Never one to give in, the Rev. John (Jack) Creagh, MHM ’72, set his sights on Saint Ignatius High School—despite being told by his middle-school principal that he’d never be admitted—and walked through its doors in 1968 as a freshman. Steadfast resolve, as well as passion for serving others, has proven to be the mantras by which he has lived since.
“Very few of my classmates from 1960s-era Middleburg Heights went to Saint Ignatius. It was rather far away and people attended the Catholic high schools closer to home. But the school’s reputation drew me. I was determined to go,” says Fr. Jack. Little did he realize his journey to urban Cuyahoga County for high school foreshadowed his future calling.
“After receiving bachelor’s degrees in political science and history at Case Western Reserve University, I decided on more education,” says Fr. Jack. “I left for the University of Chicago and earned a master’s in international relations with an emphasis on human rights.” A variety of experiences during this time inspired psychological and spiritual changes for Fr. Jack. While living in the university chaplaincy in Chicago, he contemplated seminary and ended up in formation at the Mill Hill Missionaries in London. In July 1983, he was ordained in Cleveland, at St. Bartholomew, his home parish, by then-Bishop Anthony Pilla.
“Members of Mill Hill Missionaries, by vocation, share our spirituality away from our own countries and cultures. The Mill Hill Missionaries, founded in the U.K., ventured to America in the late 1800s to integrate churches and incorporate freed slaves as priests,” Jack explained. “I did most of my work in Kenya and Uganda. After 1 1/2 years in inner-London parishes, I was assigned to the Nakru Diocese in Kenya followed by several years at Longisa Parish. Longisa was 90 kilometers from paved roads and had no water or electricity.”
Fast forward to the present and you will find Fr. Jack back in London, where it all began. Today he is a hospital chaplain and counselor in West London. “I came back from Africa for my ageing parents who passed away in 2014 and 2016. On trips to Cleveland to see my parents, I reconnected with my class of ’72. An email chain they set up, 724U, has been very significant for me in terms of comradeship, prayer, and support. This reminds me that it’s always about Saint Ignatius.”
Reconnecting compelled Fr. Jack to bequeath a portion of a trust to the Fr. Thomas Gafney, S.J. ’50 Mission Trip Program. About his gift, Fr. Jack says, “A legacy, no matter how small, benefits the good people who work and study here and impacts the young people of today. While arranging my mother’s funeral, I met a graduate who said that attending Saint Ignatius was the most important thing that had ever happened to him. That was a significant statement.”
Fr. Jack’s very generous gift makes a significant statement as well. It will allow untold numbers of young men to travel abroad on mission trips so that they can have formative experiences in places that aren’t home—and walk, for a short time, in the footsteps of a seasoned alumnus.