It was the solemnity of Christ the King. Using St. Luke’s Gospel words from the feast, Father John Whalen must have made his request to be admitted into the Kingdom of heaven. With his death on Sunday, the response of Jesus had to have been: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
With an uncle, also a priest of our diocese, and four aunts who were Sisters of Charity, BVM, Fr. John was destined to travel in holy company. His seminary (translated as “seed ground” ) was a faith-filled family relationship. He was Irish, but denied any association with the “lace curtain” brand. He always and proudly professed to be “shanty Irish.” True Irish humility!
His pastoral career began down river from home in Burlington. As assistant at St. Mary in Keokuk for two years, he quickly moved up to Davenport as administrator of the cathedral. Then in two more years, he began a five-year assignment at St. Ambrose College. Along with his association in the Seminary Department there, he also served as the director of vocations for the diocese.
Next came his pastoral ministry in various parishes around the diocese. The next 22 years opened his service to many people who were touched by his definite Irish spirit and winning personality. And if that was not enough, it was his ability to display his culinary arts through which he drew people to him also as a man of faith. All will agree, he was a gourmet cook.
These last 12 years were not easy years for Fr. John. For health reasons, his medical leave turned into retirement. His last weeks were spent in hospice care. Nonetheless, his joyful spirit which he sustained all his life never faltered. Those who were able to make a visitation with him his last days were always greeted with blessings.
All who knew him and whom he served will always remember him with gratitude for his smile and the fun that was his life. Father, you will truly be welcomed “in paradise.”
— Msgr. Francis C. Henricksen
Fr. Whalen dies at age 70
Father John Joseph Whalen, 70, of Burlington, died Nov. 24 at Great River Hospice House, West Burlington.
A native of Burlington, he graduated from Notre Dame High School, St. Ambrose College in Davenport and completed his theological studies at Mount Saint Bernard Seminary in Dubuque.
On May 31, 1969, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gerald O’Keefe at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.
Fr. Whalen served as an associate pastor at St. Mary in Keokuk from 1969-71, administrator of Sacred Heart Cathedral from 1971-73, spiritual director of the seminary department at St. Ambrose College from 1973-75, acting rector then rector of the seminary department at St. Ambrose from 1975-78. He then served as pastor of Sacred Heart in Melcher and St. Joseph in Bauer from 1978-81 and St. James in Washington from 1981-93. Fr. Whalen took a leave of absence for health reasons in 1993. Upon his return he was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Keswick from 1993-96, St. Joseph in North English from 1993-2001 and St. Joseph in Parnell from 1996-2001. He retired in 2001 for health reasons.
Other offices held include director of vocations from 1973-78 and state chaplain for the Daughters of Isabella from 1979-83.
Visitation will be Dec. 1 from 5-7:30 p.m. at St. Paul Church in Burlington with a prayer service at 7 p.m. Visitation also will be from 9-10 a.m. Dec. 2 in the church. Fr. Whalen’s funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 2 at St. Paul. Burial will be at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Burlington.