On December 20, 1923, Patrick and Mary Richardson welcomed a son into the world. Their boy, John, was born in Dallas, Texas, and ten days later was baptized at Holy Trinity Church, the local Vincentian Parish. His childhood was in the shadow of Holy Trinity Parish, attending elementary school and receiving the Sacraments of Initiation within its boundaries. During his final year of studies at Holy Trinity, Fr. John Richardson made application to attend St. Vincent’s College in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He spent five years completing high school and one year of college at the Cape (1937-1942).

On May 30, 1942, Fr. John entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Mission. During this time, he continued his studies while engaging in a deeper sense of what it meant to be a Vincentian. At the completion of the two-year program, Fr. John made his vows on May 31, 1944, and continued his philosophical and theological studies at St. Mary’s of the Barrens Seminary in Perryville, Missouri. Completing his course of studies, Fr. John was ordained to the diaconate by Archbishop Joseph Ritter on August 14, 1949, and a day later was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Ritter. His first assignment was to continue his studies in Rome, where he earned a License and Doctorate in Theology at the Angelicum University.

Upon his return to the United States, the 27-year-old priest was assigned to Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis. Fr. John taught moral theology and sociology as well as serving as the seminary’s academic dean. While he was in St. Louis, he also attended St. Louis University, where he earned an M.A. in sociology.  Beyond his seminary duties and studies, Fr. John also served as a chaplain for Webster College, the college of the Sisters of Loretto. It seems that all these experiences placed Fr. John on firm footing for the longest assignment of his life at DePaul University.

Fr. Richardson arrived at DePaul in the autumn of 1954, where he became the Dean of Graduate Studies (1954-1960). It was during this time that he began teaching a course in Philosophy of Law in the Law School, forming the minds and consciences of a generation of lawyers. In 1970, Fr. Richardson became the Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculties of the University. It was during this time that the “little school under the L” began its growth spurt into the institution that it had become today. During his time as Dean of Faculties, the College of Education, the School for New Learning, and the Theater School were founded.

The 1960s were an era of turmoil and change whose discontents succeeded the tame 1950s. The Civil Rights Movement, political assassinations, and the protests over America’s involvement in Vietnam brought unrest to campuses across the United States. It was also the era of the Second Vatican Council. It was a time of hope and an opportunity to expand the vision of Catholic higher education in the United States. Fr. Richardson was one of the members of the university administration who oversaw the renovation of the by-laws allowing for a Board of Trustees and Board of Members that was independent of the university’s administration and employees, thus providing a governance that guaranteed the Vincentian mission with academic excellence.

Fr. Richardson was appointed President of DePaul University in 1981. He was the first president to be appointed by the Board of Trustees, rather than the provincial superior. During his administration, Fr. Richardson served on numerous civic and religious boards. He worked with the Archdiocese of Chicago at the request of Cardinal Bernadin to develop policies of labor fairness for archdiocesan institutions. He worked with civic leaders to return Chicago’s downtown to a destination place. It was also during this time that the university bought and developed properties such as the McCormick Theological Seminary (the site of the School of Music) and the old Goldblatt’s building that is now the centerpiece of the downtown campus (DePaul Center). He continued as president until 1993. Upon his retirement as president, Fr. Richardson was named chancellor of the University. This was a job that he particularly enjoyed. He was able to meet with and visit alumni of the university and serve as a good-will ambassador.

In 1997, at the age of 73, Fr. Richardson took a leave of absence and stepped out of his comfort zone and into the Kenya Mission. He served in Kenya from 1997 until 2008 as a seminary professor, teaching theology and sociology once again and importantly serving as a spiritual director and formator for hundreds of Kenyan seminarians from across the country at Christ the King Seminary in Nyeri. Ten years later, he returned home to Chicago. While he went back to his work as chancellor, he was moving a little slower. As his care needs became greater, he eventually moved to the Apostle of Charity Residence at St. Mary’s Seminary in Perryville. There, he enjoyed being with his former classmates from seminary days and sharing stories. It was from the place, where he was ordained in 1949, that he returned to his creator.

Fr. Richardson joins his parents and siblings in heaven, including his brother, Fr. James Richardson, C.M., formerly Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission.

Requiescat in pace!

On Monday, April 4, a reception of the remains will be held at 5 p.m. at Apostle of Charity Residence, Mother of God Chapel in Perryville, Missouri. A wake and vigil service will follow at 7 p.m. On April 5, a funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. at the Mother of God Chapel followed by the Rite of Committal in the Vincentian Community Cemetery. The services will be livestreamed on St. Mary’s of the Barrens’ Facebook page.

Services at St. Vincent de Paul Parish at 1010 W. Webster Ave. are pending.