Monday, December 1, 2014

Fr. William Lonc, Jesuit Scientist

I lived with Father William Lonc in Halifax from 1975-81 when I taught at Atlantic School of Theology and he at Saint Mary's University; we were both members of the Halifax Jesuit Community. I was associated with him again when I served in Halifax as Archbishop from 1998-2007. Though Bill was ahead of me in the Society, we completed our Jesuit training together by pronouncing our Final Vows at a Eucharistic celebration in Canadian Martyrs Church on April 18, 1979. The necrology follows. May the Lord grant him a merciful judgment and welcome him to the joys of eternal life. R.I.P.
Father William Paul (Bill) Lonc, S.J. died on November 27, 2014 at Rene Goupil House in Pickering Ontario. He was in his 85th year of life and had lived 60 years in religious life.

William Lonc was born in London, Ontario on May 5, 1930, the son of Gregory Lonc and Veronica Lewickie. He studied physics at Sir George Williams University in Montreal to the Bachelor’s level before he entered the Jesuit novitiate on September 7, 1954. He had entered as a member of the Polish Province of the Society of Jesus but later transferred to be a member of the Canadian Province.

Lonc followed the usual Jesuit education with the addition of special studies in physics and mathematics. He earned a doctorate in Physics and a license in Philosophy from Saint Louis University in 1965. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1968.

Father “Bill” Lonc had for many years served as a professor of Physics at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, with academic specialization in the areas of astrophysics and microwave technology. He wrote a high school textbook on radio-physics that is still used today. As well, he served for several years as a visiting short-term teacher at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose, California.

Fascinated by amateur radio, Father Bill soon became an expert in it. In his capacity as a researcher, he was one of the few people to gain access to the environmentally sensitive Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

He spent 1990-1991 as a sabbatical year in Tucson, Arizona, collaborating with the Vatican Observatory team there. He dedicated himself to reflection on the relationship between science and religion in the modern age. He received honours and professional recognition for his work.

Following his retirement from the Physics Department at Saint Mary’s University, this Renaissance man worked assiduously at translating over a dozen historical works by Lucien Campeau and other French Canadian Jesuit sources into English.

Carrying on the work initiated by others, Father Bill’s areas of specialization included the early history of the Society of Jesus in the Maritimes, Quebec and 19th century Ontario. Because of his involvement in this ongoing project, he was knowledgeable on the era of contact between Europeans and Native Peoples in New France. His excellent translations continue to make a significant contribution to historical scholarship and Canadian studies.

As an avid driver while a long-term resident of Nova Scotia, Father Lonc had acquired an extraordinary knowledge of the topography and settlement of the province. After moving to Toronto where he took up residence at Canadian Martyrs' Jesuit Community in 2006, he served faithfully as chaplain to the Sisters of St. Joseph, both at their Motherhouse in Willowdale and, later, at their new infirmary in downtown Toronto. He moved to Rene Goupil House, the Jesuit Infirmary at Pickering in 2014.

The wake service will take place in St. Ignatius Chapel at Manresa Retreat House Pickering on Monday, December 1 from 7-9 PM, with prayers at 8 o’clock. 

The funeral liturgy will be held there on Tuesday, December 2 at 11 AM, with burial that same afternoon at 2:30 PM at the Jesuit Cemetery in Guelph.

1 comment:

  1. I was honoured and humbled to work with Fr. Bill on his translations being the archivist at Martyrs' Shrine. We developed a friendship and a partnership that lasted 15 years. During that time his vision for the Early Jesuit Missions in Canada series grew beyond the 17th century Missions to New France (Acadia, Quebec, Huronia/Wendake) to include the various mission centres of 19th century Ontario- both north and south. He was unstoppable with his translations, completing the last book September 8th, 2014- the day he entered the Society 60 years ago- and less than two months before he passed away. He had a brilliant mind and such a quiet way, unpretentious way about him. He was always putting things in proper perspective with regards to our project- " well, we haven't lost our shirts", he would exclaim, every time we had to pay the printers and the translators. He would have no problem driving 2 hours from Toronto to the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland just to drop off books, have some tea and toast, and then head back. I hope to develop a Fr. William Lonc Memorial Research room at the Shrine's Educational Centre, since all his notes and files, as well as photocopies and some originals of the house diaries and correspondence from the Northern Missions are stored there. My last visits with him at Goupil House were always pastoral and prayerful. Our loss, is Heaven's gain. Rest in Peace Fr. B.
    Steve Catlin
    Martyrs' Shrine