Fr. John Allyn Melloh, of the Society of Mary, (Marianists) died on December 30/31 in Florida while visiting his family. John was 71.
John was my homiletics teacher. He also taught us how to celebrate all of the sacraments. John taught me in six classes in both the Masters of Divinity program and Masters in Liturgical Studies program at the University of Notre Dame. I learned a great deal from John but more importantly I still carry those insights with me into every homily and into many pastoral situations even after more than thirty-five years.
I first met John in my undergraduate years at Notre Dame (1974-78) because I was involved with liturgy planning at Sacred Heart Church (now the Basilica). I will never forget my first class with John after the novitiate in the MDiv program (1979-82). We gathered in one of the classrooms at Moreau Seminary on the ground level. John had various scripture passages typed on white paper turned upside down on a table. We were to grab one of the sheets of paper and read the text. I retrieved a passage from Paul and began reading “I am astonished…” John rose to his feet and tried to get me to put some energy into the words. He then went over to the window, unlocked it, opened it and climbed out of the window onto the yard of the seminary. He screamed out, “Ron, I want you to read it so I can hear it from here!” By this time my classmates were hysterical with laughter. He then gave the class the assignment for the week to make me really angry so that I would learn Paul’s anger and then read the passage with a new voice the following week. So the following week, we gathered back into that classroom and I stood up in front of the class and belted out the text and John and the entire class rose to their feet in a round of applause and laughter.
In my third and last year in the MDiv program, John took me aside one day and said to me, “Ron, do you realize that you do not learn from books? You learn from your experience.” I looked at him in shock after I had spent seven years at Notre Dame at that point and no one had ever told me that before. I look back on that chat with John and it really saved my pastoral life. Now I write about the insights I carry with me from my experiences, connecting them to the gospels and other people’s lives, poverty and brokenness. This is the process of faith for me, to delve into the richness of human life. This is where the gospel finds a home in me. Thank you, John.
I also remember going to the first day of one of the classes that was assigned to a dingy room in the Administration Building. We were assigned to the fourth floor and at that time the entire level was nearly condemned. The classroom was very bleak. The class was assembled and John walked in the dark room and said, “This room needs sherry and cheese!” So a classmate and myself decided to create a party for the following class. We persuaded a security guard to let us in the classroom before the next session. We brought silver trays with cheese and crackers, bottles of sherry, mood lighting and white linens. John loved it!
While I was on a leave from priesthood twenty years ago, John called me on the phone. He was very persistent that I should not leave the priesthood. He told me that my voice needed to be heard and that my gifts needed to be within the ministry that had so formed me until that point. John was the only teacher who contacted me in that year. I will never forget that phone call.
John, teacher and friend, rest now in the eternal peace about which you taught so many to preach and the mercy in Christ Jesus you named for all of our lives.