On November 19, 2022, Fr. Richard John Woods, O.P. went to the mercy of God. Richard died peacefully in Tallaght, Ireland, where he had been hospitalized for several months due to brain and neck injuries resulting from falls. He is buried in the Dominican cemetery there. He was 81 years old.
John Francis Woods was born on July 30, 1941, to James Everett and Margaret (Corcoran) Woods in Albuquerque, New Mexico. From 1947-1959 he attended St. Mary’s Grade School, Regina Coeli Junior High, and St. Mary’s High School. He then attended The Catholic University of America, the University of New Mexico, and Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
In August of 1962 he entered the Dominican Novitiate at St. Peter Martyr Priory in Winona, Minnesota. On August 30, 1962, he received the Dominican habit and was given the religious name of Richard. At the end of his novitiate, Richard was simply professed on August 31, 1963.
Proceeding to the Dominican House of Philosophy (St. Thomas Aquinas Priory) in River Forest, Illinois, Richard began his studies in philosophy. He received a B.A. / Ph.B. in 1964 and an M.A. / Ph.L. in 1966. On August 31, 1966, he made his Solemn Profession.
After his time in River Forest, and as a Dominican student brother preparing for the priesthood, Richard matriculated at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, Iowa, from which he received an M.A. in Theology. On April 15, 1968, he was ordained to the diaconate and on May 24, 1969, to the priesthood.
Richard did postgraduate studies in Film Study at De Paul University in Chicago the summer of 1965, Journalism the summer of 1967 at the University of Minnesota, and from 1974-75 at the Religious Experience Research Unit at Manchester College, Oxford, England.
Following his ordination to priesthood Richard began doctoral studies at Loyola University, Chicago. In 1978 Richard received his Ph.D. from Loyola in Philosophy of Religion. His dissertation was, “The Social Dimension of Mysticism: The Meaning and Structure of Religious Experience in the Philosophy of William Ernest Hocking.”
Among many other awards and honors, Richard received the honorary Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) by the Dominican Order in 2000.
Richard’s teaching experience contributed to numerous institutions throughout the United States, particularly with the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University in Chicago, and the Dominican University in River Forest from 2000-2022. From 1991-1997 he was also a visiting tutor and lecturer at Blackfriars Hall, the University of Oxford, England. In 1999 he was awarded the Aquinas Lectureship at Emory University in Atlanta.
Richard was a prolific producer of books, articles, and lectures in professional journals and societies. To say he was a renaissance man would be an understatement. His interest in and contribution to the scholarship included spirituality and mysticism, sexuality, the Celtic harp (which he played masterfully), Celtic studies, the occult, and Meister Eckhart. He also wrote or contributed to five volumes of fiction. Another contribution was fifty-two columns in The National Catholic Reporter. The breadth of his interests and his production were exemplary.
Richard was predeceased by his parents and older brother, James Woods, Jr. He leaves nephew Michael Woods (Lisa), nieces Teresa Woods (Gary), Cathy Woods (John), and Shari Thieman-Greene (Jamie), along with a large extended family. His primary residence was in Chicago, but he often spent summers at the family cottage in Arklow, Ireland. He passed while in Ireland.
A wake service combined with Vespers was held at St. Mary's Priory in Tallaght, Ireland. The Mass of Christian Burial took place there on November 25. Richard's body was interred in the Dominican cemetery in the priory garden at St. Mary's. A memorial Mass was celebrated at Dominican University in River Forest, IL, on January 14, 2023.