By MIKE ZINN     7/21/2022

This is the first in a series that looks at living life to its fullest post-retirement. Whether it’s adopting new hobbies or continuing one’s education, OC Catholic aims to highlight those within our Diocese of Orange who see retirement as the next exciting chapter in life. This first installment is dedicated to Father John Block who passed away in June after a brief illness.

Throughout modern history, many people have anxiously awaited a point in their lives when traditional retirement age was fast approaching. That day when work colleagues celebrate them with a sheet cake and their boss thanks them for years of service. The only thing left is to pack up a box of memorabilia and head off into the sunset – into the golden years.

Perhaps there is a different plan! Perhaps, instead of following society’s expectation for hitting the age of 65 and fading into the background, we follow God’s plan. God has given each one of us special gifts. Most people never realize or maximize those gifts in their lifetime. The time to maximize these gifts is not only when we are young, not only when are courting our wife to-be and not only when we are preparing for a job promotion. It is about maximizing God’s gifts throughout our lifetime.

There is no one in the Diocese of Orange that exemplified the mantra of living life to the fullest more than Fr. John Block.

Fr. John passed away on Tuesday, June 21 after a brief illness. He was a retired priest in residence at Santiago de Compostela Parish in Lake Forest. However, don’t be fooled by this title – Fr. John did not embrace the concept of traditional retirement, in any sense of the word.

Fr. John was born on July 16, 1936, in Louisville, Kentucky. He attended college first at Bellarmine College in Louisville and later at the University of Detroit. It was his schooling at the University of Detroit which gave the first clue into Fr. John’s vast academic interests. While there, he studied engineering and his curriculum involved both classroom studies and practical work application. In 1958, Father John began his studies for the Sacred Priesthood at St. Bernard Seminary, in Rochester New York. After completing his course work in 1960, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy. Fr. John continued his studies at the Georgian University in Rome and was ordained in Rome at Christ the King Church in 1964. Fr. John’s travels brought him back to the states and he began a lengthy career in Florida. From 1964 to 1997, Fr. John faithfully served in various roles in the Archdiocese of Miami and later the Diocese of Palm Beach.

Beginning in the 1970s, Fr. John began his journey into later in life activities and continued to pursue lifelong learning. These two concepts are the cornerstones of making the most of our time on earth and Fr. John embraced these fully. Throughout the decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s, Fr. John would visit Southern California, specifically Orange County, on vacation. When Fr. John eventually moved to the area, he ministered at several parishes over the years, including Blessed Sacrament Parish, St. Cecilia Parish, St. Bonaventure Parish, and Santiago de Compostela Parish.

When asked about serving at these parishes, Father John remarked with his usual modesty, “I am honored just to help out where I can.”

Fr. John took on each assignment with zeal and respect. When serving God and his parishioners, no task was too small. Although there were no formal names for all the activities and learning Fr. John took on, he was unknowingly a pioneer in the movements of later in life activities and lifelong learning.

When asked why he pursued such activities, he replied, “I have always enjoyed the process of learning and involving myself in new experiences.”

During his time in Orange County, Fr. John discovered boogie boarding. The exact date that Fr. John started the sport of boogie boarding is unknown. We do know that in his late 60s, he could be seen leaving the rectory at St. Cecilia and heading for Huntington Beach with his board. Fr. John constantly prepared for his rigorous hobby by walking the streets of Tustin, wearing his team-favorite Green Bay Packers jacket. The passion for lifelong learning continued during his time in Orange County, with courses at California State University, Long Beach. Again, not for the faint of heart, Fr. John took challenging advanced courses in subjects such as upper-level calculus and math analysis.

On Tuesday, June 21, our Lord took Fr. John to join him in Heaven. He will be remembered as a man of God, priest, scholar, lifelong learner and lover of the ocean. The Diocese of Orange and the world is a much better place for the service and life lessons left by Fr. John.