Father Jack McNearney

Father Jack McNearney CINCINNATI—Father Jack McNearney, 81, died suddenly March 27, 2006, at his home in Kingsport, Tenn. Born in Maple Wood, Mo., on May 4, 1924, he was one of seven children of Joseph and Luty (Bower) McNearney.

Father McNearney, a World War II veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, professed his First Oath to Glenmary in 1958 and was ordained in 1962. He received his master's degree in theology from Catholic University in 1968.

In his almost 50 years of home mission ministry, he served Glenmary missions as assistant pastor in Plunketville, Okla. (1962), Statesboro, Ga. (1963) and Franklin, N.C. (1963-65). As a pastor, he led missions in Murphy, N.C. (1965-67); Sylva, N.C. (1974-75 and 1980-88) and Aberdeen, Miss. (1988-89). He enjoyed the slower pace of life in the missions, remarking once that, when he went to the post office, "it would take me a good hour to get my mail"—because of all the conversations he would get into. But his ministry also included serving in Glenmary administration.

"He was a dedicated missioner," said Father Dominic Duggins, second vice president of Glenmary. "He served in many support ministries to the society in addition to his work in our missions, and he brought a thirst for continuing knowledge to whatever ministry he was involved in."

During the early 1970s Father McNearney directed Group Seven, an innovative program open to all Catholics over the age of 21. These volunteers made a two-year commitment to live in or near a Glenmary mission area and brought their job skills and their Christian witness to the area through parish involvement and civic activity. The program grew out of a special Glenmary chapter and was based in the spirit of Vatican II. (It was item number seven on the chapter agenda—hence the name Group Seven.)

Father McNearney then moved on to Glenmary leadership. He was elected to a four-year term as first vice president of the society in 1975.

When he retired from assigned ministry in 1991, he continued to live in rural areas, providing sacramental ministry to nearby parishes. He resided in Morehead, Ky., Sky Valley, Ga., and briefly in Seminole, Fla. From 1995-98, he worked on the staff at the retreat center in Maggie Valley, N.C.

His "retired" status afforded him more time to devote to his favorite hobby: astronomy. Throughout his life, he was intrigued by the heavens. As a young man, he would look at and study the stars with binoculars. Later in his life he advanced to a reflective telescope and eventually enrolled, during a sabbatical year, in graduate school at Indiana University to study the subject. He taught astronomy at a college level while in North Carolina. His dream, he said in an interview celebrating his silver jubilee, was to "unite science, philosophy and faith."