Longtime missionary in the Philippines made his home where his heart was

Father John McSherry, 1933-2014


Rev. John P. McSherry, SVD, 80, a missionary in the Philippines for more than four decades, died January 18, 2014, at St. Francis Hospital, Trenton, N.J., in Compassionate Care (Hospice).

"The heart of a missionary was at the core of John’s being," said Brother Patrick Hogan, SVD, rector of the Divine Word Residence in Bordentown, N.J. "He moved to Bordentown four years ago so that he could remain active during retirement. John regularly celebrated Mass for the Poor Clare Sisters in Chesterfield, N.J., who live nearby, and he was a vibrant member of our community."

After 46 years in the Philippines, Father McSherry returned to the United States in 2009 and spent a few months at the provincial headquarters at Techny, Ill., discerning his next step before moving to Bordentown.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1933, John Patrick McSherry was the second of Florence (nee Moore) and Patrick McSherry’s three children. His elder brother Kevin died at age two, shortly before John Patrick’s birth. Their mother, born in New Brunswick, Canada, was the daughter of a Canadian soldier; their father emigrated from Northern Ireland. The young McSherry considered himself an "immigrant kid."

In an interview, he once spoke about being named after his grandfather and godfather. "I appreciate that because I already have my name on the gravestone," he said. "It’s a root. It’s a support. You grab onto something because growing up as an immigrant kid you kind of lose your roots. You spend a lot of time looking for your roots."

If he was looking for roots as a young priest, he found them in Occidental Mindoro in the Philippines. "It’s a rugged place," said Father McSherry, who cherished swimming daily and riding his motorcycle in the open air. "These people do not welcome entrance into the modern world. They want to keep their customs and not be spoiled by modernization. They are a beautiful people."

The young McSherry professed religious vows in 1953 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1961. For his first assignment, he worked in the Mission Office at Techny, Ill., raising funds for missionaries in other parts of the world. He then was assigned to the Philippines in 1963. He served as a parish priest and college administrator in the cities of Calapan, San Jose, Tagaytay, Los Baños and Legazpi from 1963 to 1991. From 1991 until his return to the United States, he was a teacher, administrator and campus minister at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines.

Father McSherry held degrees in philosophy and theology, as well as a master’s degree in education from the Catholic University of America and a master’s degree in literature from the University of San Carlos-Cebu City, Philippines.

In addition to his brother Kevin, his younger sister Mary preceded him in death. He is survived by his fellow Divine Word Missionaries.

The visitation for Father McSherry was held Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. with a vigil service at 7:30 p.m. at Divine Word Residence in Bordentown, N.J. The Mass of the Resurrection took place at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Divine Word Chapel. He was buried at St. Mary Cemetery in Bordentown.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to Divine Word Missionaries, 101 Park St., P.O. Box 357, Bordentown, NJ 08505.

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