Fr. Edward Joseph Frazer, PSS
February 20, 1935 – August 4, 2019
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) This quote, from the Letter to the Hebrews, is a fitting caption for one who served the Province as a leader and caring confrere for fifty-seven years as a priest and for eighty-four years of life.
Edward Joseph Frazer was born on February 20, 1935 in Butte, Montana to Edward and Catherine (Walsh) Frazer. He is survived by his sister, Patricia Ann.
Fr. Frazer was ordained for the Diocese of Great Falls, MT (now Great Falls-Billings) on May 27, 1961. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy from St. Edward’s Seminary, Kenmore, WA in 1957. He completed his theological studies in 1961 at St. Thomas Seminary, the Sulpician Seminary of the Northwest, and then went on to earn an M.A. in education at Seattle University in 1962. He completed the S.T.L. degree at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in 1964.
As a Sulpician candidate, he served for two years (1961-1963) on the high school faculty of St. Stephen’s Seminary, Hawaii, where he taught religion, Greek, Latin, civics, history, and drama. After completing Solitude (1963-1964), the Director said of him, “He gives promise of being an excellent community man. He is a genuinely charitable priest. The Society is getting a splendid addition in Father Frazer.” He was admitted to the Society of St. Sulpice in 1964.
As a definitive member of the Society, he continued graduate studies while serving on the faculty of Theological College (1964-1967). He then took another year of graduate studies while residing at the Solitude house in Baltimore (1967-1968). He joined the faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca St. in Baltimore (1968-1969) to serve as vice-rector and to teach a course in theology and the film, a creative and progressive adventure for its time. This course, and his love of the movies, earned him the nickname “Flick Frazer.”
Upon the closure of the Paca Street campus, Fr. Frazer continued teaching at St. Mary’s Seminary College in Catonsville (the former St. Charles College) and served as Dean of Students there (1969-1971). He then returned to Theological College as rector from 1971-1976. From there he entered the D.Min. program at The Catholic University of America (1976-1977) but had to cut his studies short in 1977 when he became Provincial of the U.S. Province at the time of Paul Purta’s resignation. Subsequently he was elected Provincial and served until 1985.
As provincial, Fr. Frazer reorganized the provincial administrative staff. He appointed Joseph Reynolds, a layman with many years of experience working for the Province, to the newly created office of executive assistant. He made the office of provincial secretary a fulltime position, he modernized the Treasurer’s office, and he appointed a layman, Mr. Jim Harkness, as the first director of personnel for the province.
Father Frazer assumed the role of Provincial at a very difficult time in the life of the Province and the seminaries, not to mention the unsettled state of the country in the 1970s. His term as Provincial was characterized by directing his energy towards restoring the morale of the Province, which had suffered from the drop in seminary enrollments, the closure of minor seminaries, and the effects of the withdrawal of some Sulpicians from the ministry. He met the challenge of morale by making personal visitations to the houses to show his personal interest in every Sulpician. He showed himself to be a genuinely caring priest and a strong community man, just as the Director of his Solitude had predicted.
After leaving provincial administration, Fr. Frazer became the Associate Director of the Vatican II Institute at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA. He served there as the associate to Fr. Gene Konkel, PSS for three years (1985 -1988). He then took a sabbatical with residence in the Sulpician community at Vaugirard in Berkeley, CA (1988).
During this sabbatical year, he traveled to Africa to investigate for the province the possibility of Sulpician involvement in priestly formation there. Fr. Frazer submitted a report to the Provincial Council recommending Zambia as a place where the province could make a significant contribution. In May of 1989, the Provincial Council assigned him, along with Fr. Michael Strange, PSS, to Emmaus Spirituality Centre in Lusaka, Zambia. Fr. Frazer served as the first Regional Superior of the Zambian Region from 1989-1999. He served for three years on the faculty of Emmaus Spirituality Centre (1989-1992) and for seven years (1992- 1997) on the theological faculty of St. Dominic’s Major Seminary. Not only did he serve these seminaries well, but he also ministered to several communities of religious women in the Lusaka area.
In 1999, he returned to the States. He brought back with him many African works of art (fabrics and paintings) along with wood carvings and sculptures to broaden his collection of fine art and to have mementos of his years in Africa that he so enjoyed. He joined the faculty of Theological College for the next five years (1999 -2004). After a sabbatical (2004 -2005), he retired to the Sulpician retirement community of St. Charles Villa (now Villa Olier). He remained there for the next seven years (2005-2012).
As we look back on Fr. Frazer’s slow walk through aging and dementia, we are struck by how he was gradually stripped of what made his life so meaningful. The deterioration of his mind and body was gradual but relentless. While still at the Villa, and unable to manage on his own, he was forced to abandon his cherished independence as he needed an attendant twenty-four hours a day. He couldn’t understand why a stranger was sitting in his room where he had enjoyed his solitude for so long. His beloved sister, Patti, and brother-in-law, Col. Richard Quinn, retired Army Colonel, saw that assisted living was now necessary for him, but they didn’t want him to be in a facility of strangers. So they took him to their home in Belton, Texas, in 2012. He stayed there until he needed even more attention that only a facility like Luvida Memory Care in Belton, TX could provide.
Coherent speech had by now deserted this lifelong conversationalist who had that wonderfully colorful flair for artistic expression. His legs forgot how to walk as he was wheeled from place to place. His family, who visited him faithfully, kept vigil with him to the end. Finally, peacefully, he lost his last breath. He let it all go without complaint.
Fr. Frazer died on August 4, 2019. Since he wished to be buried with his confreres in the Sulpician Cemetery, Catonsville, MD, his body was brought back to Our Lady of the Angels Chapel for the Mass of Resurrection with the Provincial, John C. Kemper, P.S.S. as celebrant, and Thomas R. Hurst, P.S.S., a confrere with Fr. Frazer in Zambia, as homilist.
In his life as teacher, formator, leader, and Sulpician pioneer to Zambia, Fr. Frazer has given glory to God and joy to himself and to those he touched with his priestly kindness. His creative flair for artistic expression will remain a lasting memory by those who heard him speak the word of God in homilies filled with rich images from literature, Peanuts, and films. Such witness to faith, together with living a rather simple lifestyle, and possessing a kindness and generosity of spirit that built community wherever he went, are worthy of remembrance and imitation by anyone who takes on the mantle of leadership in the community.
Fr. Richard M. Gula, PSS
Director of Personnel