Rev. Paul L. Cioffi, S.J. (1928-2004)
September 24, 2008
View the Image Slideshow for Rev. Paul L. Cioffi, S.J. (1928-2004) (Opens a new window).
See the slideshow for a sampling of images contained in Fr. Cioffi's slide collection. Many images from his collection already appear in the EnVisionChurch Gallery of Images. More are being added to the Gallery on a regular basis, so please visit the Gallery often the view the latest images.
Fr. Paul Cioffi was born July 21, 1928 in Brooklyn, NY and grew up in Summit, NJ. He entered the Society of Jesus at Wernersville, PA in 1946. After professing his vows in 1948, he did his philosophy studies at Woodstock College and the final year at Bellarmine College in Plattsburgh, NY. He then taught at Loyola High School, Towson, MD, from 1953-56. He studied theology at Woodstock, where he was ordained on June 21, 1959. Tertianship was made at Drongen-bij-Gent, Belgium. In 1973, he earned a doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America.
Fr. Cioffi engaged in liturgical studies at College Saint-Michel in Brussels, Belgium for one year, before being assigned to Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. in 1962. After teaching liturgy for thirty years in the theology department at Georgetown, he established the Institute for Pastoral Renewal and dedicated the rest of his life to the continuing education of clergy. Fr. Cioffi held about 140 seminars for over 10,000 priests and bishops in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, he taught a very popular segment in the sabbatical program for priests at the North American College in Rome. During his travels in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East he assembled a collection of slides focused on early Christian church architecture, furnishings and iconography.
In 2001, Fr. Cioffi co-authored with William P. Sampson, S.J., Gospel Spirituality and Catholic Worship: Integrating Your Personal Prayer Life and Liturgical Experience, in which he addressed the priest's role in holiness of life, liturgy, and preaching. In 2004, The Georgetown Center for Liturgy honored Fr. Cioffi posthumously with its annual Award for Outstanding Contributions Made to the Liturgical Life of the American Church.
EnVisionChurch is grateful to Fr. Cioffi for his service to the Church, his passion for liturgy and history, and love for people. Featuring his slide collection in our coming Gallery of Images is a tribute to him and his work. We also wish to thank his family and friends who support the Paul L. Cioffi, S.J. Program in Pastoral Renewal at the Georgetown Center for Liturgy for their generosity, which makes the presentation of his slide collection possible.
SOME WORDS IN HONOR OF FR. PAUL CIOFFI...
Paul – my brother, my friend, my teacher:
My brother, Paul, was an amazing person. Every one of his priestly renewal students and his Copley Crypt (at Georgetown University) congregation received so much from his homilies. I did not go to the Crypt Mass as often as I would have liked; however, he did come quite a few times to our home. He offered Mass at our dining room table, so that our elderly Aunt Florence could partake of the Eucharist. He was so good to her and to my parents. Before our dad died in 1989 and our mom in 1993, Paul offered Mass many times at their home to give them the comfort of the Lord before they died. His homilies were amazing. He always gave us a homily as great as if he were giving it at St. Peter’s in Rome. We learned so much from him.
I was also inspired at those Masses by his love for the Eucharist and for the liturgy. He showed such love and reverence for all his priestly duties.
I think it is wonderful that his slides will be on EnVisionChurch. He once misplaced some that were especially meaningful to him, and he said that he had lost some his life’s work. Later, he was delighted when they were found in Wernersville, PA, where he had given a retreat a year earlier.
My husband and I were on seven overseas trips to Italy and Spain with Paul, and we were amazed by his knowledge of the sites he showed us in Rome, the place he loved so much. On all of our trips, he did research in advance as to the places we needed to visit and on the objects in the museums that we needed to see. I am so happy that we were with him on those trips, and I will never forget our time with him.
Everyone knew Paul. We were at our granddaughter’s Confirmation in Maryland on June 10, and Bishop Malooley from Baltimore officiated. After the Confirmation, I asked the Bishop if he knew Paul. He said, “Oh, yes.” The year before he died, Paul gave a retreat in Florida to Bishops, and Bishop Malooley was there. The Bishop said how wonderful the retreat was and how wonderful Paul was.
Anyone who knew Paul will never forget him, whether it is family, his former students at Georgetown, his Georgetown Jesuit community, his priestly renewal students, his Crypt congregation or any of his many other friends. Paul, I will never forget you.
Your loving sister, Lucille
Fr. Paul Cioffi had a holy passion for the Eternal City, which he shared with his students and with his flock from Georgetown’s Copley Crypt. With his academic focus on late Roman and early Christian art and archeology, he knew where to go, what to see, and how to see it. From the roof of the Pantheon (yes, in 1985 – for a few thousand lira – we were allowed to scale the roof and look down through the oculus) to the burial site of St. Peter under the great altar in the Basilica, Paul was our energetic spiritual leader.
At these sites, Paul would explain the connection between Ignatian Spirituality and the art and architecture of church buildings and stress the importance of this spirituality with the Liturgy and the Eucharist.
From the early morning meetings at the Collegio Bellarmino, where he planned our day and distributed the food for our al fresco lunch, to the nightly “Ultima Cena,” Paul was the perfect host. He knew all the “Best Cheap Eats” in Rome.
Fr. Cioffi’s collection of slides herein was digitized by the Georgetown Center for Liturgy, a most fitting tribute to this remarkable priest, our teacher, liturgist, and friend.
Bernie and Brenda Carr
I met Father Cioffi in August of 1980 during my visit to his parents in Summit, New Jersey. Our two families had been friends since the late 40s when we lived there, but I was too young to remember him then.
Since that visit, Father Cioffi became my spiritual director, my teacher, and guardian angel. He brought me to Washington, D.C., helped me get into Georgetown University graduate program, and taught me how to live in D.C. I took/audited his liturgy courses, and attended his mass on Sundays. He encouraged me to pursue a storytelling career saying that Jesus was a good storyteller. Busy as he was, he always had time for me. He supported me through my difficult times and rejoiced with me for every bit of success I had achieved. He even had the childlike innocence to assist my friends “kidnap” me to a surprise party for my 40th birthday.
His hearty laugh could make the saddest person smile. He made me feel that I was very special to him, as if I were the only best friend he had in the world, and yet I know he had made many, many people feel the same way, because he loved all the people God has created. I was only one of them.
It is my greatest honor as well as my deepest regret that the last place he visited was my country China. After he came back he told me how much he enjoyed the trip and jokingly said, “In my next life I want to be a Chinese!”
He always said that nothing could keep us from being joyful because we hold the ticket to the heavenly banquet earned by our Lord Jesus. I am sure he is enjoying it now.
Paul Cioffi and I were friends for the better part of fifty years, blessed with many reunions of “The Jesuit Liturgists” over those years. At each meeting Paul would describe with great energy his latest insights and opinions about worship, especially worship in Jesuit communities. Nor was it all serious; Paul was one of the funniest people I have ever met. His jokes will always be well-worth re-telling. He led a group of ten Jesuits through a month's visit to Italy in 1986, visiting leading liturgical sites. Each stop would include group reading and prayer to get us in context for what we were to see. Paul was the oldest in the group and set a pace which left the rest of us exhausted but very grateful at the end of the trip.
J. Leo Klein, S.J.