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Deacon James Conway

Class of 1987

Deacon James “Larry” Conway Sr., 86, died Sept. 22. He was ordained in 1987 and served at St. Barnabas Parish.

Deacon Conway enjoyed working behind the scenes, said Father James Donovan, St. Barnabas pastor.

“You didn’t really know everything he was doing until he wasn’t there,” Donovan said.

Deacon Conway brought Communion to and visited people in nursing homes and was an avid Cubs fan, Donovan said.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Jeanne; his children Mary Gilroy, Kathy White, Kevin Michael Conway and Carolyn Roberson; 15 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his sisters, Colleen Schramm and Kathy Maryniak.

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Deacon Michael Principe

Class of 1978

Deacon Michael J. Principe, 94, died Sept. 26. He was ordained in 1978 and served at St. Gertrude, Franklin Park, and at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Bensenville, in the Diocese of Joliet.

Deacon Principe was a native of Franklin Park and an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II.

He was predeceased by his wife of 45 years, Annmarie, and three of his children. He is survived by his daughter Meghan Principe and three grandchildren.

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Sr. Patricia Smith

Educator, pastoral minister

Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Patricia “Patt” (Charissa) Smith, 92, died Sept. 2 at the Sinsinawa motherhouse.

Born in Chicago, she made her first religious profession in 1950 and her perpetual profession in 1953.

Sister Patt was a teacher, catechist, provincial councillor, campus minister, dean of students, pastoral associate and director of ministry development. She served in Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, Texas and Arizona, as well as Bolivia and Italy.

In the Archdiocese of Chicago, Sister Patt taught at Immaculate Conception, Waukegan (1950-1953) and Visitation High School (1972-1976). She served the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa Congregation as provincial councillor of the Southeast Province while living in Chicago (1972-1976) and was a campus minister at Rosary College (now Dominican University), River Forest (1979-1981). Sr. Patt served as dean of students at Rosary College Graduate School of Fine Arts at Villa Schifanoia, Florence, Italy (1981-1983).

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Sr. Margaret Mary Knittel

Educator, administrator

Mercy Sister Margaret Mary Knittel, 80, died Sept. 8.

Born in Chicago, she attended Catholic schools, graduating from Nazareth High School in 1957. She entered the Sisters of Mercy at the age of 22.

She taught at Mother McAuley High School, where Sister Sue Sanders, leader of the West Midwest Community, remembers having her as a teacher.

“For me, as a high school freshman, Sister Margaret Mary was a dynamic, energetic and renowned mathematics teacher. An excellent writer, yes, but she was also a poet, whimsical and profound. Margaret’s mind was breath-taking to behold.”

She also taught in Ottawa and was associate director of religious education for the Diocese of Rockford before becoming director of operations at ACTA/Life in Christ in Chicago.

She was personnel director at Saint Xavier College (now University) from 1980 to 1987, before earning a Master of Divinity degree. She then served as director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Chicago.

She was a grant consultant at Presence Mercy Medical Center for 15 years, and then, after retiring from full-time ministry, she served her community.

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Fr. Felix Eckerman


Divine Word Father Felix Eckerman, 100, died in Techny on Sept. 13. He was the oldest Divine Word Missionary in North America.

A pioneering missionary in India for more than half a century, Father Eckerman was the last surviving member of one of the largest ordination classes in Techny history.

Born in Colorado and raised in Akron, Ohio, he enrolled in the Divine Word Seminary in Girard, Pennsylvania, at age 14, and continued his formation at St. Mary’s Seminary (now Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center). He was ordained to the priesthood in 1947.

Father Eckerman became a priest the same day that India became a country. He arrived in India the following year, and ministered there for 51 years, visiting villages on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, serving as novice master and then as seminary rector.

In 1999, Father Eckerman returned to the United States and served five years as chaplain to the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters in St. Louis before retiring to Techny in 2006.

He is survived by three sisters: Dominican Sister Irene Eckerman, Mary Kay Goodley and Terry Falter.

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Sr. Leyla P. Cerda-Sanchez

Pastoral minister

Sister of St. Joseph Leyla P. Cerda-Sanchez, 60, died Sept. 14 at the Congregation of St. Joseph Center in La Grange Park.

Born in Nicaragua, she immigrated to the United States with her brother in the 1970s to pursue her education. The rest of her family also immigrated to the United States and settled in New Orleans.

She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille in New Orleans in 1996 and professed final vows in 2000.

She ministered in Catholic immigration legal and social services and as a chaplain in university ministry at Loyola University in New Orleans and at Taller de Jose, Chicago; St. Joseph Press and TEACH, La Grange Park; and St. Barbara Parish, Brookfield.

Sister Leyla is survived by her sisters Regina Cerda Guidry and Soledad Cerda Guidry and her brothers Enrique F. Cerda and Carlos M. Cerda.