Father John T. O’Holohan goes gold

LANCASTER — They didn’t come from Africa for Jesuit Father John T. O’Holohan’s 50th anniversary of ordination, but friends and supporters came from all the parishes he has served in America. And they especially came from St. Catherine here and St. Joseph in Chester, and from the parish mission in Great Falls, St. Michael.

“Father O’Holohan is a wonderful pastor. He’s a little old school, but that’s a breath of fresh air actually,” said Mary Atkinson, a member of the parish Ladies Guild. That society organized a huge golden jubilee feast on the campus of the University of South Carolina-Lancaster on June 25.

The Jesuit has been at St. Catherine, St. Joseph and St. Michael for two years, following associate pastor roles at St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville and at St. Peter in Deland, Fla. For the four decades prior to these pastoral ministries, Father O’Holohan was a college teacher, a writer and a lecturer in theology. Not surprisingly, he’s a good homilist.

“He teaches us something I never knew before each time,” said Rosemarie Ray, a parishioner for 37 years. “He’s good priest.”

He is not a young priest, however. Now in his 82nd year of life, Father O’Holohan plans to work for a long time yet.

“Retirement for a priest is when you pass over. Since my mother had 11 children and lived to be 92, I figure I’m good for another 10 years anyway,” the priest told The Miscellany.

He considers his assignments in Florida and Greenville as easy, since he had a pastor to rely on. Now, in addition to administrative duties, he celebrates five masses every weekend (one in Spanish) and travels 120 miles to do it. St. Catherine parishioner volunteers sign up to drive him to Chester and Great Falls for Sunday Masses. Deacon James P. Hyland, who administers St. Joseph, drives him to other events that require a priest.

“He said, ‘I’ll come whenever you need me,’ ” Deacon Hyland said. “I think he misses being around other priests, but he says he’ll go wherever the church needs him.”

About 200 people attended his jubilee party to say that they are glad he has gone where the church needed him.

“People from Chester, Great Falls, Greenville and Florida are here today,” Ray said. “They came from all over for this.”

Sandi Faulkenberry called him “a man who sticks to the rules of the Catholic Church. He very much loved John Paul II and tries to follow his ways.”

“Father is very spiritual. I love him,” Lolita Jones said.

Father O’Holohan entered the Jesuit order in 1941 and was ordained to the priesthood in Dublin on July 28, 1955. After teaching at Belvedere College in Ireland, he continued his postgraduate studies in Spain. He was sent to Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) to teach at Canisius College and at St. Edmund College. After 20 years teaching in African schools, he took over as rector of a major seminary there. He also conducted a prison ministry before heeding the call to serve in the United States. He became the director of spirituality at Mater Dei Institute in Spokane, Wash., before journeying east to the Orlando, Fla., area. Father O’Holohan has written and lectures about his years in Africa.

“Father O’Holohan is a learned man who always says that one doesn’t take a vacation from the priesthood,” Deacon Hyland said.

Apparently, one doesn’t retire from it, either.