A memorial Mass for Father John “Jack” Valenta, SJ, was celebrated July 18 in the Community Chapel at Jesuit Hall in Midtown St. Louis. Father Valenta died July 10 in St. Louis. He was 95 years old, a Jesuit for 68 years, a priest for 56 years and a longtime teacher and counselor at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.
Born Aug. 1, 1922, in St. Louis, Father Valenta graduated from St. Louis University High School and Saint Louis University, where he earned both a bachelor’s degrees in mathematics (1944) and in chemistry (1947). Between degrees, he served as a deck officer in the U.S. Navy (1943-46) during World War II, primarily in the Pacific theater. Following his discharge from the Navy, he worked in sales before entering the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant on Aug. 8, 1949. He pronounced first vows two years later and was ordained a priest on June 12, 1962, at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kan., where he studied theology. Father Valenta also studied philosophy and completed a doctorate in chemistry at Saint Louis University.
Father Valenta spent most of his apostolic life at Rockhurst University. He taught chemistry for more than 20 years (1964-86) and was rector of the Jesuit community (1975-80). In 1986, at the age of 64, he decided he could benefit his community as a counselor. After a two-year program at the University of Missouri -Kansas City, he returned to Rockhurst University and worked in counseling for eight years.
In 1996, he returned to St. Louis and served as chaplain at the Fusz Pavilion, the community for senior, infirm Jesuits. He also served as substitute priest in parishes around the area. He continued in this work until 2011, when he retired to an assignment of praying for the Church and Society. He is remembered for his kindness and attentiveness to the apostolic needs of his community. At the time of his death, he was the senior member of the Fusz Pavilion community.
Father Valenta is survived by two brothers, William T. and Richard B. Valenta.