Shen: Longtime economics professor known as ‘humble, gentle’ man

The Rev. Raphael Shen, a beloved Jesuit priest who for nearly half a century molded the careers of countless students as an economics professor, died on October 27 at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Mich. He was 84, just two days shy of his 85th birthday.

Shen spent 45 years at Detroit Mercy teaching in the economics department, most recently serving as department chair. Students recalled him as a memorable teacher who made the subject understandable.

“I was an Architecture major, and Economics was completely foreign to me, but Father Shen was one of my favorite teachers at UDM,” Allison Chiodini, a former student who graduated in 2002, wrote on Facebook.

During his time at Detroit Mercy, he wrote seven books and many scholarly articles on various economic topics, including the economies of Eastern Europe and China.

Being a Jesuit priest, his faith was a central aspect of his teaching. He lived his faith and served those around him by bringing Christ to them.

Shen made weekly visits to Selfridge Air Force Base, about 30 miles northeast of campus, to spend time with the Catholic community there. He also served as chaplain at a local prison.

“We so enjoyed having Father Shen as our chaplain out at Selfridge,” said Rachel Church, an employee there. “He was a humble and gentle man and a good friend to all of us.”

Shen was born in Shanghai, China, on October 29, 1937. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1958 in Hong Kong. He studied theology at Regis College in Toronto, Canada, was ordained a priest in 1970 and attended Michigan State University seeking a doctorate in economics.

Shen was preceded in death by his parents Cecilia and Joseph and his eldest brother Michael. He is survived by his two sisters, Theresa S. Connolly and Sister Emmanu-
el Shen; three brothers, Francis, Edward and John; five nephews and four nieces.

His funeral mass was held Nov. 4 at Gesu Church, across McNichols Rd. from Detroit Mercy. A mass was also offered up for him at the St. Ignatius Chapel that same morning.

Shen was known to those who met him as a kind, intelligent, humorous, considerate, and faithful man.

“His wit, wisdom, humility, sense of humor and zest for life were hallmarks of his faith-filled, giving life,” said Nathaniel Ustick, a former student. “He will be missed but never forgotten by the countless many whose lives he touched in his journey.”