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University of Dayton mourns death of Father Joseph Lackner

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Father Joe Lackner
Father Joe Lackner preaches in an undated photo. Lackner, former director of campus ministry at the University of Dayton, died Sunday at 71. (Courtesy Photo/University of Dayton)

Press Release

DAYTON, Ohio — The Rev. Joseph Lackner, S.M., who died Sunday in Seoul, South Korea, following complications from a heart attack, is being remembered today for his intellectual curiosity, humor, care for others, cooking prowess — and ability to give a brilliant homily.

“In my estimation, he was one of best preachers we had in the Society of Mary,” said Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., Father Ferree Professor of Social Justice and past president of the University of Dayton. “He was somebody you really loved being around. He was always very present to people. If you were in a conversation with him, he’d be totally there for you. He brought humor and joy to life.”

A wake will be held at 8:30 a.m., followed by a 10:30 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, May 11, in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on campus. A noon reception will be held in Kennedy Union’s Torch Lounge. A 1:30 p.m. burial will take place at Queen of Heaven Cemetery at Mount Saint John.

Father Lackner, 71, had just finished teaching courses in the University’s Bangalore, India, program when he made a stop in Seoul to visit Marianists before heading back to the U.S. He suffered a heart attack there last week and was slowly recovering before a setback over the weekend, according to the Rev. Jim Fitz, S.M., vice president for mission and rector.

“I will miss Joe’s enthusiasm for the mission and his great fraternal spirit,” Fitz said. “His presentations on Marianist education and spirituality will be a lasting legacy to us all.  On top of that, Joe was a wonderful and generous cook. It has been a privilege to share Marianist life with him over the years as our lives intersected.”

Reflecting on the Gospel from Sunday’s Mass, Fitz spoke about the commandment Jesus gave to the disciples: You must love one another as I have loved you. “Joe was a disciple. The man cared for people.”

Father Lackner, who taught and served in various capacities at the University of Dayton including an eight-year stint as director of campus ministry, was set to return to campus to preside over liturgies, administer sacraments and teach a course in literature and Christian tradition in the English department and another in sacraments and liturgy in the religious studies department.

Born in Cincinnati, Father Lackner professed first vows in the Society of Mary in 1960. He was ordained a priest in 1972. He served as director of campus ministry at Thomas More College for three years in the 1970s before leading the University of Dayton’s campus ministry office from 1980-1988.

As an administrator, he served as assistant provincial and director of education in the Cincinnati Province of the Society of Mary from 1997-2002 and assistant provincial for developing regions for the Marianist Province of the United States from 2002-2010. He served on the University of Dayton’s board of trustees from 1998-2006.

As a professor, he taught at the University of Dayton, Saint Louis University, Thomas More College, Xavier University, St. Mary’s University, Parks College, the Athenaeum of Ohio and, most recently, Chaminade University of Honolulu.

Father Lackner graduated from the University of Dayton with two bachelor’s degrees — English and education — and a master’s degree in counselor education.  From Saint Louis University, he earned an A.M. in Biblical languages and literature and a Ph.D. in historical theology.  He also held an Ed.D. in private school education from the University of San Francisco.

“He was probably the most widely read Marianist I knew,” Brother Ray Fitz said. “He loved the classics and he was continually reading theology. He really appreciated the arts.”

Added Patricia Johnson, Alumni Chair in Humanities: “He was deeply committed to his work. He was a very kind man who had a gentle way.”

Father Lackner is survived by a sister, Helen Hampton, of Hamilton, Ohio. Donations may be made in Father Joseph Lackner’s memory to the Marianists at https://www.marianist.com/support or through the Marianist Mission, 4435 East Patterson Rd., Dayton, Ohio 45481.

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