Arthur J. Ennis, O.S.A.

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1922 – 1994 (March 27)

Arthur John Ennis was born on October 22, 1922 in Brooklyn, New York, to Arthur John Ennis and Carolin Prestin. He had one brother and two sisters. Baptized in Saint Gabriel’s Church, Brooklyn, he attended the local public elementary school as well as Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Parish School, Jamaica N.Y. In 1937 Arthur transferred as a postulant to Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, N.Y. He made his novitiate at New Hamburg, N.Y., and professed simple vows on September 10, 1941, and three years later solemn vows. In 1945 he graduated from Villanova College, Villanova, Pa., with an A.B. degree. He studied theology at Augustinian College, Washington, DC, and was ordained to the priesthood on February 10, 1949, by Bishop John McNamara at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 

From 1945 to 1949 Father Ennis, while studying theology, did graduate work at the Catholic University and in 1949 received a master’s Degree in medieval history. From 1949-1953 he did postgraduate studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, earning a doctorate in Church History. Father Ennis’ first assignment was to Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church, Jamaica, N.Y., as an assistant during the summer of 1949. He also taught at Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, DC, for two years. In 1955 he was assigned to Rome as Master of Professed Students at Collegio Santa Monica. In 1959 he returned to the United States and was assigned as professor of theology at Augustinian College in Washington, DC. He also held the positions of sub-prior and, later, prior of the community. In 1968 Father Ennis was assigned to Villanova University to head the Department of Religious Studies. 
In 1975 he was elected Assistant General for the North American Provinces of the Order and headed the Order’s International Peace and Justice Commission. In 1983 he returned to Villanova, first as superior of the Augustinian Community in Overbrook, and in 1984 as prior of Saint Augustine Friary. In 1986 Father Ennis was chosen prior of the newly established national novitiate located in Racine, Wisconsin. By 1992, he was engaged in sabbatical studies at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas, when he began to experience the first symptoms of the cancer that was to eventually take his life. 

On his return to Saint Augustine Friary, Villanova, he began to undergo treatment. Father Ennis was a quiet man who found his greatest happiness as a priest-scholar but at the same time was a successful teacher and administrator. During his 53 years as an Augustinian he edited and published numerous historical studies. In 1993, although weakened by illness, he was able to see published, No Easy Road, The Early Years of the Augustinians in the United States, 1796-1874. 

At the age of 71, Father Ennis died peacefully on March 27, 1994 at the Sacred Heart Home for Incurable Cancer in Philadelphia. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 29 at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church. Father John J. Hagen, O.S.A. Prior Provincial, was celebrant and Father Theodore Tack, O.S.A., former Prior General, concelebrated. The homily was delivered by Father Joseph C. Schnaubelt, O.S.A. Interment was the following day in the Augustinian plot in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshocken, PA