He Did Not Fear Death

Born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1943, John Schlegel entered the Jesuits in 1963, studied at Heythrop College in London and Melbourne, Australia, taught political science at Creighton University and returned to Oxford to work on his Ph.D. His leadership talents were sharpened as dean of Rockhurst College in Kansas City and Marquette University, vice president of John Carroll University and president of the University of San Francisco, followed by a return to Creighton as president from 2000 to 2011.

A gentleman, he never dominated a conversation and listened respectfully when he did not agree. After his time at Creighton he served as America’s publisher and president and celebrated Mass in New York parishes. In 2013 he returned to Marquette to do pastoral work at the university, a long-held dream of his.

Advertisement

Not long after that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A panel of experts told him that medical treatment could not guarantee a significantly longer life, so he embraced the role God had given him, bidding farewell to friends in London and then in Rome, where he participated in an audience with Pope Francis. He died on Nov. 15.

Father Schlegel was teaching his public how to die well, as he embraced good friends with a final hug and wrote them letters like his February 2015 epistle: “I have taught you (and you me), married you, baptized your children, buried your loved ones, and picked your pockets; at the same time we skied, hiked, golfed, played racquetball, cooked, listened to opera and drank wine. God is indeed a gracious and generous God. Because of you I do not fear death.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Margaret McIntyre
1 year 11 months ago
Thank you father for giving me a special gift Easter Sunday 2015. As my son attends Marquette University, attending mass at the church of the Gesu has always been the highlight of a visit to Marquette's campus. Father explained his condition and gave the most inspiring sermon about resurrection and to not fear death. Since I too have stage four cancer, I was meant to be in Father's mass on that day. Since, I frequently checked up on father via the Gesu web site, Monday, the 16th, I woke up with the urge to check the Gesu web site. I learned Father had passed on Sunday. I believe Father's gift to me was to promise to be waiting for me and to not be afraid of death.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Images: CNS/Composite: America
On Nov. 11, the Catholic Church lost a moral titan in the long struggle for racial equality and justice in the United States.
Shannen Dee WilliamsNovember 22, 2017
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar military commander-in-chief, speaks during the Union Peace Conference Aug. 31 in Naypyitaw (CNS photo/Hein Htet, EPA).
Gen. Min Aung Hlaing wields great political power in the country.
Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts in “Wonder” (CNS photo/Lionsgate). 
‘Wonder’ is a tween melodrama on a mission of mercy.
Simcha FisherNovember 22, 2017
The change was in “no way” a response to the C.C.H.D.’s persistent online critics, an archdiocesan official says.
Kevin ClarkeNovember 22, 2017