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Fr. Charles W. Watkins

Retired pastor

Father Charles W. Watkins, 78, died Jan. 27. He was the former pastor of St. Columba Parish.

Born in Florence, Alabama, Father Watkins attended Coffee High School and the University of North Alabama, both in Florence, and the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein.

Before entering the seminary, Father Watkins spent more than a quarter century working in health care. In the early 1980s, he was coordinator of the cardiac surgery section and a research clinician at the University of Chicago.

He was ordained in 2003 at age 58.

After being ordained, Father Watkins was associate pastor at Our Lady of the Ridge, Chicago Ridge, and St. Cletus, La Grange. He became pastor of St. Columba Parish in 2012, and served there until he retired in 2020. Watkins was also chaplain of the Circus and Traveling Show Apostolate and served as dean of Vicariate IV-C.

Father Michael Novick, ordained in 2001 and associate pastor of St. Cletus Parish, was a close friend of Father Watkins. “He became part of my family here in Chicago, since his was in Alabama.”

Deacon Wolfgang Walter Kunath

Class of 1977

Deacon Wolfgang Walter Kunath, 82, of Hudson Oaks, Texas, died Jan. 16. He was ordained in 1977 and served at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Glenview before moving to Texas.

Born in Germany, Deacon Kunath moved to Chicago with his family when he was a child. He married his high school sweetheart, Bonnie, in 1965, after serving for six years in the U.S. Air Force.

Deacon Kunath studied at IIT Technical Institute and the University of Illinois at Chicago before working for 27 years at AT&T.

As a deacon, he taught religious education, and served in prison, hospital and nursing home ministries. He was also a fourth degree Knight of Columbus.

He is survived by his wife, Bonnie; children Eric Kunath, Gwen Hasty, Perrin Kunath and Marrika Schumann; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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Sr. Helen McAllister


Adrian Dominican Sister Helen (Denis Margaret) McAllister, 83, died Dec. 17, 2022, in Adrian, Michigan.

Born in Evergreen Park, Sister Helen attended Aquinas Dominican High School. She was a member of her community for 64 years.

Sister Helen ministered in education in Michigan and Illinois. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, she was campus minister at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Westchester (1985-1989) and a teacher at St. Cyprian, River Grove (1989-1995); St. Benedict, Blue Island (1995-1997) and Queen of Peace High School, Burbank (1998-2009).

Sister Helen is survived by three sisters: Judy Gardiner, Rosemary Pritchard and Susan Stachler.
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Sr. Mary Fearon

Educator, catechetical leader

Mercy Sister Mary (Mateo) Fearon, 98, died Jan. 12.

She was a Sister of Mercy for 75 years.

Sister Mary had a bachelor’s degree from Saint Xavier University and a master’s degree from the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

After years teaching in the primary grades in Catholic schools of Illinois and Iowa, Sister Mary was invited in 1967 to join the Office for Catechesis of the Archdiocese of Chicago. She began her second career there writing the child and adult curricula of the new post-Second Vatican Council catechetical program.

She authored three series of textbooks and teacher manuals dedicated to religious education of young children that were published by Wm. C. Brown and Co. In addition, she wrote “Saints for All Seasons,” “Practical Liturgies for the School Year,” “Bible Stories for Children” and more, which offered fresh and creative approaches to religious education and faith formation.

In 1998 she was honored by Cardinal Francis George for her contributions to religious education in the Archdiocese of Chicago and in 1992 she received the Bene Award for her book “Celebrating the Gift of Forgiveness.”

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Br. Raymond Albers

Artist, builder

Divine Word Brother Raymond Albers, 93, died Jan. 13.

Born in Iowa, Brother Ray entered the Society of the Divine Word in 1947 and professed vows in 1949.

A man of many trades and talents, he served as a tailor at the Divine Word community in Conesus, New York; a carpenter in Bordentown, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.; and a draftsman for the Divine Word Architecture Bureau in Rome.

He ministered at St. Joseph’s Technical School in Saboba, Ghana, in the 1970s. After returning to United States, he served as business manager at St. Anselm Parish and the director of brother formation at Techny, and worked as a substance abuse counselor.

Before retiring, he provided pastoral care for the Zapotecas people of Oaxaca, Mexico.

He also designed the stained-glass windows in chapel of Divine Word Residence at Techny and the African Chapel in the Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center.

Brother Ray had lived in Techny in retirement since 2008.

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Sr. Mary Louise Coccimiglio


Sister of the Living Word Mary Louise Coccimiglio, 87, died Jan. 13. She resided at the Resurrection Life Center.

Born in Detroit, she served at Josephinum High School; as a volunteer with RCIA at Our Lady of the Wayside, Arlington Heights; and in Missouri and Michigan.

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Fr. Eric Meyer

Former pastor

Passionist Father Eric Meyer, 84, died Jan. 13. He was the former pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish on Talcott Avenue.

Father Meyer was born in Chicago and attended St. Ita School before entering the Passionist seminary. He earned a doctorate in theology in Munster, Germany.

He entered the community in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1966.

Meyer taught theology at Catholic Theological Union and at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, and ministered at the Newman Center at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He was associate pastor and then the last Passionist pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish (2005-2013).

Rose Hegarty, former business manager at Immaculate Conception Parish, remembered Father Meyer as a good man, very dedicated to the church. “He had a golden heart, and always felt sorry for people who needed help,” Hegarty said.

He is survived by his brother, James Meyer.

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Fr. Edward J. Whelan


Maryknoll Father Edward J. Whelan, 88, died Jan. 16 in Maryknoll, New York.

Father Whelan was born in Chicago and attended St. Angela School and St. Ignatius High School before entering Maryknoll in 1952. He was ordained a priest in 1961.

He taught English at Maryknoll collegiate institutions in Glen Ellyn and in Pennsylvania, and earned a doctorate in English at St. Louis University before being sent to Korea.

From 1972 to 2022, Father Whelan ministered for almost 40 years in South Korea and 10 years in northeast China, serving as a pastor and an English professor and establishing two early childhood special education centers, one in Cheongiu City, South Korea, and one in China. He also helped establish a day care center for adults with severe intellectual disabilities in Cheongiu.

In 2022, Father Whelan returned to Maryknoll, New York.

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Sr. Joris Binder


Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Joris Binder, 84, died Jan. 22 in Footville, Wisconsin.

Born in Gary, Indiana, Sister Joris made her first religious profession in 1958 and her perpetual profession in 1961. She was a teacher and administrator and worked in residence life leadership at the University of Notre Dame and led the Hesburgh Sabbatical Program at Catholic Theological Union.

In the Archdiocese of Chicago, she taught (1968-1973) and was a counselor (1970-1973) at St. Philip the Apostle School, Northfield, and was codirector of the Hesburgh Sabbatical Program (now Hesburgh Renewal Program) at Catholic Theological Union (1998-2001).

She is survived by a brother, George Binder Jr.