Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. John T. Dillon, SJ, who died on May 12, 2020, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 90 years old. May he rest in peace.
John was born on April 20, 1930, in Ludlow, Kentucky. Before entering the Society of Jesus, he graduated from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati (1947) and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy (with minors in English and Greek) from Xavier University (1951). John entered the Society on September 15, 1952 in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained on June 9, 1963 at West Baden College in southern Indiana, and took final vows on August 15, 1967 at Loyola University Chicago.
While in the Society, John earned a master's Degree (1959) in philosophy and a MEd in guidance and counseling (1966) from Loyola University Chicago. During regency, he taught English at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1957-1960). After ordination, John spent over three decades ministering at Loyola University Chicago (LUC). He was a student counselor (1964-1972), chaplain at counselor at the Rome Center (1972-1973), consultant to the president (1975-1976), university chaplain (1977-1983), assistant to the president (1983-1987), and spiritual director and retreat master (1987-1999). He was also the superior of the LUC Jesuit community (1996-1999).
Just before the new millennium, John—almost 70 years old—was asked to move from doing wonderful work "behind the scenes" to the very public role of director of Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois (1999-2006). Although he had never desired to be "in charge," he took on the role because of obedience. This availability turned out to be a boon to the retreat house when—realizing that the building was not well-suited for youth retreats—John was to able to encourage Mr. and Mrs. James Beck to donate $5 million to build an addition onto the retreat house.
John then spent three years as a spiritual director at University of St. Mary of the Lake and Mundelein Seminary (2007-2010) before being missioned to Colombiere Center.
John was a devoted Jesuit who deeply loved Christ. Early in adulthood, John suffered an eye injury that left him blind in one eye and impaired in the other in such a way that he could not read for long periods. He trained himself to listen to his lectures in studies and throughout his life in meetings. This listening—and the synthesis of what was heard—helped John to be an excellent spiritual director and a trusted advisor to many. John's gifts helped countless directees leave spiritual direction with better self-knowledge and understanding of how very clearly God was active in their lives, and maybe more importantly, how active the individual was in God's life! John was also able to listen to people who were disagreeing with each other and use their own words to find a solution agreeable to all.
John loved Jesuit community and actively worked to bring people together. He would gather folks for pre-prandials and build a strong sense of community through conversation and joking with each other. He used this strategy in his days as spiritual director to the seminarians at St. Mary of the Lake to build a sense of community among the faculty there, oftentimes cutting through discord and disunity. John was an excellent card player and often played cards with other Jesuits. (Prior to entering the Society, John supplemented his income with winnings from playing cards.) Solitaire was a tool he used to clear his mind. If John could not find a solution to a problem he would pull out his well-worn deck of cards and start dealing himself hands of solitaire. He said that he would play until he could win easily and then return to his problem and it the solution would always present itself!
Years of chronic back pain helped John to be compassionate to others and empathize with their pain and challenges. As his back issues worsened and doctors did not know what more could be done for him, John took his pain and offered it to God as his own way of sharing the Cross with Jesus. He made his daily constant pain one long prayer to the Lord, giving thanks for allowing him to share in the mystery of Jesus' own suffering. Now, he suffers no more and has entered into the very mystery of Christ.
Note: Colombiere Center is not accepting guests at this time; only the Colombiere Jesuit Community will be able to attend John's wake and Mass of Christian Burial.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020