Fr. Norman O’Neal, S.J., Bids Farewell to Jesuit

Posted January 11, 2017 / Last updated June 21, 2021

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Fr. O'Neal shows his lighter side during chemistry class in 1971.

Fr. O’Neal reveals the man behind the clerics during chemistry class in 1971.

Fr. Norman O’Neal, S.J., Jesuit’s current alumni chaplain, moved to Grand Coteau on Monday, Jan. 9, but not before well wishers could send him off with a farewell reception last week.

Fr. O’Neal was born in Shreveport on May 24, 1926, the year that Jesuit High School opened on Carrollton and Banks in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Shreveport’s St. John’s College, which became Jesuit High School in 1960 and Loyola Prep in 1982. Fr. O’Neal joined the Society of Jesus on Sept. 7, 1947, and was ordained as a priest on June 17, 1959.

Fr. O’Neal has been a valuable fixture at Jesuit since 1960. For 55 years (he took one year off) he has served as chemistry teacher, department chairman, and alumni chaplain. In 1991 Fr. O’Neal wrote “The Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” an account of the life of St. Ignatius, on the occasion of the Ignatian Year in order to better acquaint the lay teachers, staff, and students of Jesuit High School with the founder of the Society of Jesus. In addition, each year he offered to advance the school’s mission by guiding individual faculty members through an adaptation of The Spiritual Exercises retreat for everyday life.

The relationships Fr. O’Neal has cultivated in his more than five decades at Jesuit High School were evidenced by the reception’s attendees. Current faculty and staff came to show their support, as did former teachers who Fr. O’Neal happened to hire during his tenure as science department head, including beloved science teacher Harry Clark ’59.

“Norman is a just wonderful person. He was never the type to be interested in advancing through the ranks of the Jesuit order and was a true class act,” Clark said of his mentor and colleague. “I remember him as one of those people that everyone knew and everyone liked. He was also a very personal priest, the kind you’d want to have as your confessor.”

Fr. O’Neal’s impact in the lives of others continues to span generations. He taught Matt Mount ’80, in attendance with his wife Sonja, and later gave the couple the marriage sacrament. Blue Jays themselves, Mount’s two sons, Matthew ’16 and Cullen ’21, were baptized by Fr. O’Neal.

Fr. O’Neal joins long-time friends Fr. Nick Schiro, S.J. ’44 and Fr. Paul Schott, S.J. ’40 at Grand Coteau.