Slain police commander remembered for his strong faith

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

People line 111th Street in front of St. Christina Church for the funeral procession of slain Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer on Feb. 17. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was raised with a strong Catholic faith. He attended St. Clare of Montefalco School in Gage Park and later St. Ignatius College Prep. 

He and his family were regulars at the twice-a-month police Mass in the chapel at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. They sat in the front row. Grace, the Bauers’ daughter, often served as lector, but the Sunday before Cmdr. Bauer was killed, he stepped in for his daughter, who was not feeling well. 

Bauer often attended daily Mass at his parish, Nativity of Our Lord in Bridgeport, before starting his shift. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus Police Council 12173.

“His faith impacted his family life, decisions he made in life in general certainly. He tempered his actions around what he believed,” said Father Dan Brandt, lead chaplain of the Chicago Police Department. Brandt celebrated Bauer’s funeral Mass on Feb. 17 at Nativity.  

Bauer was gunned down Feb. 13 after chasing a suspect fleeing from police at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

The 31-year police veteran often attended the monthly Bible study and prayer group for police officers, Brandt said. Brandt facilitates but says all of the 25 or so officers who regularly attend participate fully.

“Paul never let us down. He would always have something worthwhile to share — a story or some kind of anecdote about his faith or something that happened at work recently that made him realize that God is alive,” the priest said.  

Bauer also had a sense of humor. Brandt recalled a time last summer when the commander “busted my chops.”

Brandt and some friends were eating dinner outside at Ditka’s restaurant on Chestnut Street in the city’s River North neighborhood, which was in Bauer’s district. Bauer stopped to talk to them while they waited to receive their food. 

“He was out walking the beat. I mention that part of it because it was his humility,” Brandt said. The district commander did not have to walk beats.

Once the group’s food arrived, Bauer excused himself. 

“He starts to walk away and he turned around and he says, ‘By the way, Father Dan, how does that unblessed food taste?’” Brandt said laughing. “I said, ‘Go walk your beat, officer.’ And we stopped and proceeded to pray grace after his not-so-gentle nudge. You asked how did he live his faith? He often reminded others to practice theirs too.”

Bauer’s faith, character and impact came through in the outpouring from city residents and from the tens of thousands who attended the wake and funeral and who lined the procession route to the cemetery, Brandt said. 

Father Michael McGovern, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill Creek, graduated with Bauer from St. Ignatius College Prep. McGovern, who was one of several concelebrants at the funeral Mass, remembers the commander as being “a good young man.”

“The last conversation I had with him at length was the day of Cardinal George’s funeral. He was in his dress uniform standing on the steps of the cathedral. We were just talking and catching up,” recalled McGovern. “Never did I imagine that morning when we were at Cardinal George’s funeral [in 2015] that within three years we would be having this large, Catholic and civic funeral for Paul. You never think something like that will happen.”

During Communion, McGovern was one of three priests who went outside to give the Eucharist to police and the public who could not fit into the church or two overflow areas. He said the entire Mass and the apparent faith of many of the police department was “very moving.”

McGovern said Christians must pray for the Bauer family and the Chicago Police Department and also should pray for the man who allegedly shot and killed the commander. 

“Christ says pray for your enemies and be good to those who hurt you,” he said. “Just as there is a team of chaplains for the police department led by Father Brandt, there is a team of chaplains for the Cook County Jail led by Father Mark Bartosic. Christ is reaching out to all people. It’s up to you if you want to reach back to him.”

Families from St. Christina school and parish, which are located along 111th Street in the city’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood, came out to join tens of thousands of people who lined the funeral procession route to Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Alsip. 

Bells from the parish tolled as the procession, which included over 1,000 vehicles and that took over 35 minutes to pass by, made its way along 111th Street. 

The Lagunas family’s daughter attends St. Christina and three generations of the family came out to pay their respects to the commander. 
The school posted a message on Facebook earlier in the week urging the families and students to come out. 

The message said the community wanted to show respect for someone who ran into fear instead of away from and who risked his life to save others.  

Tracy Olsen’s daughter had a volleyball game at the school that day and her family, who attend St. John Fisher in the nearby Beverly neighborhood, decided to stay for the procession. 

“He’s a very important person in our community,” Olsen said of Bauer. “There are a lot of police families, fire families in our community. It’s a tragedy really.”

Olsen’s brother is a police officer so the commander’s death hits close to home. 

“It could have been anybody,” she said of Bauer’s killing. 


  • gun violence
  • chicago police

Related Articles