The Rev. Dr. Thomas F. Livernois died on November 18, 2019, at the T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center in Dallas, TX after a seven-year struggle with cancer. He was 77. Raised in a French-Canadian Roman Catholic family in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, his family moved to Florida in 1957. In 1961, he entered the Roman Catholic seminary system in Florida, and in1965, the Diocese of Miami decided to send him to the American College and University of Louvain (Belgium) to further his theological formation.
It was during these formative years, toward the end of the Second Vatican Council and under the dynamic influence of the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands that he developed a passion for ecumenism, foreign languages and cultures, and a deep love for Europe, forces which were to shape and define not only his theological perspectives but entire future career in the service of the Church. It was in Louvain that he formed strong friendships with Lutheran and other Protestant leaders that seeded his interest for interfaith dialogue. One of the highlights of this period was a trip to Switzerland to meet with Dr. Karl Barth, a prominent Swiss Reform theologian, in his home in Basel.
With a European Masters degree in theology in hand, he returned to the U.S. in 1967 to pursue a Masters degree at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago where he also obtained a PhD in Systematic Theology in 1974. At LSTC and in particular under the mentorship of Dr. Philip Hefner, he became interested in academic research and teaching. He joined the Faculty of the Department for Religion and Philosophy at Susquehanna University Central PA in the Fall of 1968 and was ordained by the Lutheran Church in America in 1974. While at SU, he also served the Parishes of St. Paul (Leiningers) and Zion (Arbogast) Lutheran Churches in Mt. Pleasant Mills, PA.
Motivated by his love for Europe, the French language and ecumenical relationships, he moved his family to Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 1979 to serve the Swiss Reform Church, first as Chaplain at the University of Neuchâtel and later as Senior Pastor of the Paroisse de la Maladière, also in that city. During the ten years of ministry in this parish he led several major projects including the complete renovation of the church and the acquisition of a new four keyboard pipe organ.
After the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Dr. Livernois was called to the position of Assistant Director in the Office for Ecumenical Affairs in Chicago, where he played a major role in planning the visits of international and ecumenical partners and in organizing the Eighth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation held in Curitiba, Brazil in 1990. In 1991, he returned to Switzerland as Senior Pastor of a three-point parish nestled in the Jura Mountains. In 1994, the church in the Village of Dombresson burned down so once again, he led the reconstruction of this church and the acquisition of not only a new pipe organ, but stained glass windows which were designed by Aloys Perregaux, a member of the parish. Didier Cuche of the Swiss National Ski Team and winner of the gold medal in the Olympics held in Nagano, Japan, was also a member of his parish.
Dr. Livernois edited numerous reviews of scholarly articles and books in both English and French and himself authored several articles for publication in theological journals. In 2002, during a six-month sabbatical leave, he authored a 400-page document in French on the Historical Jesus for the Swiss Reform Church in Neuchâtel.
He was an avid reader, downhill skier, camper, sports enthusiast especially for the Detroit Tigers, ham radio operator, lover of jazz and classical music and in particular baroque music, proficient Do-It-Yourselfer, kayaker, hiker and bridge player. He loved people, life and the many adventures it offered. In retirement, he and his wife moved to Texas but maintained contact with friends in Switzerland, traveled to Europe frequently and enjoyed spending the summer months at their lake house in Sutton, Massachusetts.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 52 years, Gertrude (Gamache) formerly of Southbridge; two daughters, Laura Friberg (Magnus) of Vienna, VA and Renee Kromray (Steve) of O’Fallon IL; three granddaughters, Sydnie Scheller, Stephana Kromray and Kelsey Friberg; three grandsons, Owen and Lucas Scheller and Ryan Friberg; and two siblings, Margaret McBride of Howell, MI and Donald Livernois (Karen) of Deerfield Beach, FL. A private burial will be held at the New Notre-Dame Cemetery in Southbridge.
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