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Fr. John D. Mace, S.J. died on the morning of 21 February at St Camillus Jesuit Community in Wisconsin, USA. He was 83 years old. Fr. Mace had devoted nearly half of his life as a missionary in Asia, which roots back to his early years as a Jesuit scholastic.
Born on 1 May 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska in the United States, he entered the Society of Jesus on 17 August 1955 at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and was ordained on 27 June 1968 in Seoul, South Korea. He was first missioned to Asia as a Regent in South Korea, which at the time was a mission of the Wisconsin Jesuit Province. Fr. Mace taught philosophy and English at Daegun Regional Seminary in Kwangju from 1962 to 1965. He later served as Novice Master of the Korean Jesuits from 1973 to 1982, and then Rector of the Sogang University Jesuit Community. In 1983, he became the fifth president of Sogang University. He spent most of his ordained life in Korea teaching theology at Sogang.
Fr. Mace returned to the United States in 1985 to serve his home Province of Wisconsin as a teacher at the Jesuit Novitiate, US Assistancy Secretary for Formation, and then as Socius to the Wisconsin Provincial.
In 1996 he was again missioned to Asia, this time to the Philippines to serve the then Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania as Rector of the Arrupe International Residence in Manila, a role he would serve in for 10 years.
His next assignment brought him to Timor-Leste as Regional Superior of the Jesuits in Timor from 2007 to 2011. His last assignment before returning to the United States was as Secretary to the Delegate of the Korean Provincial to the Jesuit mission in Cambodia from 2011 to 2016.
Fr. Norris Seenivasan, S.J. of the Malaysia-Singapore Jesuit Region was a scholastic in Arrupe International Residence (AIR) when Fr. Mace was Rector. He remembers him as “very much committed” to the work of forming the men under his care. During the celebration of the 25th anniversary of AIR in 2015, Fr. Seenivasan wrote: “He was always available for us. He was detailed and systematically looked into many areas of formation in the house. He cared for each scholastic at AIR. I believe that it was due to his hard work that AIR grew into a huge community. He was able to attract scholastics from all over the world.”
Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific President Fr. Tony Moreno, S.J., in his memo to the conference, said of Fr. Mace: “John loved the Society immensely. He had a strong sense of universal mission. Even when the Wisconsin Province ‘pulled out’ of Korea, he was one of the few from his province who remained in the country. He was an attentive listener. He accompanied the young Jesuits in Arrupe International Residence with much care, and closely looked into various aspects of formation.”
Well into the last decade of his life, Fr. Mace returned to his birthplace of Omaha. He served as pastoral minister at Creighton University, and then later at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where he was grateful for the healthcare provided to him. He also appreciated the financial support of lay companions throughout his many years as a Jesuit, remembering, in particular, his time as a missionary in Korea. In an article from the Jesuits Midwest, Fr. Mace said: “Without the support of our benefactors, I would have been unable to do the important works asked of the Society in South Korea. To my friends and those who have supported our work in Korea, I say, ‘Kamsahamida(감사합니다)—thank you!’”
Fr. Mace took his last breath at 5:45 am, on the First Sunday of Lent. According to Fr. George Winzenburg, S.J., Jesuits prayed by his side in the days before he passed. Fr. Mace chose to donate his body to the Medical College of Wisconsin.