Duty and compassion mark the ministry of Techny Towers general contractor

Father John “Jack” Farley SVD, an accomplished administrator and compassionate pastor, died on Thursday, Nov. 17, at age 90.
When asked for his preferred assignment before ordination, Father Farley chose Taiwan, the Philippines, Africa and Japan. Instead, he honored his vow of obedience when he was assigned to the United States.
Recognizing his leadership ability, Father Farley’s superiors appointed him as assistant mission director for the Mission Office at Techny, working closely with Mission Director Father Francis Kamp SVD and raising funds for his confreres overseas.
Father Farley served as editor of Missionary Youth magazine and director of the Latin America Office of the Divine Word Mission Office for 11 years. He then requested a pastoral assignment and was granted a hospital chaplaincy in Pittsburgh. However, before he arrived in Pittsburgh, duty called again; he was sent to the Divine Word Perrysburg Community in Ohio to take over as rector when a confrere unexpectedly resigned.
Like many seminaries in the 1960s, Divine Word Seminary at Perrysburg experienced a decline in enrollment. However, during Father Farley’s tenure, enrollment remained steady. Not only did he and his staff maintain a healthy community, they also helped to fund missionary and formation projects through an annual eight-week summer camp for about 300 local children.
After Father Farley lent stability to Perrysburg for five years, his superiors called upon him to undertake another challenging administrative role. He was appointed director of programs at Techny and charged with a major four-year construction project.
Times had changed and so did the needs of the Society of the Divine Word. St. Mary’s Seminary at Techny had been school and home for thousands of Divine Word Missionaries and students for half a century. During the 1940s and ’50s, the building housed as many as 450 missionaries in a single year.
But with the falling number of American vocations in the 1960s and ’70s, the Society of the Divine Word decided to join other congregations and send seminarians to Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. With the building no longer needed to house and school hundreds of students per year, Divine Word Missionaries decided to convert it into a multi-purpose building.
Father Farley served as general contractor for the renovation of St. Mary’s Seminary, turning it into Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center. He also was tasked with creating Divine Word International, a museum that featured missionary work around the world and believed to be the only museum of its kind.
In 1980, upon completion of the renovation, Father Farley’s superiors asked him what type of assignment he would like. After 20 years of dutifully accepting administrative positions, Father Farley quickly answered, “pastoral ministry.”
He was assigned to Miramar Retreat Center in Duxbury, Mass., as a retreat director, an assignment that he enjoyed for seven years. Later, he served as rector of Divine Word Seminary in Washington, D.C., from 1987 to 1993. And in 1993, he had an opportunity that had long eluded him—a chance to minister to people outside of the United States.
As a staff member of RENEW International, a Bible-based parish renewal program, Father Farley traveled the world, including time in Nigeria, Ghana, India and the Philippines.
In the latter years of his priestly ministry, Father Farley returned to Techny as chaplain of Divine Word International and to Miramar Retreat Center to serve as a retreat director. He also spent two years at St. Benedict Monastery in Snowmass, Colo.
Born in Worcester, Mass., in 1932, Jack Farley was the youngest of John and Emma (nee Vachon) Farley’s five children. He entered the Society of the Divine Word at Miramar, Mass., in 1946.
In 1952, he professed religious vows. He was ordained to the priesthood with 32 classmates at Techny in 1960. They comprised St. Mary Seminary’s largest ordination class in history.
Father Farley moved to Techny in retirement in 2015.
He was preceded in death by his parents and three siblings: Francis, Edward and Lillian Farley. He is survived by his twin sister, Sister Joan Farley SND.
Father Farley’s wake and funeral Mass will be Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the Divine Word Residence chapel. The wake begins at 9 a.m., followed by the 10:30 a.m. funeral. He will be buried at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Farley can be made for the care of retired and infirmed missionaries and may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.
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