By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published December 22, 2016
LAWRENCEVILLE—An Army veteran and engineer, Father John C. DeVore answered the call to the priesthood later in life.
Father DeVore, a priest of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, died Nov. 22. He was 91.
At his Dec. 2 funeral Mass, the priest was remembered for his unfailing kindness, gentleness and sense of humor in all circumstances.
Archbishop Wilton. D. Gregory celebrated the Mass at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville, where Father DeVore served as parochial vicar, administrator and as its pastor. Father Augustine Tharappel, former vice provincial of the USA MSFS, was homilist for the Mass.
Father Tharappel thanked all for coming to celebrate the Eucharist for Father DeVore.
“John was a dear friend. We worked together for 20 years,” he said.
In recent years, the Fransalian congregation worked to form more communities in the United States. Father DeVore was always unassuming and humble when offering ideas and discussing possibilities, said Father Tharappel.
“John had simple and pure wisdom to share,” he said.
Father Tharappel recounted the times his brother priest answered the call in formation as a priest, in being ordained, and the many times he said yes since becoming a priest.
He described Father DeVore as a just man, one who was reconciled and in communion with God.
“John did not have to practice virtue. Virtue had taken over him,” he said.
Just after meeting for the first time, the two priests were in a grocery store together.
“He picked up one item and looked at the price, then he picked up another item and looked at the price, and he took another out and the same. And then, he was talking to himself,” remembered Father Tharappel. “And, finally he ended up picking the one that was less expensive.”
Father DeVore went through this process for each item purchased.
“He was looking and weighing the price. You know, he was a frugal man,” he said. “His vow of poverty had grown inside of him. Poverty was important.”
Living with intention was important as well, he noted.
“That’s how I saw him many times in shopping or whatever the situation was, making choices that reflected gratitude for the gifts that were there,” said Father Tharappel. “In that simplicity, in that poverty, he found joy.”
Father DeVore’s joy was expressed with a constant smile and desire to make others laugh.
“He had a wonderful sense of humor,” said the priest. “And his simplicity came even in his jokes.”
Many times Father DeVore would begin telling a joke, and halfway through would say, “Oh, I forgot the point I was trying to make.”
“And that was the joke within the joke,” said Father Tharappel.
His obedience and loyalty were important qualities. Father Tharappel was his superior for 16 years and said Father DeVore shared opinions, but always accepted decisions.
“He was loyal to the church. He was loyal to the liturgical practices,” he said. “Father John, we thank you. You have been a blessing to us … to your family, to your religious order, and to the church, and especially the church here in Atlanta.”
Engineer becomes priest
Father DeVore, son of the late Ulysses and Mae DeVore, was born in Detroit in 1925. His family soon moved to Chicago. The priest’s father died when he was young and a grandmother helped raise him. His older brother, Robert, was a permanent deacon in the church.
At the age of 17, DeVore was inducted into the U.S. Army Infantry Division. He began service in Europe in April 1945 and was honorably discharged in 1946.
After World War II, he attended St. Ambrose College in Iowa, and then earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois.
He worked as an electrical engineer for many years, eventually moving to Norcross to accept a position as managing editor of Industrial Engineering, a trade magazine.
DeVore joined St. Patrick Church and was active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society. During this time, he encountered Father Ken Bayer, a Missionary of St. Francis de Sales, and found himself considering the priesthood.
At 55, DeVore felt his age was a problem. Father Bayer assured him otherwise.
His study included a year of novitiate in England and three and a half years of theology and philosophy at Oblate College in Washington, D.C.
On Jan. 24, 1986, the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, DeVore was ordained a priest for the order at St. Patrick Church at the age of 60. The bishop presiding at the ordination was Auxiliary Bishop Eugene Marino, SSJ, of Washington, D.C., later archbishop of Atlanta. Father DeVore met the bishop while living in the residence of the Josephite Fathers in Washington.
In addition to his service at St. Lawrence, Father DeVore was parochial vicar at St. Patrick as well as parish administrator. Father DeVore also served as treasurer of Villa Luyet, a Fransalian house of spirituality in Snellville.
Father Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, the newly installed vice provincial of the USA vice province, read a letter of condolence from the order’s superior general, Father Abraham Vettuyelil.
The letter described a priest “who radiated the spirit of St. Francis de Sales.”
“He had a sense of humor, which was willing to be shared with all of us,” read the letter.
The superior general said even when Father DeVore was in a nursing home he continued to send Christmas cards to him in Italy.
Joy at seeing Cubs win World Series
Father Joseph Mullakkara, parochial vicar of St. Benedict Church in Johns Creek, provided words of comfort to Father DeVore’s surviving nephews and niece, Robert DeVore Jr., Joseph and Lawrence DeVore and Patricia Grove.
“Be proud of your uncle. He was a good man,” said Father Mullakkara. “Keep the flag of faith flying.”
Father Mullakkara said the priest planned his own funeral four years ago.
“But due to the care and love of the Fransalian community and the Fransalian friends, John lived for four more years to see the Chicago Cubs,” he said referring to their 2016 World Series win. “Father John was very proud of the Cubs becoming the champions. He had a great love for that.”
A photo of Father DeVore in his hospital bed, wearing a broad smile and a Cubs cap, was displayed in the narthex.
Bill and Eleanor Lashley, lectors at the funeral Mass, were among volunteers who cared for Father DeVore in his final years.
The Lashleys helped the priest make medical decisions for the last two years. He suffered from a debilitating blood pressure disorder.
The couple would find ways for him to minister. Whenever they departed, “he would give us a pilgrim’s blessing,” she said.
“When you think of Father John, you see a godly priest filled with great humor, faith, gentleness and humility,” she said.
Lashley would watch Father DeVore during Mass at Garden Plaza in Lawrenceville as he concelebrated in his wheelchair along with Father Ted Williams.
“At the consecration, he would raise a frail and shaky hand, a telling sign of his physical weakness, but if you looked at his eyes, you experienced a different kind of strength,” she said.
She said the priest kept his dry humor in difficult times.
“No matter how ill and weak he became, no matter what indignity he suffered, instead of complaint, you got a twinkle in his eye and a priceless wit,” she said.
She never heard him grumble about health problems.
“This was an amazing side of Father’s nature, and it made caring for him a gift,” said Lashley.
Blessed are the meek is a beatitude that Lashley is reminded of when thinking of Father DeVore.
“He required little. And he asked for nothing,” she said.
His kindness toward others made him a favorite among staff caregivers.
“Like a true apostle, even in infirmity, he drew people close to him by his Christlike manner,” she said. “His Christlike example and unique light never dimmed and the lessons we learned from him will never be extinguished.”