Father Cuenin departs due to health reasons
After almost nine years as the Catholic chaplain and coordinator of the Multifaith Chaplaincy at Brandeis, the Rev. Walter Cuenin has left the University for unspecified health reasons, according to a campus-wide email from Dean of Students Jamele Adams.
Cuenin previously left Brandeis temporarily in 2012 to undergo treatment for cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. It is unclear whether this year’s permanent departure is related.
According to Adams’ announcement, the University is working with the Archdiocese of Boston to identify a new Catholic chaplain to serve on campus. In the interim, the University will provide transportation to and from Our Lady, Help of Christians church in Newton for the 6 p.m. Sunday services in place of the regular Sunday evening services at Bethlehem Chapel.
Sister Marie also coordinated a prayer service with Communion on Sunday for the Brandeis community.
“The Brandeis Multifaith Chaplaincy wishes Fr. Cuenin a return to full health,” wrote Rabbi Elyse Winick, the University’s Jewish Chaplain, in an email to the Justice. In her statement on behalf of the Interfaith Chaplaincy, she added that “[t]he Division of Student Life is actively engaged in efforts to ensure that the needs of the Catholic Community on campus are met. All of the chaplains are available to the student community for spiritual and pastoral support, through this difficult time and always.”
Cuenin joined Brandeis as the Catholic chaplain in 2006, according to a Justice article from February of that year. He came to the University from Our Lady, Help of Christians, where the archdiocese accused him of mishandling funds and forced his resignation, according to the article.
However, many viewed it as punishment for his outspoken criticism of the Boston Archdiocese’s and Cardinal Bernard Law’s handling of the clergy sexual abuse scandals in the early 2000s. In 2002, Cuenin successfully led a cohort of local priests in calling for Law’s resignation.
By that time, he had also established a reputation as an advocate for controversial issues within the Church, such as gay and lesbian rights and the role of women in Catholic leadership.
At Brandeis, he continued the tone that he had established in Newton and established new traditions, including the popular trip to Rome, offered at a reduced cost for Catholic and non-Catholic students alike each spring semester.
During his time at Brandeis, Cuenin also helped to organize the weekly peace vigils that have been held outside Usdan Student Center since 2007, and coordinated interfaith dialogue groups such as the Brandeis University Interfaith Leadership Development Fellows Program.
According to the Multifaith Chaplaincy’s website, Cuenin holds a bachelor of arts degree from Saint John’s Seminary in Boston as well as a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Gregorian University in Rome. In 1970, he was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and was licensed in sacred theology. He received a doctorate in the subject from Gregorian University seven years later.
The Interfaith Chaplains did not respond to a request for comment by press time.