John Clarke L’Heureux was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on October 26, 1934, the second son of Wilfred Joseph L’Heureux, a civil engineer, and his wife Mildred (Clarke) L’Heureux. While attending local schools, he began to write, mainly poetry. Upon graduating from high school, he spent a summer at the National Academy of Theatre Arts before entering Holy Cross College. In 1954, at the end of his sophomore year, he decided “on the grounds of coldest reason” to enter the Society of Jesus because it was “the best and most generous thing” he could do with his life. He began his ascetical training at Shadowbrook, the Jesuit novitiate, in Lenox, Massachusetts, but when it burned down, he was sent to Wernersville, Pennsylvania, where he took his perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in July of 1956.
In the course of his Jesuit training he earned a licentiate in philosophy from Weston College in Massachusetts in 1959 and a licentiate in theology from Woodstock College in Maryland in 1967. He was ordained “a priest forever” on June 11, 1966. By this time his collections of poetry had begun to be published, starting with Quick as Dandelions in 1964. After the completion of his theological studies he began work for a doctorate in English at Harvard University, but, seeing himself as primarily a creative writer, he left with his master’s degree in 1968. While working as an editor for The Atlantic Monthly, he...
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