Father Rohan – His Legacy of Love and Learning
When Reverend Father John Rohan passed away at the age of 67 on January 20, 2013, Goodwin College lost a beloved friend, trustee, benefactor, and mentor. And although the physical presence of the man no longer walks the campus, he has – in a gesture indicative of his love for the College – found a way that his spirit of caring remains among us every day: a generous bequest of $25,000 to support the Goodwin College Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund. Through this thoughtful, planned gift, the largest of its kind realized in the College’s short history, Father Rohan has helped to ensure the future of Goodwin and financial support for many deserving students.
Two of his dear friends, Ann Zajchowski, executive assistant to Goodwin College’s president, Mark Scheinberg, and Dr. Maria Ellis, physician at Woodland Women’s Health Associates and chair of the Goodwin College Board of Trustees, met recently to share fond memories and stories about Father Rohan and his vast contribution to others.
Father Rohan grew up in Manchester, Connecticut, where one of his earliest friends was Zajchowski, both communicants of St. James Church. He went on to graduate from St. James School and St. Thomas Seminary before continuing his studies for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure in New York. He was later ordained to the priesthood in 1972.
“Church was without a doubt the center of our lives, and his calling came when he was incredibly young. Many priests east of the River were first generation. They formed lasting friendships,” Zajchowski explained.
Father Rohan was appointed as pastor of a cluster of the East Hartford North Churches: St. Rose, St. Isaac Jogues, and St. Mary’s. Under his leadership, the parishes came together, yet each community maintained its own identity. “He was very devout and had deep religious beliefs. His sermons were always literary and thoughtful. He set an example by being 100 percent committed,” Zajchowski noted.
Ellis, who was raised Episcopalian, often went to listen to Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church. Not being able to receive Communion, she would sit in the back pew. “I became his crusade. The best thing I did for myself was to become a Catholic. He changed my life,” Ellis recalled.
Father Rohan had a profound effect on the Goodwin College community as well. For many years, he served as a trustee and chairman of the Academic Committee. He was also responsible for linking the College with the local Ghanaian community.
“Just as he combined parishes, he was an expert at connecting people. He would stand back and watch it happen. He had a tremendous dedication and love for Goodwin. He was so proud of how the College evolved,” Zajchowski stated.
Father Rohan believed access to quality education was central to alleviating poverty and changing lives. “He resonated with the kind of student we support. He was willing to let you in and guide you just as Goodwin College opens the doors to those who want to make an effort and change their lives,” Zajchowski said.
President Mark Scheinberg often referred to Father Rohan as a “role model and moral compass” who brought positivity and joy into the lives of many. “Father embraced our different and diverse students and saw himself as their spiritual leader. As a trustee, he was a generalist with a broad, diverse knowledge base. He always focused on what was meaningful and would encourage the board to remember the College’s purpose,” President Scheinberg stated.
Father Rohan’s generosity and compassion were evident in all that he did. “You got the sense that he wasn’t looking down on us, but rather opening his arms and reaching out,” Ellis commented. He was always a shoulder to lean on, offering support and empathy in times of need.
One Christmas, Ellis was unable to go home for the holidays due to her work schedule. Feeling homesick, she decided to take Father Rohan’s invitation and attend a Mass he was saying. As the service concluded, he asked the nuns to sing an a cappella version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” “He picked my favorite Christmas hymn even though it was not in the program. That was his Christmas present to me,” Ellis recalled, smiling.
Father Rohan’s legacy is multi-faceted and will live on through Goodwin College and everyone who was made better by knowing him.
In summing up the man who was her friend for so many years and a source of comfort and inspiration to so many, Zajchowski adds, “He was magnetic and dynamic. He enriched our lives and we feel so blessed to have known him.”
By: Hannah Stacy