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Fr. Daniel A. Smilanic

Vicar for Canonical Services

Father Daniel A. Smilanic, 76, died Feb. 20. He was former judicial vicar and vicar for Canonical Services for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Born in Chicago, Father Smilanic attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, Xavier University in Cincinnati, Loyola University Chicago and the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein before being ordained in 1973.

In addition to his master’s degree in divinity, Smilanic had a licentiate and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He served as assistant pastor of St. Gall Parish and associate pastor of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish, Park Ridge, and St. Wenceslaus Parish. He had served in the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Chicago since 1984, first as a judge and later as vicar. Father Smilanic also served as the president of the Canon Law Society of America.

Auxiliary Bishop Jeffrey Grob, a former colleague, described Father Smilanic as a thoughtful canonist.

“He had a deep respect for canon law, especially when it came to the rights of individuals,” Bishop Grob said. “He was very respected throughout the United States.”

He added that Father Smilanic worked as an advocate for priests as a canonical advisor, and was very active in church leadership.

“He had a great laugh and a wonderful sense of humor. A good man,” Bishop Grob said.

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Fr. Kenneth O’Malley

Librarian, community leader

Passionist Father Kenneth O’Malley, 87, died Jan. 23 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Father Kenneth entered the Passionist seminary after high school and was ordained in Louisville in 1964.

He taught and was librarian at the Passionist Preparatory Seminary in Warrenton, Missouri, before joining the library staff at Catholic Theological Union in 1969. He soon became head librarian, a post he held until 1999. During those years, he frequently assisted in nearby parishes on weekends, preached retreats as time permitted and served for 12 years as superior of the local Passionist community.

Father Kenneth then served as local superior of the Passionist community in Houston. In 2011, he moved to Louisville to join the senior members of his community.

Father Kenneth is survived by a brother, Dennis Anthony.

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Sr. Michele Elfering


Sister of St. Joseph Michele (Marguerite) Elfering, 95, died at Ascension Living Resurrection Village Chicago on Feb. 9.

Born in Wisconsin, Sister Michele attended Barat College in Lake Forest for one year before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph. She continued her studies at Loyola University Chicago and Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee,

Sister Michele taught at Divine Infant, Westchester; St. Francis Xavier and St. Joseph Military Academy, La Grange; and St. Anthony. She was principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Melrose Park; St. Hugh, Lyons; and St. John Fisher. She received a Distinguished Teacher Award from the National Catholic Education Association in 1999.

After retiring from teaching, Sister Michele served as a grade-level coordinator and moderated the Rainbows program and student liturgy teams.  She belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph Peace and Justice Commission, Network and Eighth Day Center for Justice.

From 1988 to 1992, Sister Michele served her congregation as vice president. Sister Michele also found time to teach religious education classes, form “Community with Seniors” at St. Mary’s Parish, Riverside; teach English as a Second Language, deliver food to the poor and volunteer one night a month at a homeless shelter.

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Fr. Robert Fisher


Divine Word Father Robert Fisher, 87, one of the first Divine Word missionaries to work in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana, died Feb. 9 in Techny.

Born in Arkansas, he entered Divine Word Seminary in 1951, professed vows in 1957 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1965.

He earned a licentiate in sacred theology from Gregorian University in Rome and a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Anteneo of Saint Anselmo.

He taught at St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, before being sent to the Philippines, where he also was seminary teacher. After three years there, he went to the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana, where he and three other missionaries attended to the pastoral and administrative needs of 20 mission outstations and several schools.

He also taught at St. Peter’s Seminary in Cape Coast, Ghana, and fulfilled pastoral roles at several parishes. He also served as a dean and attaché at the nunciature.

In 1984, Father Fisher returned to the United States, teaching at Xavier University in New Orleans and teaching and serving as Catholic chaplain at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, while serving as a pastor.

In 2005, he became director of St. Augustine’s Retreat Center in Bay St. Louis. When Hurricane Katrina flooded the property, Father Fisher was forced to swim for his life. While the building there was being restored, Father Fisher once again ministered in Texas.

He retired to Techny in retirement in 2017.

He is survived his siblings James L. Fisher, John Fisher, Kay King, JoAnn VanPelt and Frank Kasper.

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Sr. Joanne Fedewa

Educator, administrator

Sister of the Living Word Joanne Fedewa, 93, died Feb. 13.

Originally from Michigan, Sister Joanne taught in Catholic schools in Minnesota, Chicago, Louisiana, Michigan and Arkansas. She also served as a novice directress at parishes in New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan, and was a was pastoral coordinator at Christ the King Parish in Flint, Michigan. She was a coordinator of spiritual life at the St. Juliana Center and volunteered at St. Joseph Home for the Elderly in Palatine.

She is survived by her brother, Father Matt Fedewa.

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Fr. William Francis Moroney


Missionaries of Africa Father William Francis Moroney, born in 1935, died Feb. 17 in Nairobi, Kenya.

A Chicago native, Father Moroney attended Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary before entering the Society of Missionaries of Africa in 1958. His priestly formation then took him to New York and Carthage, Tunisia, before he was ordained in 1961.

Post-ordination, he pursued further studies in sociology at Loyola University Chicago before serving as a teacher and pastor in Tanzania. He returned to Chicago to serve as the community superior of the Missionaries of Africa in Chicago from 1972 to 1976 before returning to Tanzania for another 17 years.

In 1994, he was elected superior of the Missionaries of Africa in the USA and played a crucial role in the merging of the USA and Canadian provinces into the North American Province. Following service in France from 2000 to 2006, he returned to East Africa. Upon retirement in 2023, he chose to spend his remaining years in East Africa.

He is survived by his sister, Marilyn Ginnane.

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Sr. Mary Kent Pearson


Sinsinawa Domincan Sister Mary Kent Pearson, 89, died Feb. 19 in Hazel Green, Wisconsin.

Born in Pontiac, Illinois, Sister Mary Kent made her first profession in 1954, and her perpetual profession in 1957.

She was a teacher, administrator, religious educator and pastoral minister in Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, she taught at St. Philip the Apostle, Northfield; St. Thomas the Apostle;  and St. Sabina.

She is survived by a brother, Duane Pearson.