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Father Joseph Neuner, SJ, at 96 : A Retrospect from ExpressIndia 

Father Joseph Neuner, SJ, 96 Fr Neuner is a renowned theology professor teaching at different theological institutes. Through his long life he has witnessed landmark events such as the two World Wars, the rise of Nazism and communism and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Fr Neuner came to India and Pune due to an accident of fate - two others who had been appointed to be sent to Pune were not able to get the certificate of tropical fitness while Fr Neuner was able to do so. Neuner has written several books.

TREASURED TIMES: “Working in the service of Church life in India has always being my mission. I treasured the moments when I shared my insights on theology with the priests and parishes. I have been lucky to have been in close association with Mother Teresa and a committee member when preparatory steps had been taken in the process of beatification. Not only that, I was in close contact with Mother Anna Huberta in setting up the Helpers of Mary, a diocesan congregation of the Archbishop of Bombay, “ muses Fr Neuner.

A FULL DAY: Ask him what is his way of life today and he smiles. “By God’s grace, I do not suffer from any ailments. I spend time meeting with people who come to seek my spiritual guidance. I read books on the Church life from across the globe. I also write forewords and prefaces for books penned by theology scholars as well as letters to my Jesuit friends.”

His day starts at 5.30 am with prayers, followed by a walk. My meals are a typical Indian breakfast and lunch, while for dinner I prefer a bowl of soup with chappatis. My day ends at sharp ten pm.”

LONGEVITY LINES: ‘‘Life is immortal. It must be carried on in the service of humanity without thinking about dying,”he believes.

WISHES: To meet the new Pope when he is elected.

Jesuit Father Joseph Neuner, dead at 101, eulogized
by Thomas C. Fox on Dec. 07, 2009
Courtesey NCR Today

Jesuit Father Jesuit Father Joseph Neuner, spiritual advisor to Mother Teresa and probably the world’s oldest Jesuit, died Dec. 3 at 101 in Pune, India. Neuner, born in 1908 at Feldkirch in Austria, had been a Puneite since 1938. For many years, he taught theology at the city-based Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth. In the 1960s, Neuner served as an expert at the Second Vatican Council.

Janina Gomes, an NCR contributor and author of the recently published "Prayers from the Heart," (Pauline Publications @ Sister Bombay Society), wrote the following tribute.


By Janina Gomes

If ever there was an ideal priest, I knew one. Father Joseph Neuner, who died at the ripe age of 101 years, sowed many seeds in his life and also reaped a spiritual harvest that is only possible for the faithful, humble and true servants of God.

I knew him for well over 30 years. As a friend, he saw me through the best and the worst, through moments of failure and moments of success. He wrote letters faithfully, even to those others had given up on, and I was one of them. I remember Fr. Richard De Smet, another Jesuit giant telling me that Neuner had an apostolate of letters. He wrote faithfully to those who needed spiritual direction and help in their lives.

A great theologian, who worked on documents for the Second Vatican no doubt, but his spirituality was practical and down to earth. I remember once writing to him about a bathroom leakage I had in my flat. When he visited next, he walked in and immediately asked to see the leakage. That must be what great theology is like, irretrievably linked to the daily and mundane details of life.

How did such a prolific priest who wrote regularly for, the Indian theological journal, Vidya Jyoti, in a series called ‘Listening to the Spirit’ get his originality and wisdom? When he was teaching theology at De Nobili College, he would everyday take a walk to the graveyard and meditate, most in touch with life by reflecting on death.

I remember the long walk he once took me on, the open maidan outside De Nobili. He was able to understand and resonate with the young as well as the old. I also remember the times I would meet him at Shradhha Vihar (He was founder of the Daughters of the Helpers of Mary and wrote their constitution.). He would share with me the special meals made for him by the nuns and be the generous host that he was.

Neuner was a walking marvel. He could walk from Bandra Station to my house and back, taking everything in his stride. When he had a fall and injured himself, once again it was the hardy, determined side of him that won over and gave him a longer lease of life. He was still exercising through most of the latter years.

He did present me with his memoirs which he wrote at the age of 90. But, his personality and person were much richer than a book could capture. He had a capacity to reason and analyze that would be the envy of many a scholar, but it was balanced by an earthy humaneness, compassion and quite strength.

I have a vivid memory of him in a bright yellow cotton checked shirt showing me the original rosary presented to him at his ordination, which he had tucked below his pillow.
The last I saw him was about a year ago still concelebrating mass from a wheelchair. Though he did not recognize people, he was still lucid in mind in many respects.

I once wanted to write a profile of him, but did not do it to his satisfaction and he was a little bit of a perfectionist in his work. What I could not do when he was alive, I am now attempting to do after his death- to pay tribute to a great soul and an ideal priest.

Josef Neuner S.J. passed away last night (Dec. 3); Funeral today (Dec. 4)at Papal Seminary, Pune


Forwarded by Srampikal, sj, from Rome


4th December 2009


This is Fr. Noel Sheth, S.J. writing. I am at present in Manila, the Philippines, teaching a course on Buddhism at the Ateneo de Manila. I just got news about the passing away of Fr. Josef Neuner, S.J. Please pass on this news (see below) to those who knew him. The death of this renowned theologian, peritus of Vatican II, and one of the pillars of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, leaves a great void in Pune, in India and the world.


Centenarian Fr. Josef Neuner, S.J. passed away last night (3rd December, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Patron of India) at the Pune Provincial's House, Sanjeevan Ashram. His funeral is at 4.30 p.m. today in Papal Seminary-Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth. He will be buried in the Campus Cemetery, in accordance with his wish to be buried in the place where he spent most of his life, animating the professors and the students, building up the Church in India and radiating his influence throughout the world. 


I thank God for the gift of Neuner to Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, to Pune, to India and the world. May he continue to be an inspiration to all of us and in this way live on in our memories and our deeds.




Noel Sheth, S.J.


Prof. Dr. Noel Sheth, S.J.
Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth
Pontifical Institute of Philosophy and Religion
Ramwadi, Pune 411014,
Tel.(Residence): 91-(0)20-41036237.

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