Walter M. Abbott, S.J., the New England province Jesuit and former associate editor of America, probably best known for his work in editing "The Documents of Vatican II," a book that for many years remained the standard compilation of the writings of the Council, died this morning. He had lived for several years at the New England Jesuit province infirmary, Campion Center, in Weston, Mass., just outside of Boston. There will be many encomia to Father Abbott over the next few days, probably focusing on his editing of his great work, which came out in record time after the Council, and who I knew well from his days living at the Jesuit novitiate in Boston. He was a kindly presence in the novitiate, who regaled the novices with tales (sometimes told several times!) of his days working at a frenetic pace with his magnum opus, his interactions with various church personages, and his time at America. But for now, here is a charming "Of Many Things" column
written by our resident historian, Dennis Linehan, S.J., that tells the tale of some of Father Abbott’s most amusing memories. It appeared last year in the mag. Here’s an excerpt:
How had Father Abbott come to America, and how did he come to be sent to Rome? Talent and happenstance seem to be at the root of both stories. Walter was a student editor at Boston College High School, and he honed those writing skills through the long Jesuit course of studies. After a stint of teaching he was called to the staff by Thurston Davis, and did all that an editor does and more. During that time he published in America an article on ecumenism and the Bible. In Rome Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J., read it, summarized it, put the topic on the agenda of the council and included the article among the preparatory material for the council’s document on divine revelation.
James Martin, S.J.