Beloved Priest a Mentor to Generations of Redemptorist Missionaries

Rev. John (Jack) Ferdinand Willett, C.Ss.R.

CHICAGO, IL, August 18, 2020 – Rev. John (Jack) Ferdinand Willett, C.Ss.R., who influenced generations of Redemptorist Missionaries during the 20 years he was involved in formation ministry, died on August 15, 2020 at St. Clement Redemptorist Mission Community in Liguori. He was 84, and had recently been placed in hospice care.

John Ferdinand Willett was born on October 18, 1935 to Ferdinand and Ellen (Donahue) Willett in Sault Sainte Marie, MI. He entered the Redemptorist formation program at St. Joseph Preparatory College in Kirkwood, MO and professed temporary vows as a Redemptorist on August 2, 1956. He made his final profession of vows on September 2, 1959 and was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1961 at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Oconomowoc, WI.

Newly ordained Father Willett served at St. Gerard Majella Parish in Kirkwood, MO and earned an English degree from St. Louis University before entering formation ministry in 1964. He joined the faculty of St. Joseph’s Preparatory College in Edgerton, WI and was appointed Assistant to the Director of Students. Father Willett taught English and Guidance, and coached soccer and basketball. Before his assignment ended in 1975, he had earned a Master’s in Education/Guidance and Counseling from St. Louis University.

Father Willett continued mentoring students at Holy Redeemer College in Waterford, WI from 1978 until 1984. He served as Director of Athletics and Prefect of Students, and a professor of English, Religion and Guidance. He maintained lifelong friendships with students, and officiated at many weddings of those who left the Redemptorist formation program.

Twenty years later, Father Willett was missioned to Nigeria to oversee the Redemptorist formation program. After a year of enculturation serving at a parish, he was appointed director of Redeemer House in Bodija, Ibadan (1997-2001).

Father Willett also served for six years on the Mission Preaching team based in Grand Rapids, MI (1990-1996), and devoted more than two decades to parish ministry. He served as pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago, IL (1975-1978 and 1984-1990) and St. Joseph Parish in Wichita, KS (2001-2005) before he joined the Redemptorist community at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Parish in Kansas City, MO in 2005. During his tenure, he helped administer Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. Health issues necessitated his retirement and move to St. Clement’s in Liguori in 2014.

A private funeral service is scheduled at the St. Clement Redemptorist chapel on August 22, 2020, followed by burial at the Redemptorist Cemetery in Liguori.

Donations in Father Willett’s memory to continue the work of the Redemptorists may be sent to:

Redemptorists of the Denver Province

1633 North Cleveland Ave. Chicago, IL  60614

September 27, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph