Monday, March 26, 2012

Adieu, Marc.

Earlier today, the Montreal Gazette reported the passing of Jesuit film scholar Father Marc Gervais. Here is a bit of the obituary by Gazette reporter Jeff Heinrich:
A Montreal priest with an earthly passion – international cinema – Marc Gervais was an influential educator, film consultant and author of scholarly works on Ingmar Bergman and Pier Paolo Pasolini.

He died late Sunday afternoon, age 82, at a Jesuit retreat in Pickering, Ont. A funeral is to be held Friday morning at St. Ignatius of Loyola parish church next to Concordia University’s west-end campus.

Gervais had been suffering from dementia for several years when he passed away. He is survived by his brother, André, a prominent Montreal lawyer, and his sister, Connie.

Family, friends, colleagues and students remember Gervais as a charismatic humanist who communicated his lifelong love of film to generations of Loyola College and Concordia students. His class lists included Denys Arcand (a future Oscar winner), John Kent Harrison (who went on to make TV movies like The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler), and Kevin Tierney (producer of Bon Cop, Bad Cop).
To read the rest of the Gazette obituary, click here. I've written before about the impact that Marc Gervais had on my vocational discernment and about the times that I met him in Montreal. I saw Marc's name for the first time when I came across a copy of his book Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet at Lauinger Library while I was an undergraduate at Georgetown. I remember being deeply impressed by the fact that the Society of Jesus made room within its ranks for men who found God in areas like film as well as in more traditional fields of ministry; if the Jesuits had room for people like Marc Gervais, I thought, perhaps they also had room for me.

When I finally met Marc Gervais in person and got to know him a bit over the course of several visits to Montreal, I found him to be a truly gracious gentleman as well as a great raconteur. We conversed on a wide variety of topics, from his relationship with Ingmar Bergman and his views on other directors to broader questions about religion and culture and the relationship between the life of faith and the life of the mind. When I saw him for the last time, in the summer of 2008, the gradual diminishment of his memory made it harder for Marc to talk about the topics he was usually most voluble about. Even then, though, Marc could still talk up a storm: a few questions about his youth in Sherbrooke led to a series of vivid recollections of childhood, including memories of the royal visit of 1939 as well as the unlikely circumstances that turned a lad from small-town Quebec into a lifelong Red Sox fan.

To honor Marc's memory, I hope to set aside an evening this week to watch one of the various films that we discussed at different times - perhaps a Bergman classic like Winter Light, or maybe something like Denys Arcand's L'Âge des ténèbres, which happens to be the last new release that Marc and I had a chance to talk about. Though Marc Gervais is no longer with us, I'm confident that his legacy will live on in the fond memories of his many students and friends. May his memory be eternal! AMDG.


At 3/27/2012 1:43 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

I plan on attending his funeral this Friday. He was a remarkable man -- unforgettable, charming, voluble, memorable homilist. He always did the Good Friday liturgy at Loyola Chapel. We never did get to discuss Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves. Maybe someday. Kevin Tierney, mentioned in the obituary as a former student, is an old friend of mine. May he rest in peace.

At 3/27/2012 11:16 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


I'm glad to hear that you'll be at the funeral on Friday - I regret that I will not be there, but I'll certainly remember Marc in a special way that day. I hope that many of Marc's friends, fans, students and colleagues will be there to remember him and, I hope, to share with one another the memories that bring them together.

At 3/27/2012 8:53 PM, Blogger Robin said...

I'm very sorry for your loss. As I've pondered this post today, I've been thinking that the Jesuit life is so often one of tremendous privilege -- all that education and training, all those opportunities -- and tremendous contribution in response -- in service to God and others. Your friend is certainly a model of life well lived.

At 3/27/2012 10:18 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Thank you, Robin - your words are much-appreciated!

At 3/30/2012 7:06 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

I am sending you a program from the Mass for Marc Gervais. It was a joy-filled occasion, much befitting him.

At 3/30/2012 11:10 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


Thank you for sending the program - it's very thoughtful of you to do so, and I appreciate it very much. I'm glad to hear that Marc received the joyful send-off that he richly deserved, and I hope the funeral was a source of consolation for you and all present.


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