Rev. Michael Thomas Morris, OP
Rev. Michael Thomas Morris, OP, Dominican priest and art historian died July 15 in Berkeley. He was 66.
Father Morris was remembered as a man of effervescent personality, deep faith and, through lectures, essays and everyday life, a guide to helping others see the connection between beauty and God.
Father Morris was born Oct. 19, 1949, in Santa Monica. After graduating with his bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Southern California, he entered the Order of Friars Preachers for the Western Dominican Province in 1971.
He was ordained a priest April 23, 1977. He graduated with his master's in art history from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. He studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 1982 and was graduated with doctoral degree in art history from UC-Berkeley in 1986.
In 1991 his highly acclaimed biography "Madam Valentino: The Many Lives of Natacha Rambova" was published by Abbeville Press. Since 1998, his widely read articles on religious art and iconography have been published by Magnificat. He taught at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology, Berkeley, and served as director of the Santa Fe Institute, Berkeley, until his death.
Two weeks before his death, Father Morris told Rev. Peter Rogers, OP, president of the Dominican School, "that he planned to teach two courses in the fall, and that if he could sit during his teaching he would be fine."
"His death is a tremendous loss to the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology and the Graduate Theological Union communities," Father Rogers said in a letter to the school community.
"I absolutely enjoy my teaching years," Father Morris said in an interview with The Catholic Voice in March. "I feel like I'm just getting my stride."
At the time of his death, Father Morris was working on two books: "The Lives of the Eminent Artists of the Dominican Order," to coincide with the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the order, and a collection of his essays from Magnificat magazine, which is scheduled to be published in October.
"For as long as I've known him," his classmate, Rev. Michael Carey, OP, said in his eulogy at the July 21 vigil service, "he always wanted and acquired the very best the world could give."
Those collections included art, books and what Father Morris himself had called "the largest collection of biblical movie posters in the world," which is housed at the Santa Fe Institute.
In his final days, Father Carey said, Father Morris took comfort from the painting of the Holy Face, whose restoration Father Morris shepherded. Painted by a Peruvian artist who was visiting the Vatican, it represents a depiction of a miracle that took place there in 1849. After years at the Vatican, the painting was sent to Peru, where it was placed in a monastery. After it was damaged —"totally wrecked," Father Morris said this year in an interview — it was acquired by the Santa Fe Institute. Father Morris oversaw its restoration. It was on display this past March at the Dominican School.
"He left us an important collection of writings, movie posters and pieces of art," Father Carey said. He invited the friars and guests who filled the chapel, "to cherish not what he collected, but that God collected him."
At the funeral Mass the following morning, participants wore purple vestments, at Father Morris' request, so the souls in purgatory would not be forgotten.
"He was on to something that we cannot live without," homilist Father Peter John Cameron, OP, editor of Magnificat, said in his homily, noting Father Morris' knowledge of "the evangelical power of beauty."
"I count myself fortunate to have been his friend," Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, wrote in a letter read at the end of Mass. The bishop, who was on duty with the Navy at the time, acknowledged Father Morris' service to the Diocese of Oakland as a consultant on sacred art and architecture, noting his ability to "connect beauty to all the riches of Catholic theology."
Father Morris is survived by his sister Patricia Chamberlain; and by his brother Timothy Morris and his three nieces and nephew.
After the July 22 funeral Mass at St. Albert's Priory Chapel in Oakland, Father Morris was interred at St. Dominic Cemetery in Benicia.
The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley will celebrate his life and contribution to the school at a later date. See www.dspt.edu/faculty/bio/michael-morris-op for a list of his publications and videos.
Donations to support and develop Father Morris' projects may be made to the Father Michael Morris Memorial Fund at Western Dominican Province, 5877 Birch Court, Oakland, CA 94618.
— Michele Jurich
Sister M. Margaret Hakeem, SHF
Sister M. Margaret Hakeem, SHF, died July 13 at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Holy Family in Fremont. She was 94. Her death came three weeks after she celebrated her 70th Jubilee as a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family.
Sister Hakeem served as catechist and director of Religious Education in parishes in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Fresno, until coming to the Motherhouse in Fremont in 1984. She was director of Religious Education at St. Joseph Parish in Mountain View from 1984 to 1991, and after a year of serving as receptionist at Callison Day Home in Fremont, she began a new career as spiritual director.
For the next 18 years, until health forced her retirement in 2010, she was sought out for her wisdom as spiritual director. Even into her final weeks, people including Sisters — "would seek her advice and counsel in spiritual matters," according to remembrances from her community.
Additionally Sister Hakeem was known for her sense of humor and her kind heart.
The funeral Mass was held July 26 at the Holy Family Motherhouse in Fremont. Interment will follow.
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