Missionary valued education and gifted it to others

Father John Rodney, 1931-2019


Father John Rodney SVD, an educator and missionary priest, died at Techny on Oct. 11 at age 88.

“John was a product of St. Elizabeth School, one of the most historically significant Catholic schools in Chicago,” said Father Michael Hutchins, rector of Divine Word Residence at Techny and president emeritus of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa. “He made his alma mater proud. Not only did he serve as a missionary for 67 years, he earned a doctorate in comparative literature and taught generations of future missionaries. Many Divine Word Missionaries speak multiple languages, but John went a step further and taught multiple languages.”

Born in Chicago in 1931, the young John was the fourth of Blanch (nee Young) and Onazie Joseph Rodney’s five children. He grew up in St. Elizabeth, Chicago’s oldest African-American parish. As a teenager in 1946, he enrolled in Divine Word Seminary at East Troy, Wis., and professed religious vows in 1952.

After completing his seminary studies in 1960, he was ordained to the priesthood. Appreciating the value of education, Father Rodney continued his studies while serving in pastoral ministries. He earned a master’s degree in classical languages from Loyola University in Chicago; a master’s degree in German literature from Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, Ohio; and a doctoral degree in comparative literature from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

During the 1960s, he provided pastoral care for parishes in predominantly African-American communities—St. Anselm in Chicago, Our Lady of the Gardens in Chicago and St. Nicholas in St. Louis. In 1967, he was assigned to Divine Word seminary in East Troy. He later taught college-level German, Spanish, Latin and Greek at Divine Word seminaries in Perrysburg, Ohio, and Epworth. He also served as a hospital and nursing home chaplain in Washington, D.C.

Father Rodney was preceded in death by his parents and three brothers, Lawrence, Edward and Joseph Rodney. He is survived by his sister Marie Davis.

Father Rodney’s viewing will be held at the Divine Word Residence Chapel at Techny on Oct. 22 at 9:20 a.m., followed by his funeral Mass at 10:30. He will be buried at St. Mary Cemetery at Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of elderly and infirmed missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Rd., P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.


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