Misericordia is both home, heart of his ministry

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, January 12, 2014

He is: Father John “Jack” Clair, ordained at Mundelein in 1982. Former vice president of Niles College Seminary. Assistant executive director and chaplain at Misericordia Heart of Mercy Center for almost 14 years.

Youth: “My sister and I were adopted through Catholic Charities out of St. Vincent’s Orphanage and grew up in St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Edgebrook. We’re not biological siblings. Sheila’s older and a resident at Misericordia. I planned on going to high school in Wisconsin to be a Capuchin father. That’s when my sister got sick. Mom didn’t want both of us to be away, so after a year at Taft High School, I transferred to Quigley.”  

“Both our parents worked. Dad was a Chicago policeman. His last detail was at O’Hare. He was in the first crew there. Mom was a public school teacher in the kindergarten in our neighborhood for 32 years. She knew just about every kid in the neighborhood. She was great with small children. 

“My father’s father moved back home to Ireland. So I started going over when I was in eighth grade. The first couple of days I didn’t like it. There was no telephone on my cousin’s farm; it was really rural, but they became like my second family. Now I visit them every year. My dad and mom went back and forth too.”

He was Guest of Honor for the 2012 St. Patrick's Day Parade in downtown Chicago. “That was fun. I wish my folks would have been around to see it.”

Other ministry: “For eight years I was associate pastor at St. Hubert’s in Hoffman Estates. I became vice president at Niles Seminary; and then we moved it to St. Joseph’s at Loyola. I left there in 1999 and came to Misericordia. I used to volunteer here on Candy Days and for Family Fest, did meetings with families about future planning, things like that. Now I live on campus.”

Has Misericordia impacted his prayer life? “Oh my gosh, profoundly. I celebrate daily Mass here. The residents have such a gift of faith themselves. They’re so tolerant and they just accept, most of them, ‘this is the way God made me, I’m happy, and living a good life.’ When I get frustrated I just look at them and I’m a different person. It lifts up your spirits when you’re in church and everyone wants to be there! They’re so enthusiastic – they get there an hour early to get ready. It’s unbelievable. It’s anything but depressing here.”

What does Sister Rosemary Connelly, director of Misericordia, consider his best talent? “She says she’s always appreciative of my preaching. I do a lot of funerals; not only for our residents, but their families and donors. Sister Rosemary is there for all of them.”

Leisure: “I have less leisure now because the time I have off is when Misericordia is down, so I take my sister. One weekend a month we go up to Wisconsin to a summer house we have with another family, as well as a week in July and in December. I love to cook; we have people over all the time. My lasagna is a biggie. I used to cook one night a week for the priests at St. Joe’s.

“As for sports, I’m one of those people, ‘If it’s on I’ll watch it.’ I don’t follow a particular team unless we’re in the play-offs. We have lots of sports figures around here. I get more interested when Jonathan Toews comes around. Mike Ditka is a good friend of the place, and Lovie Smith was a great friend of ours.

“I do more writing than reading. I try to keep up with people especially in Ireland, and there’s probably not a night goes by I’m not writing some thank-you notes or letters.  The last book I read was about Ireland, “Dirt Poor -- Spirit Rich.” It tells of the immigration from my part of Ireland, County Claire, and I knew a lot of the names in it. How they all went to Australia or America. If you like Irish history I’d recommend it.”

Favorite Scripture: “John 10:10: ‘I came that you might have life and have it to the fullest.’”


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