1928 – 2008 (April 8)
Ralph Charles Shurer was born on May 20, 1928, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, one of two sons and three daughters of Hiram Shurer and Agnes Lorsong. Ralph was baptized on May 27, 1928, at Saint Boniface Church, Williamsport, and attended Saint Boniface Parish School, from 1934 to 1942, and Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, from 1942 until 1946. He was received into the Order as a novice on September 9, 1946, and after a year at Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, N.Y., he professed first vows on September 10, 1947. He then attended Villanova College, and received his BA in Philosophy in 1951. He pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, DC, from 1951 to 1955, and studied biology at the Catholic University of America, where he received his MS in 1957. He professed solemn vows on September 10, 1950, and he was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1954, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., by Bishop John McNamara.
Fr. Ralph was assigned in 1955 to Saint John Sahagun Friary where he taught at Archbishop Carroll High School, until 1959, while he continued graduate studies in Biology, Organic Chemistry, Bacteriology and Physiology, at the Catholic University of America, Villanova University and Bryn Mawr College. In 1959, he was assigned to Saint Thomas Monastery and Villanova University, where he spent the rest of his religious and academic life. At the university he taught Biology to the Augustinian professed students, and to a multitude of collegians, especially those in the Nursing School. His students knew him to be a dedicated teacher, knowledgeable, and dedicated to giving witness to a love and respect for all of God's creation. He retired from teaching at the university in 2003, after more than forty years in the classroom and biology lab. In his nearly fifty years as a member of the Monastery community, the friars knew him to be a gentle and caring brother.
Father Ralph was weekend assistant at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Strafford, Pa., for forty-seven years, leaving this parish ministry only because of failing health. In a tribute to him, the parishioners wrote. "Father Ralph is truly a man for all seasons. He is first of all a man of God. His love for our Lord, for the Church, and for his fellow man shines through every homily he gives. And, in each homily as a man of science, he always manages to remind us that the wonders of nature and of science have all been created by God for us. Each time he casually includes a short explanation of natural phenomena or some scientific data…. He is a compassionate man. He has listened to, counseled, and comforted not only his students, but also members of this parish, and people in other areas where he has offered his help and advice. He has practical talents as well, and has helped needy friends make repairs on their houses…. The Italian background of the parish sparked his interest in things Italian, and he actively participated in the work of the American Institute for Italian Culture, both as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Representative of Villanova University. This 'touch of Italy' brought him to a greater appreciation and love of music, especially opera, even though his singing ability is not one of his stronger assets! Father Ralph was born in Williamsport, Pa., into a devout and loving family, originally from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, who gave one son and two daughters to the religious life. His love and devotion to his mother and to his immediate family are a very deep part of his life."
Fr. Ralph passed over to the Lord on Tuesday morning, April 8, 2008, at the age of 79, after a period of illness and failing health. The funeral Mass was held on April 10, 2008 at Saint Thomas Church, Villanova, Pa., at 7p.m. Fr. Shurer is buried at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohoken, Pa.