IN MEMORIAM: The Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw '70


The Rt. Rev. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Class of 1970, died on October 17 in the care of his SSJE brothers at Emery House in West Newbury, Massachusetts. He was 69 and had been diagnosed with brain cancer in May, 2013.  He was consecrated as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts on September 24, 1994, and served in that position until his retirement on September 13, 2014. Marvil Thomas Shaw III was born in Battle Creek, Michigan on August 28, 1945, the son of Marvil Thomas Shaw Jr. and Wilma Sylvia (Janes) Shaw. He grew up in the family’s parish, St. Mark’s Church in Coldwater, Michigan, and graduated from Alma College before earning his M.Div. from General and a M.A. in theology from the Catholic University of America. Ordained to the priesthood in 1971, he served as curate at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, England, from 1970 to 1971, and as assistant rector of St. James’s Church in Milwaukee, from 1972 to 1974.

Shaw entered the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE)–the oldest religious order for men in the Episcopal/Anglican Church–in 1975. He was elected as Superior to lead the order in 1982 and served in that role for 10 years.  During that time he was instrumental in developing the Emery House property as a retreat center, establishing the “Cowley” imprint for publishing books on prayer and spirituality, and renewing SSJE’s long-time commitment to children-at-risk in Boston through their Camp St. Augustine in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Br. Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE’s Superior, said, “Our brother Tom said during his last days he was so very, very thankful for the life God had given him: for the many wonderful people he had met, for the opportunities and challenges he had faced, and for the amazing grace he had experienced throughout his life.”

Following his consecration as bishop in 1994, he continued to live at SSJE’s monastery in Cambridge. Shaw was a man of deep prayer, a charismatic figure who connected easily with young and old alike, and a leader whose creativity and entrepreneurial spirit led him to invent what was needed and new.  He was known for his sometimes-mischievous sense of humor, his tenacious courage, and his passion to serve Jesus, both among the privileged and the poor.

“The whole of The Episcopal Church gives thanks for the life and witness of Bishop Thomas Shaw. He was a light in our generation, and his quiet and committed passion will not soon be extinguished.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a written statement. “And may his brothers in the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and his family, know that we share their grief–and their joy in Tom’s return to the One who loves beyond imagining. The hosts of heaven sound the refrain, ‘well done, good and faithful servant–rest in peace.'”

Shaw is survived by his Brothers in the monastery and three siblings: Penny Shaw of Louisville, Kentucky; Sam Shaw of Boulder, Colorado; and Stephen Shaw of Sherwood, Oregon; and his nieces, nephews, and godchildren.

A Eucharist of the Resurrection was celebrated on November 1 at Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston. The burial will be private.

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