By Mary O’KEEFE
The Holy Redeemer-St. James the Less family is mourning the loss of Monsignor John Kieran Foley, 1935 to 2017, known to most as Father Jack.
The church’s website passed along the sad news of his passing on Wednesday morning.
“Our beloved Fr. Jack has gone to be with the Lord. Early on the morning of Ash Wednesday, Fr. Jack gave up his soul to God. It was a peaceful passing surrounded by family members. May he rest in peace.”
Over the years I have interviewed Fr. Jack several times but he was never just a story. Fr. Jack was caring and, when they talk about smiling Irish eyes, they meant Fr. Jack. I watched him dance at the Daddy-Daughter Dances at Holy Redeemer and joke around with kids during Blessing of the Animals. His humor and spirit filled the room when he entered.
At the end of our interviews there would always be time to catch up with each other. I would ask about his recent trips to Ireland, he would ask about my family. I cannot put into the words the support he gave me when my dad fell ill. I was driving back and forth to Phoenix, where my parents lived, and Fr. Jack not only asked each time we saw each other how he was, but prayed for him. I am from an Irish Catholic family but am Episcopalian; but that did not matter to Fr. Jack.
When Dad passed, again Fr. Jack was there for me with kind words and prayer. We always had an Irish kinship and he loved the fact that Dad’s wake was held at the local racetrack with the seventh race dedicated to him. Fr. Jack told me he was raised on a racetrack and loved the horses.
Fr. Jack was one of six children and was born and raised in Tipperary, Ireland. He was ordained a priest in Dublin in 1959 at All Hallows College. His brother was also a priest.
Lately Fr. Jack had not been feeling well.
“Fr. Jack touched the lives of many as a servant of the Lord and his family and parish community thank you for your prayers over the last year,” stated the church’s website.
“Everyone, Catholic and non Catholic, loved Father Jack, the kindest, most dedicated priest. Just this Christmas season, I went to confession with him. He gave of himself, no matter how sick or old he had become,” said Danette Erickson, a local parishioner. “Just recently, he surprised Father Marc by showing up on the altar to concelebrate Mass, even though I suspect he was most probably suffering. He was always smiling and jolly. Somehow when he held your hand, you knew everything would be all right.”
Former GUSD board of education member Chakib “Chuck” Sambar added, “[Fr. Jack] was much loved, respected and always available to provide spiritual and comforting support and guidance. A very sad loss.”
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced shortly. Archbishop Gomez will proceed over the ceremony.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts are directed to The Monsignor John Foley Legacy Society; c/o Holy Redeemer Catholic Church; 2411 Montrose Ave.; Montrose, CA 91020.