Dr. Karen C. Chan, outgoing Academic Dean of St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, died tragically in an automobile accident on the evening of May 31, 2019 in Texas. She was 37. Her unborn child also perished in the crash. She is survived by her loving husband Phil and her three other children: Liam, Addie, and James. The entire seminary community mourns the loss of this beloved member of our family.
Dr. Chan’s love of Christ was an inspiration. She attributed all her blessings to Our Lord and wrote recently in the Patrician, “Ultimately, I owe everything to God, but in particular I thank Him for this opportunity to have served the Church at St. Patrick’s while also receiving the blessings of a growing family with an additional child who is now almost two years old and with another child on the way.” She saw the world through the eyes of faith. Her lasting legacy to the Seminary will be the many students she taught to see with those same ‘Catholic eyes’. She described the last seven years of her life at St. Patrick’s as “a great gift from God” and she wrote, “I was able to serve the Church by opening the eyes of our seminarians to the world of wonder and philosophy before they would embark on their theological studies.”
Beyond her powerful intellectual vision for seminary formation was the warmth, grace, wit, and charm that colored all her interactions. Her mischievous laugh was infectious, and she always had a kind word and listening ear for those she encountered. She loved life and all the adventures it afforded, relishing good scotch, great books, excellent cooking, and joyful conversation.
Dr. Chan served seven years at St. Patrick’s Seminary, first as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and then as its Academic Dean from 2016 until the end of the 2019 school year. During her tenure, she led us to numerous successes, including reaffirmed accreditation with WASC Senior College and University Commission (our regional accreditor) and the Association of Theological Schools, a revitalized Master of Divinity (MDiv) curriculum, and the recruitment of a world-class teaching and formation faculty. As the Most. Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco and the Chancellor of the Seminary, expressed, “While we cannot understand the mystery of God’s plan in moments such as these, we can be grateful to God for allowing Dr. Chan to contribute her exceptional talents to St. Patrick’s Seminary as a gifted administrator, brilliant philosopher, and most of all devout Catholic with an earnest desire to serve the Church. Her legacy will endure in the many current and future classes of priests educated at St. Patrick’s Seminary for many years to come.”
Born and raised in nearby Cupertino, Dr. Chan was nourished by the local Church: she received the sacraments of initiation in the Diocese of San Jose, married in the Diocese of Monterey, and her children were baptized in the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Dr. Chan attended the University of San Francisco, where she enrolled in the Ignatius Institute and double-majored in English Literature and Philosophy. She completed her doctoral studies in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, writing her dissertation on: “The Conclusion to the Practical Syllogism: A Comparison of the Aristotelian-Thomistic and Contemporary Analytic Traditions.” Dr. Chan was a talented philosopher, dedicated to the pursuit of truth through the intellectual side of her Catholic faith. She believed strongly that students needed to know not just what to believe, but also had to understand how and why they believed what the Church taught. She taught her students the unity of faith and reason and tried to instill in them a life-long love for learning about the faith.
Although philosophy was a part of her vocation, the real heart of her vocation was as a wife and mother. Her husband and children were regular visitors to the Seminary, and they were all a part of the extended St. Patrick’s family. Her recent to decision to step down as Academic Dean was motivated by her desire to spend more time with her husband and children. She passionately defended motherhood in her professional presentations and writings, such as “Having a Child: Intentional, or Game of Chance?” and “Mothers, Children, and Their Common Good.”
Funeral services are planned for Monday, June 10, 2019 starting at 8AM in the Main Chapel at St. Patrick's Seminary & University. Viewing will be available from 8AM to 9:15AM, followed by community prayer of the Rosary. A Mass of Christian Burial will start at 10AM and interment will follow at 1PM at Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, 22555 Cristo Rey Dr. Los Altos. A light reception will follow the burial at St. Patrick's Seminary’s Riordan Hall at approximately 2:30PM.
Our entire seminary community continues to pray for the repose of the souls of Dr. Chan and her unborn child and for the consolation of the entire family. May they rest in peace.