Br. Olney died on 17 October at Rene Goupil House. He was in his 82nd year and had been a Jesuit for 65 years. During the pandemic in 2020, John, debilitated by the corona virus, ended up in the hospital, peacefully awaiting death. That he survived another year and half is counted as a miracle, given the severe deterioration of his lungs.
John was born in Montreal, son of Ernest Olney and Mary Mullins. He entered the Society at Guelph on 7 September, 1956, as a brother postulant. First vows took place on 12 March, 1959 and juniorate followed at St. Stanislaus Novitiate, Florissant, near St. Louis, Missouri. While there John was trained in fundamental medical care in preparation for a possible posting as infirmarian in the Upper Canada Province. But on his return to Canada in 1961, due to his organizational skills, he was missioned to the Jesuit Curia in Rome where he ran the large post office for one year.
On John’s return to Canada in 1962 he was appointed the infirmarian at Regis College, Willowdale. For nearly 20 years he served in that position in three locations. During that time he did tertianship in 1969 in Detroit. Because of the impending move of Regis College to downtown Toronto, in 1976 the infirmary moved into a complex at St. Catharines, Ontario. Four years later it moved to a new building in Pickering, Ontario. In 1980 John was appointed Minister at Regis College, although he lived for a while at Pickering to continue setting up the new infirmary. In 1983 he moved into Arrupe House on Isabella Street. While there, he also continued to be a health consultant, and began custodial and janitorial work at Regis College on St. Mary’s Street. During that time John was involved in coordinating the ordination liturgies.
In 1990 John moved to 2 Dale Avenue to take on the role as their Minister while retaining that same job in the Regis Community, also adding a treasurer’s role to his portfolio. Seven years later he returned to Isabella Street, still Minister and community treasurer. His long service to the college was recognized when he was awarded an honorary doctorate. John’s extensive and fruitful career in Toronto ended in 2017 when he moved to Rene Goupil House, Pickering.
An appreciation of the coadjutor brother way of life was evident in John, even though many years were unchanging in daily work and concerns. For most of his life he was assigned as minister and treasurer to large residences, which demanded a clear mind, a strong constitution and a meticulous sense of what was necessary for each community. His heart and energy were dedicated to the service of the community and he enjoyed the friendship and support of many in the Province.
John was rather relieved when he found himself in a smaller community in later life before his retirement to Pickering. He was on the house consultation while at Rene Goupil House, which acknowledged his long experience of infirmary life. For many years John was the Jesuit liaison to the Rosar-Morrison Funeral establishment and he developed enduring friendships with their staff.