Rev. Richard Ambrose McAlister, O.P., a member of the Order of Preachers (Dominican Friars) of the Province of St. Joseph and of the Dominican Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas at Providence College, passed away on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, at Mount St. Rita Health Centre in Cumberland, RI, after a period of declining health.
Born Richard Alan McAlister in Columbus, OH, on Jan. 3, 1934, he was the son of the late Guy G. McAlister, Jr., and the late Regina R. (Rubadue) McAlister. He attended public schools in Reynoldsburg, OH, and Aquinas College High School in neighboring Columbus, graduating in 1952. For the next two years, he attended Providence College in the Guzman Hall pre-ecclesiastical program.
He entered the novitiate of the Dominican Friars at St. Stephen Priory in Dover, MA, on Aug. 15, 1954, receiving the religious name Ambrose. He made his first profession of religious vows on Aug. 16, 1955. His philosophical studies over the next three years took place at St. Rose Priory in Springfield, KY, and at St. Stephen Priory in Dover, MA, at the end of which time he received a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Providence College. He made his solemn profession of religious vows on Aug. 16, 1958. His theological studies followed at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, and he received a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology, just before his priestly ordination on Jun. 9, 1961, at St. Dominic Church in Washington, at the hands of His Eminence Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, the city’s Archbishop. He then spent another year in Washington, studying art at The Catholic University of America.
He served (1962-1964) as chaplain and religion and art teacher at Dominican Academy in Oxford, MI, while studying art at Wayne State University in Detroit. He then served (1964-1966) in the same capacities at North Cambridge Catholic High School in North Cambridge, MA. He spent the following year at St. Dominic Rectory in Detroit while studying again at Wayne State University, from which he received a master’s degree in Fine Arts/Sculpture in 1967. He later received a master’s degree in Fine Arts/Environmental Design from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, CA, in 1976; his dissertation was entitled Environments for Worship.
He joined the Providence College faculty in 1967 as an art studio assistant. He served (1968-1973) as assistant and then associate chaplain of PC. He served (1970-1991) as the director of college’s summer study program in Pietrasanta, Italy. He then served (1993-1994) as a consultant for the PC Publications Center. For many years, he served as curator of the college’s art collection. In 1997, he was named a professor emeritus at the college. He was a member of the Guild for Religious Architecture and served as an independent design consultant for church interiors.
Father McAlister was deeply devoted to his brother Dominican, Father Thomas Matthew McGlynn, O.P., a sculptor of great note (1906-1977), whose most significant work was the sixteen-foot-high white Carrara marble statue of Our Lady of Fatima (1956-1958) that adorns the façade of the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. Father McAlister was the curator of the McGlynn Collection at PC and, in 1981, his biography of Father McGlynn was published—Thomas McGlynn, Priest and Sculptor.
In addition to his parents, Father McAlister was pre-deceased by his four siblings: Jeanne Stai, Donald McAlister, Guy McAlister, and Rita Boggs. His is survived by nieces and nephews and their children and also by his Dominican brothers.
He had an artistic temperament and was single-minded and strong-willed, though his impish grin and twinkling eyes easily endeared him to students, fellow faculty members, college staff, alumni, friends, and his Dominican brothers.
His body will be received into the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas at Providence College, at 4:00 pm. on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. Visitation will follow, concluding with the Office of the Dead at 7:00 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for him in the same chapel on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, at 10:00 am. Burial will follow in the Dominican Friars Cemetery on campus.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to Providence College, Office of Institutional Advancement, One Cunningham Square, Providence, RI 02918, for the Dominican Scholarship Fund.
Arrangements by Russell J. Boyle and Son Funeral Home, 331 Smith Street, Providence, RI 02908.
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Providence College, Office of Institutional Advancement for the Dominican Scholarship Fund.
1 Cunningham Square, Providence RI 02918