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Latin American Scholar Rev. Edward L. Cleary, O.P. Dies

Providence, R.I.--Rev. Edward Louis Cleary, O.P., professor emeritus of political science at Providence College and a scholar of Latin American studies, died November 21 at the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas on campus.

A member of the Dominican Friars (Order of Preachers) of the Central Province of St. Albert the Great (Chicago, Ill.), he served as a Dominican priest for 54 years.

Father Cleary began teaching at Providence College in 1993 in the Latin American Studies Program within the Department of Political Science. He retired this year with the rank of professor emeritus. He served as director of the Latin American Studies Program for approximately a dozen years.

For several years, beginning in the mid-1990s, he organized and participated in joint PC-U.S. Naval War College student and faculty forums in Newport, R.I.

He also was a faculty affiliate of the Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in 1999-2000 and a visiting scholar at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley in 2000-2001.

A passionate educator whose classes were enriched through his frequent international travel experiences, Father Cleary summed up his teaching philosophy this way: “Unless teaching is grounded in the lives of persons at the grassroots level, learning will remain an affair of ideas and books rather than questions and issues of real people.”

Father Cleary taught numerous courses during his 18-year career at the College, including ones in religion and politics in both Latin America and the United States, as well as Human Rights in Latin America and Seminars for Model Organization of American States

Lifelong affinity for Latin America

Several of his courses reflected his scholarly, research, and personal passion for Latin America, which was sparked during his first assignment as a young Dominican priest in Bolivia. A social scientist and a Dominican missionary, he regularly studied, lectured, and wrote about the status of the Catholic Church, religion in general, politics, and human rights throughout Latin America.

That lifelong interest continued until his death. He continued to work as the editor and a contributing writer of the first Handbook of Latin American Christianity. He called the appointment as editor by Oxford University Press “the crowning touch of my career.”

In all, he wrote or co-authored 14 books, including This Rise of Catholic Charismatics in Latin America, which was published this year by University Press of Florida. He also was the co-author and co-editor of Conversion of a Continent: Contemporary Religious Change in Latin America (Rutgers University Press, 2007) and of Representing God at the Statehouse: Religion and Politics in the American States (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).

In addition, he developed several Web sites--including one on religion in Latin America--during the latter stages of his lifetime; contributed to films on Latin America; and wrote numerous articles, chapters, and book reviews for scholarly and theological publications.

Father Cleary also gave scholarly presentations or served as a participant at numerous national and national conferences and programs. In 2006, he took part in the International Congress on the Theme of Corruption and the Poor at the Vatican, and in 1998, he witnessed the historic meeting between Pope John Paul II and Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Native of Chicago

Born in Chicago, on August 4, 1929, a son of the late Emmet and Mary (Novotny) Cleary, he attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., and the Dominican Houses of Studies in River Forest, Ill., and Dubuque, Iowa, where he earned his bachelor’s (1953), licentiate (1953), and master’s (1954) degrees in theology from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1975.

He was ordained a priest in the Dominican Order by the Most Rev. Edward Hoban, archbishop of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, on May 25, 1957, at St. Rose Priory in Dubuque, Iowa.

Father Cleary’s priestly assignments included San Jeronimo Seminary/St. Andrew English School, La Paz, Bolivia (1958-1962); St. Xavier College, Chicago (1962-1966); the Dominican Mission Vicariate in La Paz, as vicar provincial (1966-1971); the University of Pittsburgh, where he was assistant director of the Center for Latin American Studies (1973-1976); Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Mo., where he taught and served as vice president/academic dean (1976-1979); the Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University, New York City, where he was a research associate at the Institute of Latin American and Iberian Studies (1980-1982); the Research Institute for the Study of Man, also in New York City, where he was a fellow (1982-1985); and the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio, as director of the School of Theology Hispanic Ministries Program (1985-1993).  

Funeral arrangements

Father Cleary’s body will be received into the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas on Sunday, November 27, at 4:00 p.m. A wake will follow, concluding with the Office at the Dead at 7:00 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in the priory chapel on Monday, November 28, at 10:00 a.m. He will be laid to rest with his fellow Dominican Friars in All Saints’ Cemetery, Des Plaines, Ill., at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Father Cleary’s memory may be made to the College’s Office of Institutional Advancement, 1 Cunningham Square, Providence, R.I. 02918, for the Dominican Scholarship Fund.

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