Fr. John F. ("Sam") Killeen, S.J. (1923-2000)
Former Professor of Economics at Loyola Marymount University and a Jesuit for 57 years and a priest for 44 years.
John Francis Killeen was born in San Francisco, where he attended St. Ignatius High School. Upon graduation in 1941, he attended the University of San Francisco for two years. He entered the Society at Los Gatos, California on August 14, 1943. After completing Philosophy studies at Mount St. Michael's, Spokane, Washington, and a Master's degree in Economics from Gonzaga University, he was assigned to teach Economics and Philosophy at the University of San Francisco.
Following Theology studies at Alma College (1953-1957), ordination (San Francisco, June15, 1956), and Tertianship at Port Townsend, he earned a Doctorate in Economics from Georgetown University in 1962. His dissertation, a case study of the National Coal Policy Conference, showed how labor unions and producers, by working cooperatively, could achieve their goals harmoniously. Sam spent the remainder of his life and apostolate at Loyola Marymount University, where he was Professor of Economics and long-time Department chair until his retirement from full-time teaching in 1995. His area of interest was the relationship between economics and ethics, particularly with the social teaching of the Church. From 1995 until this year he served as Adjunct Professor of Economics as well as Treasurer of the LMU Jesuit Community.
At one time he served as Moderator of Athletics. He was also very active as a counselor and spiritual director to many Religious in the area.
Many have wondered from time to time how John Francis became universally know as "Sam." According to a classmate, when he was studying German in the Juniorate under Father Reinhold Doerge, John consistently mispronounced the word "langsam," giving the second syllable a broad A sound. Thus he became known as Sam, and the name stuck.
Sam was an avid fisherman, spending summers in the northern sierras subbing for the local pastors, saving souls and sacrificing fish. He also had a wry sense of humor. He once summed up his teaching career by remarking "When I began teaching in the Fall of 1962, the economy was a mess; years later, it is still in trouble in spite of my thirty years of teaching." Sam was known as a very kind person. He was beloved for his generous priestly service to many communities of religious women and for his brotherly care for his fellow Jesuits.
Sam died at Daniel Freeman Hospital, Los Angeles, on October 19, 2000. He was 77 years old, a Jesuit for 57 years, and a priest for 44 years.
Homily by Fr. Tom Higgins, S.J., at the Mass of Christian Burial for Sam Killeen
Sacred Heart Chapel, LMU, October 23, 2000
We have come here this evening to do something very difficult, to grieve together, to support one another, to show by our presence the love, esteem, and respect we had for Sam. We are here to be consoled by the word of God, and finally to bid farewell. These are sorrowful human rituals, as old as the human race, a way of trying to ease the burden of the heart in the face of death.
We are also here to celebrate and give thanks for Sam and his life in Christ. To avoid getting teary and sentimental I thought I would roast John Killeen, or Sam, as we called him. The problem is that Sam had no defects. Although Sam was the worst dressed person in the community. His golf shirt didn't reach his pants, and had cigar holes and rust stains. And his nose was always running.
Was Jesus his way, his truth, his life? Did he act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with his God? Was he a man for others, did he see God in all things? Did he put on Christ, did he fully enter the mystery of Christ's passion, death and resurrection? Did he have sophrosune?
About a month ago I asked a friend, "Who in the community is holy?" He said, "Sam." Last week I asked him what about Sam bothered him. He said he was too damned good. Sam was the most loved person in the community. You just had to like him, to love him. To know him was to love him. To be known by him was to be loved by him.
I've asked several Jesuits why he was so loved. One broke down and ran out the door. He was so even tempered. He never said what was really on his mind. He thought of others rather than himself. He was a great laugher, funny, and a great tease. He was a lover.
We have a group that has an on-going seminar on Notre Dame football. When they would start in, he would just look at his watch.
A couple of months ago I verbally beat up one of the brethren at table (in a very loving way!) The next day Sam told me I was too hard and should have backed off. I tried to explain how when you have someone on the ropes you finish him off. Talk about kinder, gentler.
"Tom, if it wasn't for you and me, the church world would be in real trouble." We both worked at parishes during the summer … Quincy, … Las Vegas.
He knew a few words in many languages, and probably mispronounced a lot of them. So I always acted like he was a brilliant linguist who could communicate with anyone.
He loved to read Louis Lamour, Dick Francis, biographies, and loved to listen to the Prairie Home Companion.
He really enjoyed life, a gift. When I went to visit him in the hospital he was hilariously entertaining.
He used to whisper when he talked, as if what he was saying was very secret or extremely profound. It was just a way he got others to listen, a technique badly needed in our community.
As a teacher, he'd tell a student, "You're a bum and you'll never amount to anything if you don't start studying." When he would make a mistake in class he'd look at the board, "just wanted to see if you were paying attention."
I think Sam presided over life by welcoming, accepting and encouraging others. I always felt good just being around him.
He loved his students, the sisters he served, his parishioners, and (even) his Jesuit brothers. He had the virtues of the Irish … charm, with depth and brilliance, and none of the defects, blarney.
He was one of the few San Franciscans who truly embraced Los Angeles. He never took himself too seriously, but he always took others seriously. He was our hero and we will miss him dearly.