Wright, Father Addison George, P.S.S.

2017, January 31

Date of Birth: 1932, June 28

“Enjoy life; whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl 9: 7, 10). This quote from Ecclesiastes, the biblical book to which Fr. Wright devoted much of his academic career, is a fitting caption for one who enjoyed the benefits of God’s grace for fifty-nine years as a priest and for eighty-four years of life.

Addison George Wright was born on June 28, 1932 in Bridgeport, CT to Addison and Ann (Dowd) Wright. He had no siblings and his parents are deceased.

Fr. Wright was ordained for the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT on May 27, 1957. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street in Baltimore in 1953. He went on to do his theological studies at The Catholic University of America where he earned the S.T.L. in 1957. He completed the M.A. degree in Semitic Languages there in 1962. He then went to Rome to earn the S.S.L. degree at the Biblical Institute in 1963 and returned to complete the S.T.D. degree in Scripture at The Catholic University of America in 1965.

As a Sulpician candidate, he served for one year (1957-1958) on the high school faculty of St. Edward’s Seminary, Kenmore, WA where he taught religion, English, and history. He then went for another year to join the faculty at St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth, MI (1958-1959) to teach fundamental theology and Hebrew. After completing Solitude (1959-1960), he was admitted to the Society of St. Sulpice in 1960.

He was on the faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary & University from 1963-1968 where he taught patrology, Scripture, Hebrew, and archeology. Then, while serving as rector of St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth, MI from 1968-1971, he also taught Scripture and Hebrew. After a difficult term as rector and the withdrawal of the Sulpicians from the seminary there, Fr. Wright left St. John’s disenchanted with the administrative and formational aspects of seminary life. From then on, he basically limited his Sulpician ministry to making an academic contribution to the seminary and spent the rest of his career teaching Scripture in a variety of settings. From 1971 – 1981, he taught Scripture again at St. Mary’s in Baltimore.

After leaving St. Mary’s to care for his father in the family home in Trumbull, CT, Fr. Wright taught as an adjunct professor at Marywood University in Scranton, PA (1980-1997), Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT (1981) and Fordham University in New York (1983-2007). He also taught in the summer programs of Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY (1967), Siena College in Adrian, MI (1970), and Wheeling College in Wheeling, WV (1971-1975). For sixteen years (1984-2000) he lectured for the training program for lay leaders of Bible study groups for the Diocese of Bridgeport. For forty years (1971- 2011) he was an annual lecturer for the Ecumenical Scripture Workshop in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV. He also gave many lectures during these years in parish programs and for clergy conferences throughout the United States and Canada. He published several articles in biblical journals, mostly on the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, especially on his favorite book, Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth). He also made several audio tapes for the Ecumenical Scripture program in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WV.

Fr. Wright loved to teach. When his students remember him as a master teacher, a vivid image will sit up in their minds: Fr. Wright sitting on the corner of the desk, smoking a cigarette (in the days when that was permitted), tapping the ashes into a Styrofoam cup, and never a note in his hands save the text of Scripture itself. Witty and entertaining in his style, flawless in his thinking, clear in his presentations, very demanding in his expectations, and never letting uncritical thinking go unchallenged. Some found him a bit acerbic, but he never wavered from his commitment to seeking the truth of the biblical text. His students knew they were in the presence of a great mind, of one who was still growing in his faith and inviting them to look at the biblical text freshly, to question their faith, not with doubt, but with an open mind to grow in faith along with him.

True to the wisdom of Qoheleth, he found enjoyment and satisfaction in doing what he loved and not simply in getting the work done. He is well remembered as a person who lived simply and sparsely, almost Spartan-like in austerity not only in his lifestyle but also in everything he did and said. In the classroom, he shined as a brilliant and inspiring teacher who opened for his students the world behind the text and taught them to see the world in front of their eyes through the images and wisdom of the biblical word. Fr. Wright found the wisdom of Qoheleth confirmed in his own experience, namely, that living in a world beyond human control is not an easy task. Yet the experience of joy in doing what he loved sustained him to fully engage life for his own sake and for those he served.

Fr. Wright died on January 31, 2017 at the Sulpician retirement community of Villa Olier, Catonsville, MD. The Mass of Resurrection was celebrated on February 6, 2017 in the chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary & University with the Provincial, John C. Kemper, P.S.S. as celebrant, and Fr. Robert Leavitt, P.S.S. as homilist. Burial followed in the Sulpician Cemetery, Catonsville, MD.

During his fifty-nine years as a priest, Fr. Wright fulfilled the vision of Qoheleth: enjoy the good day, and when the evil day comes, view it as God giving variety. Since no one knows how things will turn out, focus on being alive and enjoy what you are doing while you do it.

In his living and especially in his teaching, Fr. Wright has given glory to God and joy to himself and to his students through his service in the Sulpician ministry. Such enjoyment will remain his lasting witness to all those who not only crossed his path but also had the opportunity to sit at the feet of this master teacher and to enjoy listening to him break open the wisdom of the word of life.

Richard M. Gula, PSS

Director of Personnel