Death of Father John F. Kavanaugh, S.J.

From the provincial’s delegate:

I am writing to inform you that Father John F. Kavanaugh, S.J. died Monday, November 5, 2012, at Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, after a battle with a blood disease. He was 71 years old and a Jesuit for 53 years. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 14, 1941, John entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri, on August 21, 1959. John was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1971, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

In 1974 John completed a Ph.D. in Social Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. That same year he accepted a position in the Department of Philosophy at Saint Louis University. In 1975 he began a year of tertianship at Mount St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore, India. During his time in India he worked with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity at The House of the Dying in Calcutta.

He rejoined the faculty at Saint Louis University in 1976 where he would serve for the next 36 years. John established a reputation as an exceptional teacher, combining scholarly rigor with profound insights into human life. His courses included Philosophy of Human Nature and Medical Ethics. Highly regarded for his scholarship, John was awarded visiting professorships at Chishawasha Major Regional Seminary in Zimbabwe in1987 and Creighton University in 1991.

John was the founder of the Ethics Across the Curriculum program at Saint Louis University. Through workshops, discussion groups and fellowships, the program helps faculty to reflect critically on ethical issues and incorporate ethical considerations in their courses. Well-respected throughout the university, John was twice elected to the University Rank and Tenure Committee.

John served the Society of Jesus in a variety of ways. He was a highly regarded teacher and spiritual director for generations of young Jesuits studying at Saint Louis University. He inspired and challenged his brother Jesuits to lives of simplicity and solidarity with the poor, both in his words and the example of his life. His witness was particularly evident as a member of Markoe House Community from 1976 to 1984 and the St. Matthew Parish Community from 1991 to 1995. John also generously served as the Missouri Provincial Assistant for Social Apostolates from 1978 to 1984.

John was an exceptional preacher, well-known and appreciated at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church and other parishes in St. Louis. He was frequently invited to give lectures on the topics of consumerism, American culture, advertising, faith and culture, and personalist medical ethics.

His most famous book, Following Christ in a Consumer Society, was first published in 1981, later translated into several languages and revised and reissued in 1991 and 2006. His other works include Faces of Poverty, Faces of Christ (1991) and Who Count as Persons? Human Identity and the Ethics of Killing (2001.) For many years, his syndicated columns were published in the St. Louis Review. For three years he authored “The Word,” a series of weekly reflections on the Sunday Scriptures in America magazine. In recent years he contributed to “Ethics Notebook” in America. John received several National Catholic Press Awards for general commentary.

John is survived by his brother, Thomas Kavanaugh, and several nieces and nephews. May this inspiring and holy man rest in peace.

Arrangements are as follows:


Funeral Mass:


Friday, November 9, 2012 St. Francis Xavier (College) Church 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Friday, November 9, 2012 St. Francis Xavier (College) Church 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 10, 2012 Calvary Cemetery 8:15 a.m. depart from College Church

Letters of condolence may be sent to the following:

Jesuit Hall Community 3601 Lindell Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63108-3393

As we remember with gratitude all that God has done through John’s life spent in service of the People of God, we are reminded of our privilege and obligation to offer Masses and prayers for his eternal repose.

Sincerely in Christ,



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