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August 14, 2011

A priest author, talk show host and kayaker

By Dolores Madlener

STAFF WRITER

Interviewee

Father Tom Koys, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Brighton Park, wrote "The Ashes that Still Remain," drawing similarities between the Dred Scott decision and Roe vs. Wade. Julie Jaidinger / Catholic New World

He is: Father Thomas Koys, 54, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in the Brighton Park neighborhood. Alum of Quigley South and Niles Seminary. Earned a master’s in philosophy from Catholic University of America on a Basselin scholarship, and a master’s in sacred theology from University of St. Mary of the Lake. Ordained in 1985.

Growing up: “My parents grew up in Chicago, but business brought my dad and mom to the West Coast, so four of us were born in California. Dad was an electrical engineer and work brought him back to Chicago. There are seven of us kids. I went to St. Mary’s School here in Riverside.”

Youth: “I enjoyed playing basket ball, hockey, soccer, baseball, softball, and tennis later on. Yes, I was an altar boy.” He says his vocation was nudged by the sisters in school, two priest uncles, and the pastor at St. Mary’s, Father John Brown.

His pro-life commitment: He authored a 200-page book, “The Ashes that Still Remain,” in 2002 on the similarities between the historic movement for the abolition of slavery and today’s pro-life movement for repeal of abortion on demand. It’s still available at amazon.com and CMJ Books, (888) 636-6799.

His voice has been heard over WYLL (1160 AM) for the past year doing “Unlike Other Nations,” a program on American exceptionalism.

“I’d like the United States to be a leader in the world and maintain its greatness, but as a believer, I realize greatness and leadership come with responsibilities. We have to be faithful to God to achieve that.
“The title comes from 1 Samuel Chapter 8, where the Israelites clamor for a king so they can be ‘like other nations.’ But they are forgetting when God made them a nation, they were to be a nation unlike any other, a ‘people set apart.’

“I’ve also filled in for Father Anthony Bus, pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, on his ‘Winds of Change’ program on WNDZ (750 AM.)”

Has tri-lingual parish: “Although I’m a third generation American Slovak, I can read the Mass prayers in Lithuanian at Immaculate Conception. I speak Spanish; preach, hear confessions and counsel in Spanish. I’ve also spent a few months in Mexico with Father Pablo Straub of EWTN fame. He has a community of brothers and sisters called the Consecrated Ones to the Most Holy Redeemer. Recently I spent a month in Zacualpan, filling in for Father Bob Coleman where he’s pastor of the poorest of the poor in Mexico.”

Leisure: “I like biking, and my favorite kayaking spot is on the Illinois Michigan Canal.” He made the papers in 1997 doing his first 150-mile bike ride to raise money for MS research when his brother John was first stricken.
“This year I did half the MS bike marathon called ‘Tour de Farms’ that  starts in DeKalb.” He also paints. “I’ve done a number of oil paintings — nature and religious images. I’ve sold some. I studied art a little at Quigley, a little at Loyola and the rest is self-taught.” 

Another hobby: “I enjoy reading Mexican history. The Mexican revolutions in the 1800s and the 1900s sowed tremendous anti-Catholic seeds. The government took over Catholic hospitals, schools, churches, and sold them to pay for the revolution effort.

“There’s a lesson for us and today’s immigrants, to see how a government that’s anti-religion, with an appetite to take and squander the wealth other people create, is a big reason why Mexico is a failed country in many ways today. One of my pet phrases is, “We don’t need more legal residents here now, what we need are faithful citizens.” I want them to aim higher than a green card -- to citizenship.”

Favorite saints: “I have a whole bucket of favorites. Blessed John Paul II is one of my great heroes; I shook his hand in Denver at World Youth Day. I love G.K. Chesterton, although he’s not exactly a saint. I’m a fan of Our Lady of Guadalupe, John Henry Newman, Padre Pio, Isaac Jogues and Kateri Tekakwitha.”