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Player of bridge, devotee of the 'Big Three'

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Father Ronald Navoy, pastor at St. Emily Church in Mount Prospect, has been a priest for almost 40 years. (Natalie Battaglia / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Ronald Navoy, pastor of St. Emily’s in Mount Prospect. Former pastor of St. Cyprian’s in River Grove. Attended Quigley and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary. Ordained 1971. Will celebrate 40th anniversary on May 12.

Youth: “I grew up on the Northwest Side around Chicago and Pulaski. St. Cyril & Methodius, a tiny little parish, was my home parish. We were neighbors to Our Lady of the Angels. They had that tragic fire when we were in eighth grade. Sooner or later it crossed every kid’s mind, ‘It could have been us.’ “I was an only child. My mom, recently turned 93, and moved into a nursing home. She had her own apartment until a year ago. My dad was a freight router for Railway Express. Before computers, he would code each package and make sure it got on the right box car at busy Union Station. It was back-breaking hard labor until retirement at 65.”

Thoughts of priesthood: “My vocation was fostered at St. Cyril & Methodius. That’s where I learned Latin and served the old Mass. In Catholic schools in those days the kids went to Mass every day. There were two great priests there and they were probably my inspiration: pastor Father Dan Romancik and Father John Spitkovsky. Both were early motivators for me to get into the seminary.”

Prayer life:  “My annual retreat at Cardinal Stritch Retreat House [Mundelein] is something I haven’t missed since ordination. I try to say the Divine Office every day as much as I can. It used to be a burden but you begin to realize the time you set aside for prayer is enriching and strengthening. If you don’t have that, it’s very difficult. I get a rosary in two or three times a week. Of course I pray it more often during times of high stress!”

Typical day: “Today was one of those crazy days when you have a lot of things planned but then all of a sudden there’s a leak in the roof and I’m over there dealing with the roofer. I was at school talking with our teachers, the religious ed coordinator and youth leader. We also have a weekly all-school Mass. This is a big, busy parish.”

Leisure: “I used to play basketball and baseball. I tried playing a little golf last summer. The last few parishes where I’ve served we had great bridge clubs. I love to play bridge. I don’t know if I’m any good any more, but I used to enjoy it. “I’ve been a chaplain in the Knights of Columbus since 1978. I’m impressed by all the KCs do. We’ve gotten some younger guys in the council, too. “In winter I do more reading. About a year ago I read Cardinal George’s book. It was a challenge. I enjoy history, like Pat Buchannon’s “Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War,” or biographies like “Father Mac” about Msgr. Ignatius McDermott, by Tom Roeser.” He has a kind of hobby, too that has grown through the years. “I have an outstanding Christmas village and nativity scene that takes two days to arrange. I’ve collected about 500 Fontanini characters. It goes up right after Thanksgiving and it doesn’t get put away until Jan. 6.”

Favorite saint: “Joan of Arc, because she went against public opinion, St. Philip Neri for his great sense of humor, and St. John Vianney, who revisited parish life and is a model for all parish priests – the Big Three. Sometimes just the saint of the day perks me up.”