Bernard Cooke, R.I.P.

The sacramental theologian Dr. Bernard Cooke died on May 31. It was his ninety-first birthday.

Dr. Cooke held an S.T.D. degree from the Institut Catholique de Paris. Well known as a scholar and teacher, his book Sacraments and Sacramentality was widely read. Among the many honors he received in his lifetime, he was awarded an honorary degree at Marquette University in 2003, where in 1963 he founded the PhD program in theology.

The statement honoring him on that occasion said, in part:

Marquette was the first institution in the nation to offer doctoral level training to Catholic laypeople in preparation for careers of theological scholarship and teaching. Dr. Cooke’s enduring legacy are the three hundred graduates of Marquette’s doctoral program who have taught in college and university classrooms throughout North America, produced significant theological scholarship, and served as leaders in the academy and in the church.

A Sacramental Life: A Festschrift Honoring Bernard Cooke was published by Marquette University Press that same year. 

Details concerning the wake and memorial Mass, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, can be found here. 


  1. His writings on what it means for the church to be sacramental were among the most influential in my formation. Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of The Lord.

  2. I only met Bernard Cooke one time, but I found him delightful, engaging, and unpretentious.

    Thank you, Jack, for saying what you did in comment #1. If his writings formed you, they did well, and it’s another reason to be grateful for what he gave to the Church.

  3. His magisterial _Ministry to Word and Sacraments_ remains a magnificent source of insight into the various forms in which Christian ministry has manifested itself in various eras and cultures. May God’s richest blessings be poured out on this servant of the gospel and of the Church; may those who mourn him be comforted by the God he served so faithfully.

  4. My introduction to sacramental theology in the minor seminary (1966) was Cooke’s, Christian Sacraments and Christian Personality, or as we called it, “The Cooke Book.” He was a powerful influence on many of us over many years. Welcome him into the light of your face, Lord!

  5. Yes, Michael has it so right when noting how magisterial a work Cooke’s “Ministry to Word and Sacrament” was and continues to be. I would add that I regularly use his beautiful pneumatology, “Power and the Spirit of God” (Oxford University Press, 2004) at the end of my course, “Suffering, Politics, and LIberation.”

    Holy Cross, where he was an endowed professor until retiring in 1992, has posted this news item:

    I’ll miss Bernard terribly. He mentored me as an undergrad at Holy Cross and thereafter, advising me to get a cultural anthropology degree on the way to my doctorate in systematic theology, saying this would but me on the cutting edge of sacramental-liturgical theology. My Jesuit superior allowed me to follow that invaluable advice by doing an MA in Columbia University’s anthropology department.
    Bernard kept reading my work and encouraging me until the last year or so, as he began to fail.

    Eternal rest grant unto you faithful servant, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

  6. As one of Bernard Cooke’s first students in theology at Marquette, following his return from France, I was marked in an unforgettable way by his insights and originality. His counsel for my own work in theology proved to be a wonderful gift. May he be blessed in God’s eternity. Condoleances to Pauline and Kelly.

  7. After I had finished my basic theological studies at Woodstock College, I went to Bernard for advice on where to go for graduate school. He said that there were enough Jesuits at Harvard and Chicago and I should try this new place in Berkeley, California, the GTU. How it changed my life!!

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