Divine Word Missionary devoted priesthood to people in need

Father Norman St. John, 1933-2009

St._John,_Fr_Norman_for_webDivine Word Missionary Father Norman St. John, 76, died on Sunday, May 10, 2009, in Bordentown, N.J. Father St. John, who served in parishes in Illinois and New Jersey, sought creative ways to help his urban parishioners.

The Chicago Tribune once published an article about a market day—sponsored by St. Elizabeth Parish on Chicago’s South Side, the Self Help Action Center and small farmers from Kankakee, Ill. Father St. John was quoted as saying, "They [parishioners and neighbors] can shop conveniently, closer to home, and they know they’re getting fresh food. They’re tired of buying stale stuff in some of the stores."

He predicted that shoppers could save 30 to 40 percent on their grocery bills. The year was 1972, and a dozen farm-fresh eggs cost 45 cents.

Born in 1933 in Utica, NY, he was the sixth of Windsor and Odila (Suprenant) St. John’s seven children. After graduating from St. Francis de Sales High School in Utica, he entered the Divine Word novitiate in 1952, professed religious vows in 1954, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1962 at Techny, Ill.

That same year, Father St. John earned a licentiate in canon law from the Gregorian University in Rome. That degree led to his first assignment at Divine Word College at Techny, where he taught canon law and moral theology until 1968. At the year’s end, Father St. John was assigned to St. Anselm on Chicago’s South Side. In 1971, he moved to Chicago’s St. Sabina and later St. Elizabeth, the city’s oldest African-American parish.

In 1973, he was elected to the Association of Chicago Priests and headed the committee to develop guidelines for supply priests, traveling clergy who can fill in for pastors.

In 1975, Father St. John was transferred to New Jersey, where he was assigned to Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd in Trenton. Three times—in 1985, 1993 and 1996—he was elected rector of the Society of the Divine Word’s Bordentown Community. He also devoted much time to prison chaplaincy.

Father St. John’s visitation will be held at the Divine Word Chapel, 101 Park St., Bordentown, NJ, on Wednesday at 4 p.m. His wake will follow at 8 p.m. His funeral will take place on Thursday at 11 a.m. in St. Mary Church, 45 Crosswicks St., Bordentown. Burial will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Father St. John is survived by three brothers: Walter, Eugene and Howard. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, P.O. Box 357, Bordentown, NJ 08505.

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