In Memorian: Rev. John J. Dennis, OSFS

Rev. John J. Dennis, OSFS, professed member of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales for 80 years, died Tuesday, October 10, 2018.

Father was born in Philadelphia, PA, on March 4, 1919, the son of John H. and Bertha V. Dennis. After attending St. Henry’s Elementary School and graduating from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys, he entered the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in September 1937. He professed first vows at the end of his postulancy and novitiate on September 8, 1938, followed by perpetual profession on September 8, 1941, and ordination to the priesthood October 10, 1945. Father completed a B.A. in philosophy at Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, an M.A. in English and an M.A. in Education, both from Villanova.

Enjoying a rich and varied mix of ministerial assignments throughout his 63 years of priesthood, he was also tasked with a variety of administrative and leadership responsibilities. Throughout his 35 years in secondary education, including 26 years at Northeast Catholic, he served as an assistant dean of students, scholastic master, English department chairperson, and vice-principal. In 1978, he was named principal of Father Judge High School, Philadelphia, serving until 1986. Upon completing his tenure as principal, he embarked on an entirely new venture at Catholic Social Services, in both Bucks and Montgomery counties. Father then accepted the invitation by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to institute a program of pastoral ministry, specifically focused on those afflicted with the AIDS virus and their families, a program he both established and grew over time.

While working in secondary school ministry was his passion, Father explored other venues of ministry. In the early 1950’s, he seriously considered serving as a military chaplain. In 1965, he joined a unique cohort of Oblates of St. Francis de Sales as part of the first faculty and staff at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, Center Valley, PA, (today’s De Sales University), where he taught for five years before returning to Northeast Catholic. Father also served on the Provincial Council of the Oblates’ Wilmington-Philadelphia Province.

In 2009, Father Dennis pursued perhaps the most challenging ministry of all – retirement. Residing at the Oblate residence in Childs, MD, he continued to be an active and engaged member of the community, displaying his love of all things associated with learning, literature, art and music. He was also an armchair arborist and enjoyed spending time growing, repotting and caring for plants.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 AM on Saturday, October 13, at Our Lady of Light Chapel, 1120 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, MD, where visitation will begin at 8:30 AM. Interment will follow in the Oblate Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oblate Development Fund, 2200 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19806.