Jesuit Father John J. Rock died on May 4, 2014, at Stella Maris in Timonium, Md. He was a Jesuit for 35 years and a priest for 26 years.
Following his novitiate training, Fr. Rock was sent to pursue philosophical studies at Murray-Weigel Hall at Fordham University, where he received a Master of Arts degree in 1982. As a Jesuit scholastic, he taught philosophy from 1982 to 1984 at Wheeling Jesuit University before going to Regis College in Toronto, Canada, to study theology from 1984 to 1987, where he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree and a Master of Divinity degree. Fr. Rock was ordained to the priesthood by the Most Reverend William D. Borders, Archbishop of Baltimore, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore on June 6, 1987. He continued his theological studies at Jesuitenkolleg in Innsbruck, Austria, where he was awarded a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1989.
Fr. Rock’s first assignment as a priest was that of a Minutante (translator) for the Congregation of the Faith in Rome from 1989 to 1995. On his return to the United States, he was given various assignments such as invited professor of theology (1995-1998) and philosophy (1996-1998) at Wheeling Jesuit University; visiting assistant professor of theology (1998-1999) at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas; campus minister and province director of the Apostleship of Prayer (1999-2000) at Aquinas Institute in Princeton, N.J.; and university chaplain (2000-2002) at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.
From 2002 to 2010, John moved south and served as chaplain at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tenn., attending to the daily spiritual needs of the sisters. He especially enjoyed teasing about the fact that he was a Jesuit chaplain at a Dominican motherhouse. In the initial years he was also a professor of philosophy and theology at Aquinas College.
The sisters often recall Fr. Rock’s homilies at the daily community Mass, brief and to the point, and often sprinkled with stories or quotations from the saints. In preparing the homily for sisters’ funeral Masses, Fr. Rock would carefully gather personal information and stories to weave into his remarks in such a way as to bring both smiles and tears – and always, comfort.
In his last years at the Motherhouse, Fr. Rock struggled with Parkinson’s disease. A sister who cared for Fr. Rock said, “Memories abound of his gracious homilies, his generosity to the sisters, his kindness, the movies, the holy cards and the little outings with the Sisters in the infirmary. Then, one recalls the heroic moments, especially when he said Mass in one sister’s room, very close to the time of her death – while truly he was struggling with his own illness.” Another sister commented, “Father Rock quickly became not only our chaplain, but our friend. His priesthood and his Jesuit vocation were everything to him. We thank God for his years as our chaplain, for his friendship, and for his example.”
Due to failing health, Fr. Rock was assigned to the Jesuit Center at Wernersville and then to St. Claude La Colombiere Jesuit Community in Baltimore. In 2013, he was transferred to Stella Maris care facility in Timonium, Md., where he prayed for the Church and the Society until his death.