Newsletters and Articles
Fabian (Stan) Parmisano, OP, MDiv, MA, STLec, PhD (Cantab.)
(11 June 1926 – 18 June 2009)
As a full obituary is available in SF Chronicle, my goal here is to highlight some of his more prominent contributions to academic scholarship and the DSPT.
Stanley Parmisano joined the Western Dominican Province in 1948. He received his Dominican education at St. Albert College (now the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT)), and was ordained a priest in 1953. Immediately after his ordination, Fr. Fabian was appointed as Master of Students of St. Albert College, a position somewhat akin to a Dean of Students at a college or university, though with much more direct oversight on the formation of the student friars. Upon completion of this ministry, he studied English literature, obtaining a doctorate from Cambridge University. Afterwards, he returned to California to teach at Notre Dame College (Belmont, California) and St. Albert College.
Fr. Fabian was also actively involved in a program sponsored by the Western Dominican Province known as "Theology for the Laity." Based on earlier work of the Catholic Thought Association developed by Vincent Donovan, OP, of the Eastern Dominican Province, "Theology for the Laity" was specifically designed to provide lay Catholics with a solid foundation in theology (something more substantial than "catechesis"). By 1955 it was enjoying large success in throughout the Bay area with more than 200 people attending regular lecture series. Fr. Fabian contributed to the program offerings during the early 1960's while assigned to St. Raymond's in Thousand Oaks, California, one of the branches of St. Albert College.
In the late 1950’s, there was a movement among some of the local seminaries to engage in a type of “theological sharing” which would lay an important foundation for what would eventually become the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). As Fr. Fabian recalled, “. . . it was the Spring of 1959 that Fr. Frank Norris, S.S. of St. Patrick’s Seminary (Menlo Park, California), and Fr. Dan O’Hanlon, SJ (Alma College), came to St. Albert’s unexpectedly and asked to see the student master, Fr. Fabian Parmisano. There, in the front downstairs parlor, they agreed to start a consortium of theology professors of the three seminaries, simply for dialogue. The first meeting would be in the Fall of that year, and Parmisano would read the first paper, the title of which turned out to be: ‘The use of literature – novels, poetry, etc. – in the teaching and learning of theology.’ The consortium, with its annual meeting and paper, lasted until sometime in the early 70s when mutual engagement at the GTU rendered it more or less superfluous” (Mission West, p. 442, n. 9).
Between 1986-1990, Fr. Fabian served as the Regent of Studies for the Western Dominican Province. As one of the most important positions within the Dominican Order, the Regent is responsible for the life of study within a given Province. The position is considered so important to the well being of a Province that the person nominated must be approved by the Master of the Order. In the earliest days of St. Albert College, the Regent had nearly exclusive control over all aspects of the College. As the administration of educational institutions within the Order became more aligned with public forms of academic administration, the role of the Regent changed. Today, the Regent serves ex officio as Vice-Chancellor of DSPT and as a member of the Board of Trustees. He remains the person charged with ensuring that the academic needs of the brethren are met. During his tenure as Regent, Fr. Fabian was diligent in encouraging the student brothers – myself having been one of them at the time – to enter fully into the life of study which is the hallmark of a Dominican vocation.
Fr. Fabian possessed a deep and abiding love for books, movies, theater, and poetry. An avid writer himself, he appreciated and called forth from others the "craft of the word." He wrote widely on a number of topics in the general area of Christian spirituality (see list below). Dear to his heart, however, was Catherine of Siena about whom he wrote a number of lengthy monographs. There seemed to be a co-identification – perhaps because of the “Italian connection” – between his own journey towards the inner life of the Trinity and that of this powerful Senese woman.
In the latter years of his life, Fr. Fabian resided at St. Albert Priory – which is today the “other half” of DSPT. He was one of the remaining few who had grown up in the style of education which emphasized recitation and “conversational learning” in the British way. Always ready and willing to quote a line or two from a play, a movie, or a poem, he was an endless source of culture. Some of my best and happiest memories of life at St. Albert Priory are those “reading nights” where friars would come before the community to offer a dramatic reading. Only Fabian was able to do so completely from memory!
Never prone to idleness, he constantly made himself available to the student brothers at St. Albert’s, right up to the end: correcting their papers, listening to and critiquing their homilies, and offering general encouragement. Like St. Albert was with St. Thomas Aquinas, Fabian served as mentor and advocate for all of the young friars. In my own case, his willingness to endure and offer gentle criticism of poem after poem after poem has surely won for him a prized place in heaven!
Considered by most of us friars to be one of the better preachers of the Province, Fr. Fabian was a master of the word – spoken or written. But in the end, he was a pupil – a genuine disciple – of the Word, submitting himself in humble (if not at times also humiliating) obedience to the will of the one was . . . in the beginning.
There were many authors whom he admired, and a few whom he loved: Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Eliot. There is no better way to sum up the life of this good and faithful servant than by quoting one of these beloved companions (as Fabian, himself, could have so easily done from memory):
What we call the beginning is often the end
We shall not cease from exploration
“Little Gidding,” from The Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
Selected Publications by Fabian (Stan) Parmisano
Please feel free to sign a guestbook for the family.