John D. McAnulty dies at 88; Jesuit priest founded retreat for Catholic clergy in L.A.

Jesuit Father John D. McAnulty, who founded a retreat center in Los Angeles for Catholic priests and served as its director for more than 25 years, has died. He was 88.

McAnulty died Saturday at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, Calif., after a lengthy chronic illness, the California Jesuit provincial office announced.

After McAnulty suggested starting a ministry dedicated to priests, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles opened the center in 1975. It is named the Cardinal Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priests, in honor of the archbishop who helped McAnulty establish it.

The center provides a sanctuary for priests, who are encouraged to get away to pray, confer with spiritual directors and share their lives and concerns with other priests.


In a statement released after McAnulty’s death, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said, “The deepening of the spiritual lives of the priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the result of the prayer and the constant spiritual work of Father John McAnulty.

“We are blessed today to have one of a handful of houses of prayer for priests across this country,” Mahony said.

The original hillside retreat was set up on Waverly Drive in Los Feliz amid a complex of opulent buildings completed in the late 1920s as a family home for Earle C. Anthony, a Packard dealer who helped create the city’s car culture. A retreat for the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is also on the property.

The priests’ retreat started out in one building but was expanded in 1995 to include three chapels and 22 private rooms where priests can stay.


McAnulty served as the center’s director, leading seminars and providing counseling, until 2002.

The Rev. Jack Stoeger, the center’s current director, called McAnulty “a very gentle, humble, selfless man” and added: “What he started here continues with great vibrancy.”

The son of a real estate agent, John Daniel McAnulty was born Jan. 31, 1921, in St. Paul, Minn. As a young child, he moved to Los Angeles. He graduated in 1940 from what is now Glendale Community College and attended UCLA for two years.

During World War II, he was a production planner for the Douglas Aircraft Co., then served in the Army from 1944 to 1946.


After leaving the military, he entered the Jesuit order in Los Gatos and studied the classics for four years. At Gonzaga University, he concentrated on philosophy and economics, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1952 and a master’s in 1953.

He also studied theology for four years at Alma College, a Jesuit seminary in Los Gatos. In 1957, McAnulty was ordained a priest.

Over the next two decades, he held several positions with the Jesuits, including serving as spiritual director for seminarians in the mid-1960s at Loyola Marymount University. He also was director of novices at the Jesuit Novitiate in Santa Barbara from 1967 to 1971.

“He certainly had an influence on the Jesuits, especially as a retreat director and spiritual guide,” said Brother Daniel J. Peterson, a Jesuit archivist. “What he did was kind of hidden work since most of it was one-on-one counseling.”


McAnulty is survived by a sister, Stella Le Pez, of Laguna Hills.

Mahony will preside over a funeral Mass at 9:30 a.m. April 17 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.