fr. Hauser was always promoting the University’s Jesuit, Catholic identity to the extent that Creighton celebrates that heritage and identity more than any other Jesuit institution in the nation,” Fr. Lannon said. “He created a critical mass of faculty and staff who have promoted the University’s Catholic and Jesuit identity. That leadership group became a University Committee, Partners in Mission, that has shaped and continues to shape what Creighton is today. He’s been integral to the mission and he’s been so integral not only to my introduction to and formation in the Jesuits, but to so many men of the Society of Jesus for so many years.”

Fr. Hauser’s work with young Jesuits and men considering joining the Society led him to hold monthly meetings with Creighton students discerning such a call.

“He did that for a lot of years,” Fr. Doll said. “He was a mentor to so many. More men have joined the Society from Creighton than from any other institution in the country and that is a testament to Fr. Hauser.”

In 1990, Fr. Hauser founded Creighton’s master’s degree programs in ministry and theology, serving as the program director until 2002. He also served as director of the master’s degree program in Christian spirituality since 1993. He was rector of the Creighton Jesuit community between 2001 and 2007.

Author of three books — In His Spirit: A Guide to Today’s Spirituality (1982), Moving in the Spirit: Becoming a Contemplative in Action (1986), Finding God in Troubled Times (1994) — Fr. Hauser, in his writings, explored a theology of the Holy Spirit for living a spirit-filled life in contemporary times. He also wrote articles, book chapters and book reviews in dozens of scholarly journals and periodicals.

His work stressed the daily, ever-present love, mercy and grace of God, and the ways the Holy Spirit moves within us to recognize and do God’s will. His sense of humor was also a prized source of levity and comfort, both among his brother Jesuits and the campus at large.

“I will miss the bantering back and forth, the quick jokes he always had,” Fr. Lannon remembered. “He could put you at ease with a smile.”

And the gentle and insightful nature of his ministry, found most glowingly in the candlelight Mass that stands testament to his spirit, will not soon be extinguished.

“He would do dialogue homilies in that Mass,” Fr. Doll said. “I think that’s what so many people remember as being so beautifully done. He would ask a question and most of the time, it was the question: ‘How does this piece of Scripture fit into your life?’ And the students responded to that in wonderful ways. That’s what Dick did with his own life. He was always asking himself those same questions. He was always reflecting in that same manner.”

Fr. Hauser was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Dorothy, and two younger sisters, Jane Hauser and Kristin Chabot. In addition to thousands of students and brother Jesuits, Fr. Hauser is survived by brother Joseph Hauser and sisters Mary Jo Nakashima and Anne Diliberti.

Asked about the candlelight Mass, in the context of the books, articles, appointments, programs and other pursuits, Fr. Hauser still pointed to what he began back in the dark 43 years ago.

“I think what I will be remembered best for is the Mass I started back in 1975, and celebrated every Sunday night since then,” Fr. Hauser said. “I’d like that Candlelight Mass to be my legacy.”

To read and see more about Fr. Hauser's legacy, visit this page.

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