John W. O’Malley, S.J., the world renowened Jesuit educationist, historian and scholar, dies at 95

By Sunny Jacob SJ
Sep 12th, 2022

John William O’Malley SJ, the contemporary Jesuit scholar, world-renowned historian, and great spiritual person, died at the age of 95, on September 11th, 2022.  Born on June 11th, 1927, John grew up as an American academic, Catholic historian, and Jesuit priest. He was a Professor at Georgetown University, housed in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies. O’Malley was a widely published, expert on the religious history of Early Modern Europe, with specialties in the Council of Trent, the Second Vatican Council, and the First Vatican Council.

He joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 18 and later earned a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. He was a member of the faculty at the University of Detroit from 1965 and of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology at Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1979, before becoming a university professor at Georgetown University.

His writings are well known and researchers quote him for authentic references. As a Jesuit scholar he has several monumental works in his credit, among them, the best-known works are “The First Jesuits” (Harvard University Press, 1993), translated into 12 languages, and “What Happened at Vatican II” (Harvard University Press, 2008). The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present (First published October 16, 2014)

O’Malley has received numerous awards in the field of Catholic history, religious culture, and theology. He was awarded Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts Centennial Medal. He has served as President of both the Renaissance Society of America and the American Catholic Historical Association. In 1995, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1997, to the American Philosophical Society. And in 2001, to the Accademia di San Carlo, Ambrosian Library in Milan. He received the Johannes Quasten Medal from the Catholic University of America. In 2002, he was awarded the Society of Italian Historical Studies Grand Prize, and in 2005 the Renaissance Society of America. He was awarded the 2014 John Gilmary Shea Prize for Trent: What Happened at the Council.

Anyone who studies about Church history, Jesuit Education, Jesuit History, etc., quotes O’ Malley. The International Secretary of Jesuit Education, Jose Mesa SJ, in his books and writings quotes extensively from O’ Malley’s books.

“But John wasn’t loved just as a scholar or teacher, distinguished as he was in those categories. He was loved by his brother Jesuits, his students and friends, as a person: a holy and generous Jesuit priest. Unfailingly kind, helpful, generous, mild, curious, modest (even for his humorous occasions of faux-pride) and always interested in you. John was never too busy to answer a question, give you some advice, point you to some resource or tell you some funny story. He had a great talent for friendship, and it was reciprocated”. (James Martin SJ)

As we have been working on materials for a new Contemporary Jesuit Education course, as well as the course on the Four Key Practices, Jesuit Leadership, and Jesuit /Ignatian Education, we fall back on O’ Malley’s writings as the final reference at Educate Magis.  Educate Magis is greatly indebted to him for making a Jesuit legacy to our global community of Jesuit Educators.

As James Martin SJ wrote in America Magazine, “It is hard to know where to begin to praise John, so manifold were his gifts. And I certainly cannot sum up his rich and fruitful life as a Jesuit priest in just a few paragraphs”. Educate Magis’ Community Director, Mr. Eamonn McGuinness recalls O Malley’s contribution to Educate Magis. He says, “in the beginning of Educate Magis O’ Malley send a video message to us which expressed his scholarly intellect on Global map, his happiness and generous support and guidance to Jesuit education through Educate Magis”. You can watch the video here.

John was special to all who knew him and read his works. He was a Jesuit, priest, scholar, teacher, writer, mentor, and friend. We have learned a lot about the Society of Jesus and Jesuit education from him. The global community of Educate Magis and the Jesuit Global Network of Schools (JGNS) are indebted to him in many ways. In his passing away, we lost a mentor, a guide, a benefactor, and a Jesuit scholar. We, at Educate Magis, pay homage to the departed soul. May his soul Rest in Peace!



John W. O’Malley S.J. has authored the following books: (Ref. Internet)

Giles of Viterbo on Church and Reform: A Study in Renaissance Thought, E.J. Brill (Leiden, Netherlands), 1968.

Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450-1521, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1979.

Rome and the Renaissance: Studies in Culture and Religion, Variorum Reprints (London, England), 1981.

Tradition and Transition: Historical Perspectives on Vatican II, M. Glazier (Wilmington, DE), 1989.

The First Jesuits, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

Religious Culture in the Sixteenth Century: Preaching, Rhetoric, Spirituality, and Reform, Variorum Reprints (Brookfield, VT), 1993.

Trent and All That: Renaming Catholicism in the Early Modern Era, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Four Cultures of the West, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

What Happened at Vatican II, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2008.

Trent: What Happened at the Council, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2013.

The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York, 2014.

The Jesuits and the Popes: A Historical Sketch of Their Relationship, Saint Joseph’s University Press, (Philadelphia, PA), 2016.

Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2018.

He has also edited a number of volumes including:

(Editor, with Lucien Richard and Daniel T. Harrington) Vatican II, the Unfinished Agenda: A Look to the Future, Paulist Press (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor) Catholicism in Early Modern History: A Guide to Research, Center for Reformation Research (St. Louis, MO), 1988.

(Editor, with Louis A. Perraud) Desiderius Erasmus, Spiritualia, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

(Editor, with John W. Padberg and Vincent T. O’Keefe) Jesuit Spirituality: A Now and Future Resource, Loyola University Press (Chicago, IL), 1990.

(Editor, with Thomas M. Izbicki and Gerald Christianson) Humanity and Divinity in Renaissance and Reformation: Essays in Honor of Charles Trinkaus, E.J. Brill (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor, with Gauvin Alexander Bailey) The Jesuits and the Arts: 1540-1773, Saint Joseph’s University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.

(Editor) The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773, University of Toronto Press (Buffalo, NY), 2006.

(Editor, with others) The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.