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Fr. John Maher served in Belize, dies in St. Louis

St. Louis - Father John L. Maher, SJ, died Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at the Jesuit elder care community in St. Louis, Mo. He was 73 years old, a Jesuit for 55 years and a priest for 42 years. Visitation will be 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis, with the funeral Mass immediately afterward at 7:00 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier College Church. Burial will be Thursday, Jan. 5 at 9:00 a.m. at Calvary Cemetery, departing from College Church at 8:30 a.m.

Born in St. Louis on Aug. 16, 1943, to Leo R. Maher and Dorothy Lewis Maher, he was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Paul Maher.

After graduating from St. Louis University High School in 1961, he entered the Jesuit seminary in Florissant, Mo., on Sept. 1, 1961. He studied philosophy at Saint Louis University, earning the Bachelor of Arts in classics and a Master of Arts in political science. His Master’s thesis focused on the political, economic, social and religious conditions of Latin America.

He spent three years teaching at St. John’s College in Belize City, Belize, and came to love the country and its people. After theology studies at Saint Louis University, (Master of Divinity, 1975), he was ordained to the priesthood, May 11, 1974, at St. Francis Xavier College Church. He pronounced final vows Aug. 15, 1984, at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis.

Fr. Maher returned to Belize after ordination, then spent the greatest part of his ministry there. He taught at St. John’s College from 1976-87, where he helped edit and publish the journal Belizean Studies. He was particularly interested in Belize’s Maya heritage and the journal put him in contact with many of the archaeologists who came to Belize to excavate the Mayan ruins, and he helped them in their research. In his pastoral ministry, for many years he travelled to the village of Burrell Boom to offer Mass for the people of that area and helped them develop a vibrant Catholic Center.

He served as assistant director of the Belize Institute for Social Research and Action (BISRA) (1976-81). Recognizing a need for better communications for the Catholic Church, he was the founding editor of the diocese’s newspaper, The Christian Herald, serving from 1981 until failing health brought him to St. Louis; his name still appears on the masthead as editor. In 1984 he became director of the diocesan television apostolate and joined with several Belizean Catholic business leaders to produce the first Catholic TV programs in the country. In 2008 he became director of the communications apostolate for the diocese. 

One of his joys was to work on a Belizean Catholic Calendar that combined church feasts and Belizean events. He continued to work on it and last month finished the 2017 issue from his sick bed.

He came to St. Louis for a sabbatical in 2015; while there, multiple health issues began to surface. Most recently, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which spread very rapidly.

We remember with gratitude all that God has done through Fr. Maher’s life of service to God and God's people. 



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