Internationally respected Church historian dies in Australia

Father Lawrence Nemer, 1932-2021


Professor and Divine Word Missionary Father Lawrence Nemer, 88, an early instructor at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago, died on June 9 in Australia.

A missionary in Australia for 25 years, Father Nemer was lector emeritus at Yarra Theological Union in Box Hill (Melbourne), Australia.

“He made history interesting through his gift of storytelling,” said Father vanThanh Nguyen SVD, author of “What Does the Bible Say About Strangers, Migrants and Refugees” (New City Press: 2021) and the Francis X. Ford MM Chair of Catholic Missiology at CTU. “Father Nemer earned the respect of Church historians and missiologists worldwide. He taught three generations of scholars.”

Father Nemer began his teaching career as a seminarian, teaching English literature at the Brother Candidates’ High School at Techny, Ill., in 1958. After earning a licentiate in Missiology at the Gregorian University in Rome in 1962, he returned to Techny and taught missiology, Church history and liturgy at Divine Word Seminary.

In 1970, when the number of seminarians declined, Father Nemer became a leader in transitioning students from St. Mary’s Seminary at Techny to CTU. For the next two decades, he taught Church History at CTU and was named a full professor in 1985.

In 1991, he became a lecturer in Church History and Mission Studies at Yarra Theological Union. Apart from six years as president of the Missionary Institute London in London, he devoted the rest of his career to Yarra Theological Union.

Born in 1932 in Chicago, he was one of Boleslaus and Mary (nee Nowak) Niemierowicz’s seven children. He later changed his surname to Nemer.

As a teenager, he entered the Society of the Divine Word high school seminary at East Troy, Wis. In 1952, he professed religious vows. Eight years later, he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Albert Meyer.

Father Nemer’s bibliography includes “Anglican and Roman Catholic Attitudes on the Missions: An Historical Study of Two English Missionary Societies in the Late Nineteenth Century (1865-1885)” (Steyler Verlag, St. Augustin, Germany: 1981) and “The Great Age of Mission: Some Historical Studies in Mission History” (Steyler Verlag, St. Augustin, Germany: 2013).

In addition to the licentiate in Missiology, Father Nemer held a master’s degree in Modern Church History from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in Church History from Cambridge University in England.

During the summers, he taught courses in Vietnam, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the United States. He was the founding president of the Australian Association for Mission Studies and served on the Editorial Committee for the Catholic Mission Office in London and as chair of the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal for Mission Studies.

Father Nemer was predeceased by his parents and five siblings: Virginia Carrion, Dolores Parks, and Leonard, Elmer and Leona Nemer. He is survived by one sister, Grace Dossing, as well as many nieces and nephews. His funeral Mass will be held at the Arnold Janssen Chapel in Sydney, Australia, at 10 a.m. (UTC+10) on June 18 (7 p.m. CDT on June 17). The funeral Mass will be live streamed at:


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