Through multiple media, missionary priest spread the Gospel worldwide

Father John Shevlin, 1935-2014


Father John Shevlin, SVD, 78—writer, composer and missionary priest—died in Glenview, Ill., on Monday, March 31, 2014, after a battle with cancer.

"John used his many talents to spread the Gospel in creative ways," said Rev. Joseph Miller, SVD, former provincial superior of the Society of the Divine Word U.S. Western Province. "Time and time again, his work promoted interfaith dialogue and reflected his commitment to raising global consciousness."

As an educator, poet, musical composer, cartoonist, parish minister and retreat director, Father Shevlin’s work took him to many corners of the globe. After ordination to the priesthood in 1960, he journeyed to India for his first assignment.

"I am proud to say that the Sambalpur Mission gratefully acknowledges the invaluable service, total dedication and undivided love of Father John for the tribals—the indigenous people of Gangpur Mission," said Most Rev. John Barwa, SVD, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in eastern India. "It is due to the untiring efforts of great missionaries like Father John that Sambalpur Mission grew in leaps and bounds and has become a great missionary sending region."

During his seven years as a missionary in India, Father Shevlin worked as a high school principal, minor seminary director and pastor. His parish in Kantapali in the Indian state of Orissa included 42 villages and encompassed an area about the size of Holland. He also directed the minor seminary in the Diocese of Sambalpur and served as headmaster at Hamirpur High School, a school with 450 students in Rourkela, India.

In 1969, he moved to the Watts District of Los Angeles to teach reading and religion to students at Verbum Dei High School. Eight years later, he joined the staff at the SVD seminary in Riverside, Calif.

He also worked in parish ministry in Hawaii and Southern California. A prolific author, he wrote several books and booklets. In 1980, the Daughters of St. Paul published "Formulas of the Kingdom," which outlined a novel approach to seeking holiness. In 1992, the Los Angeles Rams football team partially funded "A World United," a book of poetry that drew inspiration from Father Shevlin’s travels through Ghana, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan.

In 2010, Oregon Catholic Press included his Christmas hymn, "Joseph’s Song," in the children’s songbook "Rise Up and Sing." He also published "Planetearth Road Peace Song," which is featured on a CD by the Our Lady of Loretto Elementary School Choir in Los Angeles.

Born in Manchester, England, John Shevlin was the second son of Myles and Catherine (nee Moore) Shevlin. His older brother died at an early age. The young John Shevlin’s education with the Society of the Divine Word began in 1946 and took him to Ireland and the United States.

Father Shevlin earned a master’s degree in Education from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in Ministry (D.Min.) from San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, Calif. In his dissertation, "Threading through the Pentateuch Prayerfully Using Lectio Divina," he crafted pronouns for God that incorporated a variety of religious traditions.

In addition to his academic and parish assignments, he was religion editor of Black Yank magazine, which featured his cartoon character Star-tip; chaplain of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Orange County, Calif.; and chaplain on the hospital ship SS Hope while it anchored off the coast of Jamaica, ministering to more than 100 patients, their families and volunteers.

Father Shevlin had been living at Techny in semi-retirement since 2012. His wake was held on Sunday, April 6, in the Divine Word Residence chapel at Techny. The Mass of the Resurrection followed on April 7. Father Joseph Miller, SVD, presided. Since Father Shevlin wished to be cremated, his burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny will be scheduled at a later date.

The Techny Residence is located at 1901 Waukegan Rd., Techny (Northbrook), Ill. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in the name of Father Shevlin can be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL  60082-6000.

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