When life gets hectic there’s morning prayer

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, October 9, 2011

Father Dan Whiteside has been pastor of St. Catherine of Siena-St Lucy Parish in Oak Park for 11 years. (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Daniel Whiteside, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy Parish in Oak Park. Ordained at Mundelein in 1992.

Youth: Grew up in St. James Parish in Arlington Heights and went to St. Viator High School. Has two brothers and one sister. “In my grade school years we lived in Cleveland for over a year and then Philadelphia for a year or two. Dad worked for Equitable Life Insurance. We eventually came back to Arlington Heights. My folks grew up in Chicago and wanted to be back near family roots. Family was the center of our lives.

“I went to Marquette University for a year and a half, not knowing what I wanted to do. I came home and a friend got me a job at the Chicago Board of Trade. It was a fascinating world. I loved it. I could also go to night school at Harper College. ”

Turning point: “One day there was a blurb in St. James bulletin that they needed volunteers to help with the Uptown Shelter for an evening. I volunteered and that was when I began thinking, ‘What are you doing with your life?’ I can still picture sitting up all that night thinking about it. I began to be filled with gratitude for my upbringing and all the things I’d been given. It was a huge moment. Later on I began thinking of priesthood.

“I contacted St. James. Spoke with Father John Hoffman. He told me I could finish my degree at Niles College and discern priesthood at the same time. It all fell into place.”

Prayer life: He’s been at St. Catherine-St. Lucy Parish almost 12 years. Isn’t being pastor sometimes like being back at the Board of Trade? “It can seem like that. You’re constantly chasing dollars, fundraising, and asking people can they put more into the offertory basket.

“Each morning I have to start out with prayer — the Liturgy of the Hours and the Office of Readings. Sometimes they may take me in another direction as well. I approach my morning prayer as time with God — moving toward meditation — quiet time with a lot of listening.

“Each year I rent a place with some other priests and we make our own retreat. That’s been very beneficial.”

Day to day: “We have retired pastor emeritus, Father John Carolan living here. He’s wonderful — 86 going on 60. Not only his experience of priesthood but he knows the people and the place. It’s great for me to have him and the people love him. It’s an easy place to be, with Anglo, African-American, various Asian and some Hispanic people — typical Oak Park.”

Leisure: “On my day off I have to read, and then get in a good bike ride. I just finished ‘Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,’ a new biography by Eric Metaxas. A parishioner suggested the book to me and it was a fascinating read. I also read a lot of fiction for escape. One recently was: ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers,’ by Paolo Giordano.

“Yes I can cook.” Self-taught and daring.

Favorite saint: “What I’ve tended to do is get into the patron saint in different parishes wherever I’ve been. There’s a lot to learn about Catherine of Siena. And Lucy — she’s very different and their times are different.”

Scripture: “I’ve gotten a lot of prayer mileage out of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Yes, it’s my experience in Uptown, but about six years ago I did go up to Guest House [addiction recovery center]. Not afraid to say it.

“The Good Samaritan became a passage I use an awful lot and relate to. Often we look at it from the perspective of being the good Samaritan, but what I’ve used it for was to be the person in the ditch who is helped. That also becomes a great image in ministry. We all feel so grateful for God’s mercy.”