Remembering Jesuit Father John Karwin

June 6, 2016 - Fr. John J. Karwin, SJ, was called to eternal life on June 4, 2016 at Campion Center, Weston, Mass. Fr. Karwin was born on Oct. 29, 1934 in Bridgeport, Conn., and entered the Society of Jesus on Aug. 14, 1956, at the Novitiate of St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was ordained on June 10, 1967, at St. Ignatius Church, Chestnut Hill, Mass., and pronounced Final Vows on Aug. 15, 1978, at the University of Detroit, Detroit, Mich.

John Karwin was born on Oct., 29, 1934, in Bridgeport, Conn., the oldest of four boys in the family of John and Elizabeth (Zubko) Karwin, and grew up in nearby Stratford. At the time, Bridgeport was a prosperous manufacturing center and John’s father was a steamfitter for one of its largest employers, Bridgeport Brass Company. John Sr. came from a Polish family, John’s mother—whom he described as a “domestic engineer” who really ran the family—from a Czech family. 

John attended local public schools, where not much encouragement was given to thinking about college. But an overnight trip with parish altar boys to a seminary had left him with a lasting image of both higher education and of a possible vocation. When some of his classmates were applying to colleges, he decided almost on a whim that he would apply to Fairfield. He commuted there for four years. In sophomore year, a lay teacher said in class one day that, statistically, three of the sixty students in the class would enter the priesthood or religious life; John felt he was speaking directly to him. He began talking to a Jesuit counselor and, upon graduation in 1956, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Saint Andrew on Hudson.

As a college graduate, he did only one year of juniorate, split between St. Andrew’s and the newly opened Shadowbrook. Two years of philosophy studies followed at Weston (1959-1961). John spent regency at Cranwell (1961-1963), teaching math and science and living the hectic life of a scholastic in a boarding school. The following year he pursued a master’s degree in mathematics at Boston College. In 1964, he began theology studies at Weston. John said later that he led a monkish existence, focusing on his studies and deliberately avoiding the turmoil resulting from the post-Vatican II changes and the discussions around moving the theologate into the city (only later, he said, in tertianship and in spiritual direction, did he begin to absorb those developments, which significantly changed his understanding of his vocation and his ministry). He was ordained at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill in 1967.

After his fourth year of theology studies, in 1968, he was assigned to Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, Mass., to teach math and religion. The Society had only recently taken responsibility for the administration of this diocesan school and the younger Jesuits had to work hard at a variety of jobs, including weekend pastoral ministry. John found this challenging and a year as prefect of discipline was no easier. In 1972, he asked for a change from high-school work and became minister and treasurer of the Weston Jesuit Community in Cambridge. The recently established community had fourteen small communities and their financial affairs needed organizing; John was also in charge of maintenance for all the community buildings. Three years into this assignment, superiors suggested he get some pastoral experience. So he spent a year in the cathedral parish in Bridgeport and as a campus minister at Loyola College in Baltimore.

In 1976, he found his footing in the field of student financial aid and financial administration, where he would spend the rest of his working life as a Jesuit—first at the University of Detroit (1976-1983) and then at Boston College (1983-1986). In 1986 the community at Boston College High School needed to separate its own finances from those of the school and John was assigned to be community treasurer. With that task accomplished, in 1989, he was invited to return to University of Detroit but when he got there he discovered the institution was dealing with its own financial issues and had suddenly imposed a hiring freeze; he spent most of that year helping the University of Detroit High School organize a computer program to track alumni donations. In 1990, he heard that Wheeling College was looking for help in its financial aid program. John applied and spent the next 17 years there (1990-2007), first as financial-aid advisor and then teaching mathematics.

In 2007, John retired from full-time work and moved to Campion Center, where he kept busy helping out in Boston-area parishes and pursuing the hobby of woodcarving he had begun years before. His health gradually declined but he continued to take part in community activities as he was able. A hospital stay at the beginning of June 2016 made it clear that further treatment would not be beneficial. He was anointed by the superior and a group of fellow Jesuits. He died peacefully in the late afternoon of June 4, 2016.



Wed., June 8, 2016  
3:00-5:00 p.m. (Prayer Service at 4:30)
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
Campion Center
319 Concord Road
Weston, MA


Thurs., June 9, 2016  
10:00 a.m.
Chapel of the Holy Spirit
Campion Center


Campion Center Cemetery.

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