Father John Schak, S.J.After three weeks in the hospital battling pneumonia and failing lungs, Father John Schak, S.J., 84, died on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 in Salta, Argentina. Mass was held the following morning at St. Joseph the Worker parish church where he had been pastor for 25 years. He was laid out for viewing at the church until the Mass on Monday, Aug. 19. The funeral followed directly after the Mass, where he was buried in the mausoleum for priests.
After three weeks in the hospital battling pneumonia and failing lungs, Father John Schak, S.J., 84, died on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 in Salta, Argentina. Mass was held the following morning at St. Joseph the Worker parish church where he had been pastor for 25 years. He was laid out for viewing at the church until the Mass on Monday, Aug. 19. The funeral followed directly after the Mass, where he was buried in the mausoleum for priests.
John Robert was born Jan 1, 1929 in St. Paul, Minn. to Albert and Henrietta Schak (nee Desimval). When he was only eight months old his father passed away and the family moved to Superior. He spent his childhood and adolescence there, growing up in Cathedral of Christ the King parish, along with his three sisters, Ruth Mary, Dorothy and Lorraine. He felt a call to the priesthood beginning in his high school years, but it was not until 1947, his third year of college studies in Physical and Chemical Sciences that he decided to join the Jesuits.
In 1949, he entered the seminary in Florissant, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. In 1956, during his novitiate, he spent two years at the Jesuit's Holy Rosary Mission School on the Sioux Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D.. On June 15, 1961, he was ordained. He celebrated his first mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior. The Wisconsin province soon received a request from the Jesuit community in Salta, Argentina to send priests to help meet educational and missionary needs. In 1963, Father Schak, went down for what turned out to be the beginning of the rest of his Jesuit service. He spent two years in Columbia studying Spanish and ministering to the people there. In 1965, he was assigned to missionary work among the sheep herders in the foothills of the Andes mountains, the Calchaquíes Valley. He did not miss the irony that he was spreading news of the Good Shepherd to those who knew much more about shepherding than he did! "Missionary work is partly teaching the Gospel and partly learning this same Gospel."
In 1967, it was decided there was a great need for priests in the Department of Anta of the Province of Salta - 8,000 square miles of inhospitable terrain populated mostly by lumberjack encampments. He arrived Holy Week to Apollinario Saravia where he would live during his 21 years of missionary service "in the woods" as he called it. Father Schak was moved to the capital city, Salta in 1988 to take over as pastor of St. Joseph the Worker parish and there he remained as pastor for the next 25 years, until his death.
Father Schak is predeceased by his father Albert, mother Henrietta, his three sisters Ruth Mary O'Brien (James), Dorothy Grover (Irvin), and Lorraine Bakalar (Edward).
He is survived by his loving nieces and nephews, Mary Virginia (Wayne Remus) and Dorothy Jane (Ray Thillman) O'Brien; John, Mary Ann, Nancy (Richard Kremer), Janet (Mike Mara), Susan (Richard McNelly) and William Grover; and Mary (Joe Thaier), Betty (Mark Stolwyk), Anthony (Cindy Davis) and Lori (James Ingram) Bakalar. To many he is a loving cousin, great uncle and great, great uncle. He leaves behind so many friends who, along with family, will feel a deep void in his loss. There will be a memorial at the 10:30 Mass Sept. 29 at the Cathedral of Christ the King.
Anyone who desires to make a contribution can send a donation in memory of Father John Schak, SJ to the Milwaukee Jesuit Provincial office. The mailing address is: Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus, 3400 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53208-3841. Donations can also be made online at http://www.jesuitpartners.org.