Father Wilfred L. (Bill) LaCroix, SJ, died Thursday, December 22, 2016 at the Jesuit elder care community in St. Louis, Missouri, after a long illness. He was 83 years old, a Jesuit for 57 years and a priest for 47 years. A Memorial Mass was held on Monday, January 2, 2017 in the Fusz Pavilion Chapel in St. Louis. A second Memorial Mass will be held at Rockhurst University at a date and time to be announced.
Bill LaCroix was born to Wilfred LaCroix, Sr. and Elizabeth Sintobin Lacroix on Nov. 27, 1933 in Kansas City, Mo.
He graduated from St. Agnes High School in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1951 and attended Rockhurst College (now Rockhurst University) in Kansas City, Mo., for a year before transferring to Marquette University in Milwaukee, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio Journalism and English in 1955.
He joined the U.S. Navy and served four years on ships patrolling the seas around Japan and the Philippines in the aftermath of the Korean War.
On Sept. 1, 1959, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo. He studied philosophy at Saint Louis University, earning a Master’s degree in 1965. Following a year teaching at Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo. (1965-66), he began studying theology, first at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas, then at Saint Louis University when the Jesuit theologate moved. He earned a licentiate in sacred theology along with a Master’s degree in Dogmatic/Systematic Theology, then did additional studies in philosophy at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada.
He was ordained a Jesuit priest on May 31, 1969 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Mo. He pronounced his final vows on Feb. 2, 1979 at Rockhurst College in Kansas City.
Fr. LaCroix began his primary ministry, teaching philosophy at Rockhurst University, in 1971. At Rockhurst, he was a dedicated and energetic teacher, known for his sense of humor and for the interest he took in his students. With a tenure of almost 40 years, he was a fixture of the Rockhurst Philosophy Department, rising from instructor to full professor and seeing Rockhurst transform from a college to a university. He was chair of the Philosophy Department for more than 20 years. In addition to teaching, he was very active in leading faculty and staff in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
His excellence in teaching was recognized when he was named Teacher of the Year at Rockhurst in 1998; he also received the Governor’s award for teaching excellence in 2002. He published several books and many articles in his field of ethics. He had a special interest in the questions of war and peace and of political and social justice, and always saw his work in philosophy as an extension of his work on justice. He sometimes would tell people that he taught ethics and justice rather than philosophy.
When he retired from full-time teaching, his department remembered him as a man of deep faith who loved teaching and loved philosophy, a man who was warm, humorous, and supportive. He worked generously making few demands and offering much. His view of life was summed up in the last sentence of a note he wrote to a friend, “I am certain that nothing truly good is ever lost.”
Since February, 2011, his mission has been praying for the Church and Society at the Fusz Pavilion in St. Louis.