Retired priest with full resume, still glad to serve

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, June 1, 2014

Father Edward Salmon, resident at St. Giles Parish in Oak Park, poses inside the church on May 17. (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Edward P. Salmon, ordained at Mundelein in 1959. He’ll be retired 10 years July 1. He has spent 28 years of his priesthood in the U.S. Navy Reserves, was Chicago director for the Cursillo Movement, as well as vicar for the deaconate community for 20 years, and served in five parishes. Still in semi-active ministry, he resides and “helps out” at St. Giles Parish, Oak Park.

Early years: “I grew up in St. Mel’s Parish on the West Side, then Quigley and Mundelein.” Both parents were from Ireland. “Dad was from County Mayo, in fact he lived right across from the church in Knock. He grew up hearing all about the apparition and had a great attachment to our Lady. Mother was from the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. They met here.  I have a younger sister.”

Home life and faith: “My dad worked 37 years at a warehouse for McKesson & Robbins, a wholesaler that supplied neighborhood drug stores. I worked with him a couple of summers. I came to realize how hard dad worked in the heat, and learned how much he got paid. It made me more careful with the money he gave me. We never missed Mass on Sunday. The Catholic faith gave their lives meaning and held it all together.

My mother had an uncle a priest in Rockford, a sister who was a BVM nun, and a cousin a priest who would come to visit from South Dakota. I think they influenced my life a great deal. They were good to me, and maybe trying to foster a vocation, but it wasn’t obvious to me.

“Grade school certainly was an influence. We had the Sisters of Providence at St. Mel. I’m so grateful to them, just learning how to read and write! They talked about priesthood. All the sisters planted seeds of a vocation in boys and girls. I had one nun in fourth grade, Sister Winifred Patrice. She was from Ireland and had spent seven years in the missions in China. I still remember the stories she told us that fired a child’s imagination. I told myself, ‘It would be good to go to China,’ but then I found out I could serve right here.”

Cursillo Movement: “I was assigned to St. Francis de Sales in Lake Zurich. In 1965 it was just a country parish, and I was a ‘city’ priest. Another young priest was at St. Anne’s in Barrington. We became friends. He made a Cursillo and said, ‘You’ve got to do what I did. And take a few people with you. It’s something like a retreat.’ So I took three men with me, and when we came home I saw the changes it made in our lives – hope and a vision. So over the next few years we built a dynamic community renewed for Vatican II.

“When the Chicago director moved on he asked me to take his place, and I did for about eight years. Then it was time to let someone else come in with new ideas. But I’ve stayed involved. It was one of the better things I’ve done in my priesthood, because it touched people like nothing else I’d seen. It helped me make sure I prayed every day, helped me learn to pray with others, and how to work with small groups. Two of those groups are still meeting, studying Scripture, praying together, and some social stuff, of course. I’ve given retreats for deacons and their wives in a number of states since I’ve retired.”

Chaplaincy: “I spent 28 years in the Navy Reserves, serving with the navy as well as the marines. I learned a great deal. The navy offered us a lot of opportunity for growth and study we hadn’t had in the seminary. I got to travel to bases in our country and also served in the Philippines. It made me realize how much the military and their families need a priest.”

Vicar for Deacons: He was vicar for the deaconate community for 20 years. “In 1984 I applied and was chosen to work with the deacons for the archdiocese – over 600 of them – their wives and families. I looked on it as my parish that just happened to be spread all over the diocese. It meant being part of the formation program, helping them get ready, trying to place them, then working with them in difficulties they had in their parishes. It  was very rewarding. When I was with the deacons I realized every parish I’d been in as well as Cursillo, and the navy, prepared me for the work.

“I did not become a pastor, because I liked what I was doing. I’d tell my classmates, ‘I’ve got the greatest job in the diocese. I’m dealing with people, working with a fantastic ministry and I don’t have to worry about a budget or the roof leaking, or any other things that drive pastors crazy.’ I came to St. Giles as a resident because the diaconate office was moving into what had been St. Giles Convent. The pastor invited me to stay here and help out. It made sense. When I retired in 2004 I thought, “I’ve been here longer than anywhere in my life. I’m marrying kids now who know me from when they were in grammar school.

Advice: “I’d tell priests ready to retire, There’s nothing to fear. You’ll have more than enough to do. You have choices. Sometimes at the start of retirement priests miss their schedule of things to do. Give it a chance. There’s no more meetings! If you want to travel you don’t have to worry that you have no vacation time coming! If you have nothing else to do – take a nap. I’ve always loved naps, but I couldn’t take them that often.”

Leisure: “I was never good at golf. I swim two or three times a week. If I have the early Mass I’ll walk in the church for 45 minutes afterwards – just me and Jesus, walkin’ and talkin’. I get in touch regularly with friends from the Cursillo and prayer groups. They’ve almost become family. I love to travel. I have lots of first and second cousins in Ireland so I try to go every year. I feel comfortable there and know my way around very well.”

Unfortunately I’m a Cub fan. That’s got to be the greatest penance in life. But I also follow the Bulls and the Bears.”

Favorite Scripture: “Mt 25:40, ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers or sisters, you do unto me.’”


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