The Pontifical College Josephinum gratefully announces a gift of unprecedented generosity from the estate of alumnus Reverend Canon John J. Flattery, a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and a member of the Ordination Class of 1955. Father Flattery’s gift is the largest bequest in the 132-year history of the Catholic seminary.
“Father Flattery’s bequest is an astounding gift to the Josephinum,” said Very Reverend Steven P. Beseau, President/Rector. “It is a testament to his devotion to the priesthood, his loyalty to the Josephinum, and his belief in the importance of education. His bequest will impact the lives of seminarians for generations to come, further securing our mission of forming generous, holy priests for service in the Church and the world.”
Canon John J. Flattery Library Endowment Fund
Father Flattery’s generous support of the Josephinum began during his lifetime in 2011 with the establishment of the Canon John J. Flattery Library Endowment Fund. The investment earnings of the fund support the A.T. Wehrle Memorial Library’s acquisition of books and other printed materials, subscriptions to scholarly full-text databases, collections of eBooks, electronic journals, and media to support the formation program of the seminary.
Upon Father Flattery’s death in 2019, the Josephinum received the news that the seminary would receive multiple distributions from his estate. The first distribution not only brought the library endowment to $1 million but included an additional unrestricted six-figure gift. Subsequent distributions of unrestricted funds, also substantial, have since been received, bringing Father Flattery’s total gift to $1.6 million.
“Father Flattery’s generosity strengthens the Josephinum’s outstanding library and ensures that the quality and depth of library resources required by today’s seminarians and faculty will be funded on an annual basis in perpetuity,” said Mr. Peter Veracka, long-time Director of Library Services.
Early Life, Priesthood and Military Chaplaincy
Born in 1930 in Danville, Illinois, John Flattery arrived at the Josephinum as a high school student in 1943, following in the footsteps of his uncle, Father Frank Faulstich, a 1932 Josephinum alumnus. Father Flattery and his classmates were ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Amleto Cicognani, apostolic delegate to the United States, on June 4, 1955. Decades later, at his 60th jubilee celebration, Father Flattery would recall that day with perfect clarity: “I still remember the call of my name to which I answered Adsum (present), the hard terrazzo floor of the chapel of Saint Turibius as we lay prone on the floor as the Litany of the Saints was chanted, the sacramental imposition of hands, the melodious Latin of Archbishop Cicognani as he prayed over us and invoked God’s blessing on our priesthood.”
Soon after his ordination, Father Flattery responded to a call to the military chaplaincy. He entered the U.S. Air Force in 1960 with the rank of captain and – after 28 years of service in Morocco, Taiwan, Turkey, the Philippines, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Rantoul – retired with the rank of colonel. He was a member of the USAF chaplain board, served in the Office of the Command Chaplain, and was awarded both the Air Force’s Meritorious Service Medal and its Commendation Medal. While serving in Turkey, he was given the ecclesiastical title Canon by the Archbishop of Izmir.
An avid scholar and believer in life-long learning, Father Flattery earned a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Illinois in 1970 and a Master of Divinity from the Josephinum in 1974. In 1975, he received a doctorate in education from Boston University. After completion of his doctoral studies he was assigned to the USAF Chaplain Board at Air University.
After two years of teaching in Florida, Canon Flattery returned to parish ministry in Danville. He retired from active ministry in 1995 but continued to assist at parishes and remain active in the community.
Dedication to the Josephinum
From the day of his ordination, Canon Flattery never lost touch with his alma mater. In addition to serving as President of the Josephinum Alumni Association in the 1990s, he was a welcome and frequent visitor, especially for Quinquennial reunions.
Mr. Veracka met Canon Flattery soon after arriving at the Josephinum as college librarian in the 1970s. “He visited us every few years and would drop by the library to see Msgr. Anthony Kleinschmidt and chat about his time at the Josephinum and his work as an Air Force chaplain,” he said. “In between these visits, he would stay in touch with many faculty and staff through email and written correspondence.”
Father Flattery was “eternally grateful” for the education he received as a seminarian. “I was blessed with great priest professors and a carefully planned curriculum,” he said. “I have a great love for scripture study in its historical context and was privileged to have had Monsignor Maurice Hofer, whom I consider one of the best and most gifted professors the Josephinum has ever had.”
Monsignor Hofer, a Josephinum alumnus of the Class of 1929, taught at the seminary from 1933-1973. His interest in Old Testament, archeology and philological study instilled in Father Flattery a life-long interest in these subjects, which was heightened by his Air Force service in Turkey. “The location and the availability of easy travel to nearby historic cities and regions of the ancient and Christian world allowed him to deepen his study of history and its importance to biblical studies, Christianity and contemporary culture,” said Mr. Veracka. “Canon Flattery’s personal motto Vae mihi si non historiavero (woe to me if I do not know the truth of history) defines and expresses the purpose of his gift to the Josephinum – to encourage the study of history through books and other educational materials.”
Reverend Canon John Flattery died on January 17, 2019, at the age of 88. Sixty-five of those years were lived in service to the Church around the world, through “the glory of grace” that he called the priesthood.
“Canon Flattery’s life of priesthood and military service witnesses the reality that alumni go forth from the Josephinum to touch the lives of thousands of people in the United States and around the world,” said Father Beseau. “The legacy Father Flattery has left the Josephinum will impact every generation of future seminarians, enriching their formation for ministry to the countless people they will serve. That is the extraordinary difference one gift – one person – can make.”
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