Remembering Father John Melnick, SSA

Father John Melnick, SSA

Father John Melnick, SSA, 62, passed away on Sunday, January 15, 2023. He served as a Donnelly faculty member and as vice president of spirituality and mission from 2009-2020. During his 11 years at Donnelly, Fr. John impacted countless students through campus ministry programming, theology courses, assisting with daily Mass and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). He also provided friendship and counsel to all faculty and staff including the president and board of directors.  

Students and staff remember Fr. John’s lively class discussions and his habit of wandering through the hallways singing hymns and showtunes. Although Fr. John retired before Donnelly’s current academic building was opened in the summer of 2020, he contributed initial design ideas to what is now the Blessed Seelos Chapel.

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Shared Memories 

If you would like to contribute a remembrance of Father John, please email to be added to this blog post.

Monsignor Stuart Swetland, President: Fr. John was first and foremost a priest who radiated the presence of Jesus to all those he served. He also was a faithful Augustinian who valued the example and teaching of St. Augustine and St. Monica. I saw this in his devotion to prayer, community, and the Augustinian saints. He was committed to seeking God, pursuing the truth, and an interior life of depth and substance centered on Christ. I was and am proud to call him a friend. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. 

Lisa Stoothoff, Dean of the College: My fondest memory of Fr. John was when we attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and were escorted into the Trump Hotel by the FBI, even though it was closed to the public. Fr. John delighted in the simple pleasures of life and his voice will always be heard singing in the halls. He just had an unparalleled joy for life. 

Ana Maradiaga, Director of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Father John was always smiling. My days would brighten when I heard him coming down the hallway, his melodious chanting preceding him. He was such a welcoming presence at Donnelly. You could always count on him to lift your spirits with a smile and cheerful greeting. 

Joe Multhauf, Assistant Professor of Biology: Father John had a profound influence on everyone he met. He instilled in everyone a sense of peace and friendship. He loved Catholic tradition and his dog Chewy. He had an extensive pen collection and encouraged everyone to write with a fountain pen. Thank you for your friendship, Fr. John! 

Diego Payan '14, '16: I started college the same year that Father John started working for Donnelly. I remember being terrified thinking, “What’s a priest doing here?” He would walk down the hallway singing Gregorian chants, with a contagious joy. Little did I know that this priest was going to be a crucial figure in my conversion. Laying down the foundations for my return to the faith, he became a spiritual father to me. May he be shouting and singing praise in eternal joy in heaven. 

Jonathon Westbrook ‘07, ‘13: From theology to the elegance of fountain pens, Father John embodied the spirit of Donnelly and "making the love of God tangible in our world". May all those who came under his tutelage carry his spirit of love, charity, compassion and grace. Father John was a gift to us from our Heavenly Father.   

Roger Berg, III ‘15, ‘17: I met Father John as many have done, in Theology class. I remember being surprised that he always kept a bible, the Talmud, and a Qur'an in his bag. When I inquired, he stated that in order to be well rounded, one needed to see and understand multiple sides of the puzzle. He welcomed all beliefs. He even held a brief debate in class with one of the students that was an atheist. He stated: "I really admire you as an atheist, for it takes much more faith than I have to believe in absolutely nothing." He did not sugarcoat things and did not let students slide by. He gave what was to be the hardest assignment I had in my undergrad studies. He required our class to summarize the bible in one to three paragraphs.

If I had to summarize my friend Father John, he was a man of great faith. He had a desire to learn, and a love of teaching. He had a knack for languages and an impressive collection of fountain pens. He was not ashamed to walk the hallways belting tunes during class time and was never afraid to tell you what he thought. We spent many evenings chatting via text or Facebook about anything and everything (time I miss very much) and was my "johnny on the spot" for any Latin translations. He was a great teacher, friend, and unapologetically firm in his faith. I will miss him dearly. 

Angelica Perez ‘18: Father John was a fantastic Chaplain but also a friend. During my two years at Donnelly, he helped me immensely in planning and getting help and getting students to attend March for Life. He also helped me with my spiritual life, along with Brother Martin. I remember one time, Father John told me I would be an outstanding Mother Superior if I were called to religious life. He was extremely diverse; I could talk to him about my prayer life one minute, and the next, we would talk about fountain pens. No matter what we talked about, those conversations bring great memory and joy to my heart. There is so much more I could say about him. He was amazing! 

Yessenia (Silva-Leos) Lopez ‘12: Thank you for this opportunity of being able to write about Father John. I remember him as a happy person that would like to sing in the halls. You could hear him coming down the hall singing a melody and talking to him was always a joy. I always found enthusiasm when talking to him about his fountain pen collection. He always seemed to have a different one each day. Father John was an extraordinary person and a character for sure.  

Ivan Medrano ‘10, ‘13: I think the memory that sticks out for me is, one time during class he had me try on his smock. I don’t fully remember why we did that but I know there’s a picture floating around out there. He was a very friendly and warm person who is sorely missed.  

Carmelita Bahamonde ‘13: I've got so many good memories of Father John, but my absolute favorite is of him dancing down the hallways with his radio and being so happy. He helped me work through some stuff in my life and was a good shoulder to cry on when things got rough. He motivated me to be better and helped me work through some faith questions. He was passionate about teaching his students and made us all laugh with his quirks. While at D.C. I remember wanting him to be the priest at my wedding if I ever got married, I knew his jokes would make people laugh and he would be a hit with everyone. I'm very sad he's left this earth, but his enthusiasm and jokes live in many of our memories. I miss him a lot.