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OBITUARY | Father John Zupez, SJ

Fr. Zupez
Father John H. (Jack) Zupez, SJ, died Feb. 21 in St. Louis. He was 84 years old, a Jesuit for 66 years and a priest for 53 years.

Father Zupez donated his body to science. A memorial Mass will be celebrated Tuesday, March 16, at 7:15 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church in St. Louis.

He was born in St. Louis on Oct. 21, 1936, to John A. Zupez, Sr., and Cecelia Hartman Zupez. After graduating from St. Louis University High School, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Novitiate in Florissant on Aug. 17, 1954. He pronounced first vows Aug. 22, 1956 and was ordained to the priesthood at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church in St. Louis on June 7, 1967.

Father Zupez earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and a master’s degree in mathematics from Saint Louis University. He also earned a licentiate in sacred theology from Saint Louis University.

After completing theology studies, Father Zupez was missioned to teach at a series of Jesuit high schools: Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., 1968-70; De Smet Jesuit High School, 1970-76; Georgetown Prep, 1977-78, Scranton Prep, 1978-81; St. Louis University High, 1981-82; Fairfield Prep, 1982-89; and St. John’s College in Belize City, Belize, 1989-97. During these years, he moved from teaching math and science to teaching social studies and social justice issues and then theology.

In 1997, Father Zupez was missioned to Africa, where he taught theology at several places, including the National Missionary Seminary in Abuja, Nigeria, 1997-99; Arrupe College in Harare, Zimbabwe, 1999-2000; two major seminaries in Nigeria, 2000-02; and at the Regional Major Seminary in Harare, 2003-06.

Father Zupez returned to the United States in 2006, serving in pastoral ministry from the Xavier Jesuit Center in Denver, 2006-09, with one year of associate pastorship at Ave Maria Parish in Parker, Colorado, 2007-08. From 2009 to 2013, he served as pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and from 2014 until 2020, he was a prison chaplain in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He was assigned to Jesuit Hall in the summer of 2020.

Influenced early in his life by the Church and the Society of Jesus’ push for social justice, he looked for ways to promote social justice in his teaching, his work in seminaries in Africa, and in his African-American parish in Oklahoma City. In his last years of life, he continued to write articles for Catholic magazines and newspapers and was always looking for what more he could do.

He is survived by a sister, Joan Kiburz.

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