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April 27, 2008

Pray and stay close to the sacraments, retired bishop says

By Michelle Martin


Bishop Timothy Lyne keeps his office in Holy Name Cathedral’s rectory, celebrates Mass at the cathedral daily, offers pastoral guidance to parishioners and, as vicar for senior priests, ministers to the needs of retired clergy members.

Never mind that at 89, he is one of them.

“I always liked being a priest,” Bishop Lyne said. “And since I always liked being a priest, I was always happy.”

Bishop Lyne celebrates 65 years as a priest, and 25 as a bishop, May 1 with a dinner at the Westin River North hotel. The event will be hosted by Cardinal George — the fifth cardinal archbishop he has served — and Father Dan Mayall, the current pastor of Holy Name Cathedral Parish. Mayor Richard M. Daley and his wife, Maggie Daley, are honorary cochairs.

Among the guests will be New York Cardinal Edward Egan, an Oak Park native ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago and one of Bishop Lyne’s former associate pastors at Holy Name.

Not bad for a boy from the West Side.

Bishop Lyne doesn’t think he’s done badly for himself either as a priest and bishop. “You get to see the inner side of a lot of good people,” he said. “People trust you with the most intimate parts of their lives.”

Longtime friendships

With only three parish assignments in his career — associate pastor at St. Mary, Riverside, for 19 years followed by 3 1/2 years at St. Edmund in Oak Park, before coming to the cathedral parish as an associate pastor in 1965 — Bishop Lyne has had the opportunity to develop and maintain lasting relationships with members of his flock.

Among the longest is with Mary Dempsey, the Chicago Public Library commissioner whose family hails from the same West Side neighborhood as Bishop Lyne’s. Her mother received a blessing from then-Father Lyne on the day of his ordination; the bishop presided at the funeral of her father last year.

Bishop Lyne’s appreciation of people is obvious to those who meet him, Dempsey said.

“He is an excellent priest. He is human, he is holy,” she said.

“There’s a kind of acceptance of people’s human frailties,” Dempsey said in a telephone interview. “He is a very wise judge of human character, but not in a judgmental fashion.”

He also has a way of explaining theological concepts in a manner a child could understand, but still satisfy an intellectual.

“He understands how to make faith comprehensible to the average person.”

WW II and Vatican II

Named a bishop in 1983, Lyne kept his duties as cathedral pastor and served as episcopal vicar for Vicariate II, which takes in much of the north side and near north suburbs. In 1988, he also became vicar for senior priests. He still has that role, although he has retired as pastor and episcopal vicar.

“We have 226 retired priests,” he said. “That’s more than the number of priests any other diocese in Illinois has.”

About 90 live in parishes and help when needed, he said, while about 20 are in the Bishop Lyne Residence in Lemont. Others live in private residences or other retirement or nursing homes.

During his priesthood, the United States and its allies won World War II and soldiers came back to build a new suburban society, African Americans and other minorities fought for their civil rights, the Vietnam War divided America and women began working outside the home in great numbers. The Second Vatican Council made changes to the way Catholics worship and to the way many Catholics understand the church.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” said Bishop Lyne, who saw the cathedral through many changes. Now a thriving parish in a neighborhood that has seen a condo boom, it was once in a neighborhood that could be charitably called seedy.

Bishop Lyne attributes many changes to the status of women in the workplace and the world.

He declines to offer an opinion on whether those changes are good or bad. “It’s reality,” he said. “The most important thing for a pastor is to be a realist and deal with things as they are … In 1982, Cardinal Bernardin asked me to put together a finance council, and I came up with 12 names. And then I realized that not one of them was a woman. There weren’t any women [in the parish] in the top echelon at that time — except for the mayor (Jane Byrne) and she wasn’t available for a committee.”

Now, he said, his list would be about half women and half men.

Bishop Lyne also pointed out the growing proportion of Latinos in the U.S. church, especially in Chicago. A former convent at the cathedral now houses Casa Jesus, a house of discernment for men from Latin America considering the priesthood.

But when he went to Quigley and Mundelein seminaries, Spanish was not on the curriculum. There was Latin, of course — classes at the major seminary were taught in Latin — and Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian and German.

But his advice for young Catholics who want to stay connected to the church has not changed: “Pray and stay close to the sacraments. If you drift away from the sacraments, it’s easy to drift away from the whole thing.”

Staying connected to the wisdom of the church helps people make their own decisions, Bishop Lyne said, rather than looking to their peers, which can cause problems.

“People compare themselves to their peers instead of asking what God expects of me at this stage in my life,” Lyne said.

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Lyne will be honored at a May 1 dinner at the Westin Chicago River North Hotel in recognition of his 65 years as an archdiocesan priest, including 25 years as an auxiliary bishop. All proceeds will benefit the restoration and renovation of the Holy Name Cathedral Parish rectory. Visit