July 12, 2018 - Father John “Jack” Valenta, SJ, died July 10, 2018, in St. Louis. He was 95 years old, a Jesuit for 68 years and a priest for 56 years.
Fr. Valenta’s life of service will be celebrated in a Memorial Mass on Wednesday, July 18, at 7:00 p.m. in the Jesuit Hall Community Chapel in St. Louis. He donated his body to the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
John “Jack” Valenta was born in St. Louis Aug. 1, 1922, one of four sons of Rudolph J. Valenta and Helen Mary Richard Valenta. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brother Rudolph C. Valenta. His brothers William T. and Richard B. Valenta survive.
Valenta graduated from both St. Louis University High School and Saint Louis University, where he earned both a B.S. in mathematics (1944) and a B.S. in chemistry (1947). Between degrees, he served as a deck officer in the U.S. Navy (1943-46) during World War II, primarily in the Pacific theater. Following his discharge from the Navy, he worked in sales before entering the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo., on Aug. 8, 1949. He pronounced first vows two years later and was ordained a priest on June 12, 1962, at St. Mary’s College, St. Marys, Kansas.
Fr. Valenta spent most of his apostolic life at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo. He taught chemistry for more than 20 years (1964-86) and was rector of the Jesuit community (1975-80). In 1986, at the age of 64, he decided he could benefit his community as a counselor. After a two-year program at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, he returned to Rockhurst University and worked in counseling for eight years.
In 1996 he returned to his hometown of St. Louis to serve as chaplain at the Fusz Pavilion, the community for senior, infirm Jesuits. He also served as substitute priest in parishes around the area. He continued in this work until 2011, when he retired to an assignment of praying for the Church and Society. He is remembered for his kindness and attentiveness to the apostolic needs of his community. At the time of his death, he was the senior member of the Fusz Pavilion community.
In addition to his two bachelor’s degrees, Fr. Valenta also studied philosophy and completed a Ph.D. in chemistry at Saint Louis University. He studied theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas.
Memorial gifts may be made to the USA Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus at 4511 West Pine Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108 or through this website.