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Former campus ministry director Donnelly dies at 62

by Joe Bollig[email protected]

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Priest and educator Father John Edward Melnick, 62, died January 15 at St. Luke’s Hospital North in Kansas City, Missouri, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

“Father John was true to the charisma of the Augustinian way of life,” said Father Peter Jaramillo, SSA, pastor of St. Mary-St. Anthony and All Saints parishes in Kansas City, Kansas.

“He followed his restless heart and continued to seek the joy of his life in community,” he added, “to be of one mind and one heart with the Lord and with those with whom he lived.”

Father John is remembered for his love of his priesthood and the church, Father Peter said.

Father John, also known by his religious name Father John Stone of the Holy Cross, was born on February 28, 1960 in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was the only son of Edward and Beverly (MacKenzie) Melnick, members of St. Joseph Parish at Reserve Mines, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

He attended St. Joseph School, 1965-1971, at Reserve Mines and graduated from Reserve District High School in 1977. He graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia with a BA in philosophy in 1980; an education degree from St. Francis Xavier in 1981; a master of theology from the Toronto School of Theology in 1986; a Bachelor of Divinity (STB) from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa in 1986; and the License (STL) at the Pontificio Collegio San Tommaso d’Aquino (Angelicum) in Rome in 1989.

A visit to a monastery inspired him to enter the Order of Saint Augustine in 1979. After completing his postulancy and novitiate, he took his simple vows on August 13, 1983 and his solemn vows on May 12, 1986, at the Monastery of St. Augustine at Monastery, Nova Scotia.

Father John was ordained a deacon on May 16, 1986 and a priest on June 14, 1986 by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Clune of Toronto.

Father John has had an active and varied ministry as a friar, educator and priest in various pastoral and academic capacities.

He has been a pastor, retreat director, vocation director, teacher and seminary trainer. He has served in various capacities in his own religious order and for various dioceses. While in Rome he worked part time as secretary to Cardinal Paul Augustin Meyer, OSB, at the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

While teaching at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Scranton, Pennsylvania from 1997 to 1998, Father John met members of the Society of St. Augustine. He was incardinated in the Diocese of Scranton and later became a member of the Society of St. Augustine on October 19, 2002.

After serving (and uniting) four parishes in Freeland, Pennsylvania from 2002 to 2009, Father John came to Kansas City, Kansas to help establish a new community of Society of St. Augustine friars. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann met with Father John and told him about the need for a Catholic priest at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Father John became director of campus ministry and a religious studies teacher at Donnelly.

“While at Donnelly, Father John touched the lives of countless students through campus ministry programming, RCIA, theology courses, and [celebrating] Daily mass on campus. He has also provided fellowship and counseling to all faculty and staff, including the president and board of trustees,” said a 2020 Donnelly Digest article announcing his retirement.

Father John was known for his openness and people felt free to talk to him about any problems they had, and he inspired them to keep their faith during very difficult times in society and in the church, said a friend.

Father John left the Society of St. Augustine in 2020, while retaining his status as an incardinated diocesan priest in the Diocese of Scranton.

“Father John has been faithful to his prayers and spiritual duties,” said Father Peter. “He enjoyed great theological conversations while he held a nice vodka martini, discussing the ecclesiastical issues of the day. And sometimes, stirring the pot to find the truth of the matter or the best answer to his concerns.

He was preceded in death by his mother and survived by his father.

Archbishop Naumann celebrated his funeral mass on 25 January at St. Mary-St. St. Anthony’s Church in Kansas City, Kansas. Interment took place at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas.

The arrangements were by Skradski Funeral Home in Kansas City, Kansas.

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